Jack Diamond | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jack Diamond

Abel Joseph (Jack) Diamond, OC, OOnt, architect (born 8 November 1932 in Piet Retief, South Africa; died 30 October 2022). An Officer of the Order of Canada and multiple winner of the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, Jack Diamond was one of the most significant and successful Canadian architects of his generation (see Architecture). He was made a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1980 and in 1994 was made an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Earth Sciences Centre, University of Toronto
Jerusalem City Hall
Metropolitan Toronto Central YMCA

Education and Early Career

Jack Diamond was educated at the University of Cape Town (Bachelor of Architecture, 1956), Oxford University (MA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 1958), and the University of Pennsylvania (Master of Architecture, 1962). While attending the University of Pennsylvania, he studied with legendary American architect Louis Kahn. Diamond arrived in Canada in 1964 as founding director of the new Master of Architecture program at the University of Toronto (see Architecture; Architectural Education). He held this position until 1970.

Diamond and Myers Architects

In partnership with the architect Barton Myers, Jack Diamond co-founded the firm, Diamond and Myers Architects in 1968. Notable early projects include York Square, Toronto; the Housing Union Building at the University of Alberta, Edmonton; and Sherbourne Lanes Housing and the Ontario Medical Association Building, Toronto. The architectural firm disbanded in 1975.

Diamond Schmitt Architects

In 1975, Jack Diamond established A.J. Diamond Architects in Toronto (see Architecture). In 1978, he began working with the architect Donald Schmitt who eventually became a partner of the firm. The firm evolved into the partnership of A.J. Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company, now known as Diamond Schmitt Architects.

The firm works both nationally and internationally on interior, architectural and master planning projects. The firm has developed a reputation as a teaching office, encouraging a highly discursive and collaborative design process that has attracted many young architects, some of whom have gone on to establish their own well-respected practices. (See also Architectural Education). Over the past five decades, the firm has created a strong brand for itself, working across a range of sectors. Their work is, however, primarily in cultural, educational and healthcare architecture (see Hospital Architecture).

Important commissions include Jerusalem City Hall, Israel (1994), the Bahen Centre for Information Technology at the University of Toronto (2002), the entire campus for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario (2011), and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto (built 2006). Other major projects include the Jewish Community Centre in New York City (2002), Corus Quay in Toronto (2010), La Maison Symphonique in Montreal (2011), the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute in Toronto (2011) and the New Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia (2013).

Architecture and the City

In much of Jack Diamond's early work, architectural expression is enlisted in the service of creating contextual relationships rather than ideologies. (See also Architectural Practice.) A strong focus on sustainability is a part of the firm’s design strategy, addressing the future density of and energy use in cities by taking into consideration geography, climate and technology. ( See also Sustainable Development; Human Geography in Canada.) The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (built in 2011) exemplifies this innovative attitude with its inclusion of energy harvesting technology beneath the campus grounds. On a smaller scale, the firm’s introduction of a bio-filter living plant wall at the University of Guelph-Humber campus in Toronto (built in 2011) has encouraged many other projects in North America to follow suit (see University of Guelph). Although current projects by Diamond Schmitt Architects continue to evolve and explore new interests in transparency and materiality, Diamond’s fundamental precept behind the firm’s work remains: architecture and the city constitute an inextricable, symbiotic pair.

Design Excellence

Diamond Schmitt’s portfolio speaks to their studied understanding of the city, developing their projects in a way that captures the contemporary needs of the public. The firm has a long history of promoting the restoration of heritage buildings (in the early 1970s, Diamond personally purchased an old ceramics factory on King Street in Toronto and restored it). Projects they have completed to date consistently test flexible spaces for more fluid interaction and learning potential as can be seen in the Taylor Institute of Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary (2016). This world class firm is also recognized for their innovative work on many performing arts halls, with the David Geffen Concert Hall at Lincoln Centre in New York being one of their latest (in collaboration with UK-based Heatherwick Studio).

Public Figure

Diamond became associated with the city's reform movement and by the late 1960s had established what would become one of its defining practices. (See also Urban Reform.) Diamond's interest in urban reform influenced his architecture, his published writings and his involvement with a variety of public agencies. From 1986 to 1989 he served as a commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In 1995 he was one of five commissioners enlisted to prepare recommendations for directing and managing the growth of the Greater Toronto Area (see Toronto).

Academic Contributions

In addition to his position at the University of Toronto, Jack Diamond was widely sought as a guest teacher and critic. Throughout his career, he held academic appointments at York University and at the universities of Pennsylvania and Texas.

Diamond also authored and contributed to numerous publications. Insight and On Site: The Architecture of Diamond and Schmitt (2008) is a monograph of the firm's work and design philosophy. In 2010, Diamond published a collection of his architectural paintings and watercolours in the book Sketches from Here and There. Diamond’s memoir, Context and Content: The Memoir of a Fortunate Architect, was published in 2022.

Honours and Awards

  • Governor General's Medal in Architecture for the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton (1976)
  • Governor General's Medal in Architecture for the Metropolitan Toronto Central YMCA (1984)
  • Toronto Arts Award for Architecture and Design (1989)
  • Governor General's Medal in Architecture for the Earth Sciences Centre at University of Toronto (1990)
  • Governor General's Medal in Architecture for the York University Student Centre (1991)
  • Governor General's Medal in Architecture for the Richmond Hill Central Library (1993)
  • Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa), Dalhousie University (1995)
  • Officer, Order of Canada (1995)
  • Member, Order of Ontario (1997)
  • Gold Medal, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (2001)
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Award of Excellence for Innovation in Architecture (2001)
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Award of Excellence for Innovation in Architecture (2005)

Further Reading

External Links