Completed in 1966, Toronto's fourth City Hall was one of the city's first modernist buildings. The then-mayor Nathan Phillips had held an international competition, won by Finnish architect Viljo Revell. Revell designed the council chamber as a low, round building, embraced by two concave office towers of differing heights. The dramatic design has aged well, remaining bold and futuristic 40 years on. The ground floor is open to the public (check out the scale model of the city), and tours can be arranged by appointment (unfortunately, the observation deck at the top is not accessible).
City Hall faces south on to the concrete expanse of Nathan Phillips Square. Phillips' successor as mayor, Phil Givens, fought hard for the Henry Moore bronze on the hall's forecourt, believing prestigious art conferred a prestigious world image, but this vision proved his undoing. He won his battle against the philistines but lost the next election due to the outrage of the electorate at what was seen as a waste of public funds. History vindicates him: The Archer, as the sculpture is known, is the most popular public sculpture in the city. A makeover of the square is in the works, though designers know they're treading on hallowed ground; many features, including the unused elevated walkway, are off-limits to tinkering.
The square succeeds as a genuine gathering place. It's where Toronto rings in the new year. During the summer it's busy with concerts, dance performances, the annual Jamaican IRIE Music Festival (www.iriemusicfestival.com), the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and a summer farmers' market. In winter the reflecting pool becomes a popular ice rink, and skaters whizz under the huge concrete arches that span it. Skates are available to hire.