WZMH Celebrates 60 Years
As the world reopens in 2021, WZMH celebrates 60 years of architectural practice not only by looking back at the iconic buildings we've designed but by sharing the exciting projects we are designing for the future.
We've been providing innovative and effective solutions for clients for over six decades on a broad range of projects in Canada, the United States, and overseas. Through the years, we have constantly adapted, evolved, and reinvented ourselves to create buildings and places that are contemporary, relevant, and meaningful to the people who use and experience them.
Our reputation for quality design, technical excellence, and professional reliability is longstanding and hard-won. We're very proud of that, and never stop working to earn it.
Six Decades of Design
Established in Toronto in 1961 by four young associates of the revered Canadian architect Peter Dickinson, the Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership created some of the first modernist landmarks in Canada.
The 1960s and '70s
In our early years, we designed iconic buildings such as the Sutton Place Hotel, Hazelton Lanes, and the CN Tower. Our signature office buildings in Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary contributed to a new generation of International Style modernism. Our winning design of two 40-storey gold towers joined by an atrium space for the Toronto headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada was completed in 1976 and stands just as prominently today in the city's financial core.
Residential and institutional buildings further established the firm, and our hospitality expertise developed over multiple projects with Four Seasons. In 1970, WZMH was awarded five of the ten awards presented at the Canadian Architect Yearbook Awards in recognition of the firm's planning ingenuity, disciplined modernism and skilful problem-solving. It was also in the '70s that WZMH designed the first of what would eventually be twenty major buildings in downtown Calgary.
The 1980s and '90s
In the '80s and '90s, our work followed our clients to the U.S —including projects in New York City, Boston, Dallas, and Philadelphia. WZMH has also become one of the leading architectural firms in China and the Middle East. A project office was established in Shanghai during the construction of the Shanghai Securities Exchange Building, a local landmark with a suspended trading floor that bridges two towers.
We were just as active in Toronto, where our design of the Scotia Tower in the 1980s marked the last significant addition to the skyline during that economic cycle. Additional office building work was driven by enduring client relationships with Olympia & York, Brookfield Properties and Oxford Properties. Many of these relationships came full circle with our work in modernizing our original buildings, including the Royal Bank Plaza and the Bay Adelaide Centre.
2000 and '10s
In the first decade of the millennium, we established new expertise in justice facilities, entertainment and gaming facilities, and data centres - diverse building types that didn’t exist when we began our practice. Projects like Durham Consolidated Courthouse and Quinte Region Courthouse in Southern Ontario distinguished WZMH as a national leader in the field of justice architecture. We drew on significant knowledge of the hotel and hospitality sector to design Caesars, Canada’s first permanent commercial casino in Windsor, Ontario. WZMH is also a recognized Canadian leader in the design of data centres for major Canadian financial institutions and telecommunications corporations. Recent high-technology projects include the Parliament Data Centre in Toronto and the high-security CSEC building in Ottawa, a state-of-the-art data centre and innovative workplace.
Our residential projects contributed to redefining urban density. The Parkway Forest re-urbanization project in Toronto transformed a suburb of towers into a denser community with a mix of housing - from high-rises to townhouses - connected by a clearly defined public realm.
WZMH's international reputation in hospitality design was strengthened by our work with Four Seasons and The Nile Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Cairo. Additional work in the Middle East included the Nation Towers mixed-use hospitality and commercial project in Abu Dhabi, winner of an international design competition.
Meanwhile, urgent issues around climate change and sustainability influenced the way we approached the buildings we had designed for decades. Through our expanding portfolio of office buildings, including projects like the Bay Adelaide Centre in Toronto and the Nova Scotia Power Corporate Office Facility in Halifax, we have integrated sustainable practices and pioneered workplace design by understanding the impacts of technology.
Our portfolio continues to respond to the times, with expanded work in high rise and mixed-use residential projects, and with major transit facilities like King Victoria Transit Hub in Kitchener, Ontario. We continue to design institutional facilities such as the Abbotsford Law Courts in British Colombia and the 17150 Yonge Street municipal services building in York Region. Our renewal projects include many façade recladding designs for towers in Toronto and a sculptural wayfinding/repositioning project at 33 Bloor Street East.
Our recent work in innovative technologies and prefabrication is redefining the role of architecture in the Canadian construction industry. WZMH is researching prefabrication concepts for both residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. A modular office building at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus (UTM) will be a demonstration of the potential to achieve design excellence with prefabrication.
Our vision for the use of an Intelligent Structural Panel (ISP) in new construction has been enthusiastically received by leaders in the industry, and our designs for the conversion of shipping containers into office and retail units are already built and in use for several clients in Southern Ontario. As always, environmental sustainability is integrated into everything we do.
WZMH has consistently been attentive to the importance of personal relationships. The firm was founded, in part, thanks to the confidence shown by key clients, and we have thrived with the expansion of these relationships. WZMH continues to provide services for clients that date back to the 1960s.
As a designated Best Managed Company of Canada for the past six years, WZMH continues to both serve our clients exceptionally well and to provide staff with a supportive and inspiring working environment. Several generations of partners stewarded The Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership through changing times that included the first moon landing and Y2K. In 2021, as we navigate the final stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic, our practice is stronger than ever, guided by 12 partners who reflect the cultural and gender diversity of our 160+ staff.
The Next 60 Years
We've evolved with the times, and work hard to be inclusive and to keep learning from each other. Our collective strengths enrich the designs for buildings that continue to contribute to our home city of Toronto and all the cities we are privileged to work in. We are grateful for the clients we've served and proud of the legacy buildings that have contributed to the lives of the people who use them.
We're looking forward to the next sixty years and designs that meet the needs of the future. In fact, we're already working on them.