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Exhibition focuses on architect behind the Balfour Building and other early 20th century gems

Balfour Building at the northeast corner of Spadina and Adelaide

A new exhibition at Urbanspace Gallery will spotlight one of Toronto’s most significant architects of the early 20th century.

Four of the buildings designed by Benjamin Brown—the Balfour and Tower buildings, the Hermant building, the Primrose Club and Beth Jacob Synagogue—have made indelible marks on the city with a a design that’s Art Deco and traditionally functional. The show, Benjamin Brown: Architect, curated by the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) and the Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA), features original drawings, blueprints, watercolour presentation boards, historical photographs and maps that will help Torontonians understand Brown’s approaches and his contributions to the urban landscape.

“The OJA is thrilled to showcase the life of this relatively unknown, yet brilliant, architect while providing a lens into the Jewish community during this time,” stated Dara Solomon, director of the OJA, in a news release.

A young immigrant from Eastern Europe, Benjamin Brown studied at the Ontario School of Art and Design and the University of Toronto architectural program to became one of the first practising Jewish architects in Toronto. Perhaps his best known building is the Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue, which was something of the epicentre of the city’s garment district in the 1920s and ’30s. “Many Jewish-owned garment businesses such as furriers, cloak and coat makers, and tailors set up shop here,” states a note about the exhibition. “The floor plans revealed that large open spaces were incorporated into the design for rows of sewing machines and large fabric swaths to be unrolled and cut.”

The exhibition runs until April 23 at Urbanspace Gallery at 401 Richmond Street West.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Urbanspace Gallery
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