Exhibition of Canadian-Estonian architects opening in Tallinn this week

"To the New World: Estonian Architects in Toronto" will open this Friday at 5:00 p.m. at the Museum of Estonian Architecture. The exhibition provides the first extensive overview of the work of Estonian architects active in Canada after World War II.

The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Estonian Architecture in collaboration with the Museum of Estonians Abroad (VEMU) and is opening in Tallinn this Friday, April 6.

The exhibition is dedicated to Estonian architects who immigrated to Canada during and after World War II. The result of many years of research, it focuses primarily on architects born in Estonia whose careers or studies in Europe were interrupted by the war as well as those who earned their architecture qualifications at Canadian universities in the following decades. It was during this postwar period that Toronto rapidly grew into the multicultural metropolis that it is today, and Estonian architects were among those who played an important role in shaping Toronto's architectural landscape.

Names such as Mihkem (Michael) Bach (1916-1972), Ants Elken (1917-2011), Uno Prii (1924-2000), Elmar Tampõld (1920-2013), Taivo Kapsi (1935-1967) and Henno Sillaste (1936-2013) are recognized in Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America, and their work is well known in architecture circles.

Prii's work has been particularly successful as new generations discover the energetic modernism of his work from the 1960s and 70s, and prime examples of architecture by Prii and Kapsi alike are under heritage protection.

Bach, Elken and Kapsi, who all taught at the University of Toronto, played an important role in the spread of Scandinavian-style modernism in Toronto's urban landscape, which was still fairly provincial following World War II. Elken's 30-year university career was also crowned by his being awarded an emeritus professorship. His first work, the first stage of the now-demolished Seaway Hotel, was awarded the prestigious Massey Silver Medal in 1955.

A chapter of its own in Toronto's architectural history includes the buildings designed by Estonians for the local Estonian diaspora community. These include St. Peter's Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Toronto, Tartu College, the Toronto Estonian House as well as a number of cooperative residences and care homes for the elderly.

The exhibition was first opened at the Museum of Estonians Abroad (VEMU) in Toronto. The display now opening at the Museum of Estonian Architecture is a significantly expanded version that will also be accompanied by a extensive catalogue. The exhibition will remain open until May 27.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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