Raymond Moriyama, the Canadian architect who built his first structure in a B.C. internment camp during the Second World War and went on to design some of Canada’s most iconic buildings, has died at the age of 93.
Moriyama died on Friday, according to a statement from his firm, Moriyama & Teshima Architects. A cause of death has not been released.
“We ask for particular respect and privacy for Raymond’s family. The world has lost a visionary architect and they have lost a treasured loved one,” the statement said.
Born in Vancouver in 1929, Moriyama had a hand in the creation of the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa’s City Hall, the Bata Shoe Museum, the Toronto Reference Library, the Ontario Science Centre and the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
Moriyama founded his architecture firm in 1958, according to the firm’s website, and later joined with Ted Teshima in 1970 to form Moriyama & Teshima Architects.
He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2009, the same year he won the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Work was key to Canada’s architectural golden age
Moriyama was one of the greatest Canadian architects of the 20th and early 21st century, if not the greatest, according to Stefan Novakovic, a senior editor at architecture publication Azure Magazine.
“The era in which he sort of came of age and started designing was what we sometimes look at as a sort of golden age of Canadian architecture after World War II,” Novakovic said.
“It was this time when we were transforming Canada from this sort of white colonial nation into the multicultural and diverse country that we know today.”
That transformation included a desire to express the shift architecturally, which he said Moriyama’s buildings do well.
“With Moriyama’s buildings, the really beautiful thing is, you don’t have to know much, you just have to feel it. You step into the Toronto Reference Library and you feel that this is an inclusive space where everybody’s welcome,” Novakovic said.
When it comes to the Ontario Science Centre, Moriyama innovated what a museum could be, said Richard M. Sommer, the former dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto.
Before the science centre, Sommer said “museums were very, very static and very much about displays and reading. And this is a museum where people were asked to kind of engage very haptically in the material.”
The science centre was also the building that launched Moriyama’s career, Sommer said.
This summer, Toronto city council voted in favour of exploring the feasibility of keeping the science centre in its current location. That followed Premier Doug Ford’s stated plan to relocate the science centre to Ontario Place, demolish the current site and build housing in its place.
Moriyama & Teshima Architects commented on the proposal in a June 1 post on CanadianArchitect.com, noting that the brief given to Moriyama by the Minister of Public Works in 1964 read: “Design an institution of international significance.”
“The Ontario Science Centre is a landmark building, purposefully nestled into the natural ravine of the Don Valley, where it has succeeded in bringing that joyful study to the masses for over fifty years,” the post read. “The purpose of the Science Centre is inseparable from the site it currently inhabits.”
Passion for building began in internment camp
As a child, Moriyama spent time in a British Columbia internment camp during the Second World War.
Between 1942 and 1949, more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forcibly removed from the B.C. coast and incarcerated in camps. Japanese Canadians in B.C. were labelled as enemy aliens during the Second World War despite many of them having lived in Canada for generations.
In 2010, Moriyama reflected on the experience in a speech while receiving the Sakura Award for contributions to Japanese culture in Canada and abroad.
“It is a psychological hell when your own country, the country of your birth, stamps you an ‘enemy alien,’ disowns you and expels you,” he said according to an excerpt of the speech published by the University of Toronto.
At the public baths in the camp, Moriyama was bullied because of scars from a childhood injury. Rejected by the country where he was born and mocked by those who shared his heritage, he snuck away to the Slocan River near the camp to bathe.
“Soon, I found myself wanting to build my first architectural project, a tree house, without being found out by the RCMP,” he said. “That tree house, when finished, was beautiful. It was my university, my place of solace, a place to think and learn.”
There, he said his despair began to subside and he realized he could not hate his own community and country, as it would crush his imagination.
“I replaced the despair with ideas about what I could do as an architect to help my community and Canada,” he said at the time.