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Vintage Toronto Ads: The Artwork of Royal Bank Plaza

Source: artscanada 218/219, February/March 1978

During the development of Royal Bank Plaza, building designer Boris Zerafa was tasked with commissioning artwork to enhance the complex, especially the atrium. Artists based in locales ranging from Quebec to Italy were contacted and given sketches and scale models of the building to work from, though we wonder if any samples of the gold-plated windows were included.
Today’s ad spotlights four of the commissions. Clockwise from top left: Rita Letendre (born 1928) and her abstract painting Irowakan, which, like other murals she produced for display in Toronto, was later destroyed; Foliage, a bronze by sculptor Gio Pomodoro (1930–2002) that was placed outside the building and was the only piece to predate the complex; Jesus Raphael Soto (1923–2005) and Suspended Virtual Volume, his ceiling sculpture consisting of ten thousand aluminium rods; and Mariette Rousseau-Vermette (1926–2006) standing in front of her tapestry, Reflection.

Source: artscanada 218/219, February/March 1978

Soto was interviewed about his piece in the same issue of artscanada that this ad appeared in. He discussed the reasoning behind using white and yellow rods:

It is my belief that an art that is investigating pure structure should avoid as much as possible unprogrammable variations of colour. Some variations can be programmed, others can only be dealt with by intuition or simply according to taste. When working on a monumental scale I think you have to avoid gratuitous preferences. You look for relationships in the elements. I could have put many colours in the structure at the bank and it would have worked, but it would be betraying a colourless space. It would mean using the space as a frame instead of integrating with it, which I didn’t want. This is why I chose the simplest colours: white, and yellow, which is a close variant of white, and the nylon cable which becomes grey. This is the reason for the sobriety of the sculpture.

Though the atrium space has been reduced over the years, and a good view of Soto’s work from the lower retail level is no longer possible, Suspended Virtual Volume merits a recommendation for tourists from Frommer’s.


  • http://null chriskayTO

    Thanks for sharing – I’ve been looking for any old photos of this space for a while. I worked here, and the atrium space and bank branch below have been extensively modified since the complex opened, and the only way to see Soto’s work is to access an office on a floor that faces into the atrium, or from a third (maybe fourth?) floor catwalk.
    A shame, in my opinion.

  • http://null Astin

    That floor is now the trading floor for RBC Capital Markets on the 2nd floor of the building (between the two towers). Chriskay is right in that it can only be seen from offices facing inwards or the catwalk. It’s still pretty impressive from the catwalk.

  • http://undefined spacejack

    Still probably the nicest glass tower in the city.