Uno Prii changed Toronto's architectural landscape with his futuristic designs
Uno Prii was light years ahead of his time. The Estonian-born architect shot Toronto into the space age, an Orbit City right out of The Jetsons animated TV series, with futuristic apartment buildings sporting curved, looped balconies and white concrete structures pointing skyward like rocket ships. They were so unlike the boxy, no-nonsense Modernist designs of the 1960s.
Some admired his peek into a where-no-one-has-gone-before Star Trek universe, while no-frills advocates dissed his designs, considering them strange, dull and blights on the landscape.
But whatever camp you were in, his creations were something that couldn’t be ignored and were as ubiquitous as the stars strung throughout the galaxy. Prii designed no fewer than 250 buildings, many of them in Toronto, during the 1960s, with a handful in Ohio and Miami Beach.
“Even now, decades after they first appeared, these are structures that speak of the future,” wrote the Star’s Christopher Hume in October 2009. “Little wonder people called them the ‘Jetson buildings.’ They conjure up images of winged cars, robot butlers and space ships.”
The future has now become something to be feared, Hume said. “The optimism of Prii’s architecture will likely never be replicated in this or any city,” he concluded.
Prii utilized his engineering background and took advantage of the slipform moulds at the time, which slide up the buildings as liquid concrete is poured. He favoured white concrete, which stood out against Toronto’s traditional brick buildings.
Once Upon A City: Apartments for the space age - TS