He has curated a number of exhibitions on themes of architecture, urbanism and landscape. He curated the exhibition Course Studies Tracking Ontario’s Thames mounted at Museum London Canada that explored the interrelationship of the river and people in southwestern Ontario. Research on the 1958 Toronto City Hall and Square Competition led to an exhibition, Shaping Canadian Modernity, and a book Competing Modernisms, published in 2015 by Dalhousie Architectural Press.
He was Chair of the Ryerson University Department of Architectural Science from 2002 – 2007, during which time he oversaw revisions to the undergraduate curriculum and introduced two new graduate programs. He is past president of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada and became a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 2007. Currently he is the Chair of Toronto Public Health’s Ultraviolet Radiation Working Group, where he is organizing an international conference on UV and environmental health to take place in May 2018.
He is continuing his research into the participants in Toronto’s City Hall and Square Competition, of which his visit to India is a part. His lecture and travel are supported by Ryerson University and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.
George Thomas Kapelos brought with him an extremely riveting topic of discussion; the Architecture competition conducted in 1958 for the New City Hall and Square in Toronto, Canada. His talk focused on the 7 efficient Indian designs for the same competition, and finally that of the winner, whose design still speaks wonders, standing strong at the centre of the city’s scape.
He had received an award by the Royal Academy of Architecture for his research on human and environment interrelations and also on the competition of 1958.
He, in his discussion, aimed to answer three simple questions-
WHY was the final design chosen?
WHICH were the seven Indian architect entries?
and, HOW did it shape Canadian architecture of the past and the present?
The competition was an effort to design a building at the city’s heart, which would also win the people’s hearts. Bearing this in mind, Kapelos’ discussion comprised of three major themes, the CONTEXT, the COMPETITION, and its significance as the heart of the city; and the IMPACT that it would have on the people, so as to become a building for the people. It would have to accommodate offices for the government, provide public access to certain services, include a central square on the southern side and a library. There wasn’t a height restriction or a budget to the design. The schemes had to be submitted anonymously, and 8 finalists would be selected. Finally it was stated that the person to win the competition would also get the job.
A major part of Kapelos’ research was credited to a 60 year old TV footage, “Explorations”, hosted by Jacqueline Turet, professor of town planning at Harvard, who had also entered the competition. They broadcast the different stages of the competition as well as the Jury. Kapelos played us a part of the footage which showed the winner of the design discussing his model with the city planner. The winner, Viljo Revell, in the video, nonchalantly stated in broken english that he was quite pleased with the outcome and he had arrived to Canada for the first time, from North America last year.
“There are a few things in life with the romantic possibilities of an Architectural competition.”
This was quoted by Eric Arthur, who was the competition’s advisor. He continuously stated that the architecture at the heart of the city should not only be expressive, but also a symbol of the nation’s democratic values.
“Our town halls are dreary, where people wouldn’t go unless they have to pay taxes”
This point by Arthur brings about another extremely pivotal aspect of the competition; the need for a building which is for the people and their aspirations. The city hall and square would be a most important element in the life of the city; a symbol of Toronto, a source of pride and pleasure to the citizens and to be used and enjoyed by the citizens.
The jury comprised of architects Ned Pratt, Gordon Stephensen, Eero Saarinen, Ernesto Rogers and William Holford. Eero Saarinen was the winner of the competition for the National Gallery