The architect who designed a city hall that Frank Lloyd Wright hated

Finnish architect Viljo Revell's design for Toronto's new city hall didn't work for fellow architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Finnish architect Viljo Revell came up with winning design that would open in Toronto in 1965

Viljo Revell on his Toronto City Hall design

Digital Archives

1 year ago
In 1960, Viljo Revell speaks briefly with the Front Page Challenge panel about his design for Toronto's new city hall. 1:56

Finnish architect Viljo Revell's design for Toronto's new city hall was chosen as the best of more than 500 entries, but it didn't work for Frank Lloyd Wright.

And that high-profile criticism was what Pierre Berton wanted to ask Revell about when he appeared on the CBC-TV headline-hunting game show Front Page Challenge 60 years ago, more than a year after his own design had been chosen as the one that Toronto would build.

"The day after the announcement of your win, I interviewed Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, and he called this city hall of yours a grave marker for a cemetery," Berton asked Revell, during the Front Page Challenge episode that aired on March 29, 1960.

"What do you think of the criticism of your distinguished late colleague?"

'I hope he was wrong'

Will the panel guess who Viljo Revell is?

Digital Archives

1 year ago
In a March 1960 episode of Front Page Challenge, the panel tries to guess the story and the mystery guest. 2:33

The architect paused, thinking back to when Wright made his public criticism, which had been featured on the front page of the Toronto Star. (Wright had died in April 1959.)

"Yes," Revell said, drawing laughs from the studio audience. "I hope he was wrong in his criticism."

He was also asked about the progress of the design. Revell said some work still had to be completed.

"After this time, the city council has to decide how to build it," said Revell, who died in 1964 and did not live to see the building completed in Toronto.

Revell had been the third mystery guest featured on that Front Page Challenge broadcast, a positioning that seemed to limit the time the panel spent speaking to him.

The Front Page Challenge panel had also failed to identify him and the story he was connected to, during the earlier part of the segment featuring Revell.

Architect Viljo Revell didn't live to see his design for Toronto City Hall completed and opened to the public. (CBC News/CBC Archives)