RAIC Statement on Ontario Place | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

RAIC Statement on Ontario Place

December 7, 2023

Dear Premier Ford, Minister Surma and Minister Lumsden

We are reaching out to you on behalf of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) to voice our concern and request a meeting to discuss the Province of Ontario’s plans for Ontario Place, one of Toronto’s most famous and internationally renowned landmarks and a Modernist masterpiece designed by architect Eberhard Zeidler (officer of the Order of Canada and member of the Order of Ontario) and landscape architect Michael Hough. 

Ontario Place is recognized as a cultural heritage landscape by the Province and the City of Toronto and has gained significant international recognition including The Cultural Landscape Foundation (Washington), which in 2019 enrolled Ontario Place in its Landslide program of culturally important landscapes that are threatened and the World Monuments Fund (New York), which included the site on its Monuments Watch list in 2020 and launched an initiative to both grow awareness of the cultural landmark’s importance and to protect its future.

The iconic and futuristic design of the “pods” at Ontario Place included the first IMAX theatre in the world and symbolized the future of Ontario reflecting the confidence and optimism of its government and citizens. Ontario Place’s landscape and architectural design are uniquely inseparable and excellent examples of modernist design of this period. The public nature of the landscape and its access to Lake Ontario are significant features of the design, which involved creation of islands and beaches, lagoons, breakwaters, native plantings and dunes that protect the unique architecture of the pods and Cinesphere, and mitigate the effects of the lake for pedestrians.

Although current plans appear to retain the pods, the introduction of a megaspa, new parking and other changes across the site would irrevocably damage the integrated design of the site, the sight lines to and from the buildings and remove much of the mature landscape that makes this site so beloved by Canadian and International visitors.  

As envisioned by Michael Hough through his original design, Ontario Place has evolved into a critical part of Lake Ontario’s natural heritage. The site provides habitat for marine and animal life and has become an important part of international migratory bird routes contributing to long term sustainability and climate mitigation. 

Ontario Place can continue to be a place that celebrates Ontario and Ontarians and remain the public space it was designed to be, a place that is even more important as we face the challenges of the 21st century.  Ontario Place presents the opportunity to meet these challenges by continuing to provide free public space; remaining a destination for entertainment, learning, celebration and gathering; and protecting its mature, naturalized landscapes, beaches and recreation areas. 

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) is a not-for-profit, national organization dedicated to representing architects and architecture since 1907. The RAIC is the only national voice for excellence in the built environment in Canada focused on providing Canada’s architectural community with the tools, resources, and education to elevate their practice. The RAIC is committed to showcasing how design enhances quality of life, while advocating for important issues of society through responsible architecture. The RAIC’s purpose is to create a better world for all by empowering Canada’s architectural community. Through our work, the organization envisions a strong architectural community that is valued and empowered to create change.

RAIC welcomes the opportunity to be part of the conversation to help conserve Ontario Place’s integrated design and architecture and to support a place that is irreplaceable, has been a cultural mainstay for more than a half century, and is part of our collective identity.


Mike Brennan, Hon. MRAIC, Hon. RAIA  Jason Robbins, FRAIC, Hon. AIA, Hon. RAIA
Chief Executive Officer President