Parkin, John Creswell

PARKIN, John Creswell (1922-1988), one of the most important post-war architects in Canada, and a partner in the large and very successful firm of John B. Parkin & Associates of Toronto. Parkin was born in Sheffield, England of Canadian parentage on 24 March 1922, but had no family connection to John Burnett Parkin, an architect in Toronto, Ont. with whom he was to later collaborate with for over 20 years. His father (an accountant) moved the family back from England to Winnipeg where his son John C. was raised and educated.

While attending the School of Architecture at the Univ. of Manitoba in 1940-44, his daring design for “A Glass Factory”, completed as his 5th Year thesis, was published in the R.A.I.C. Journal, xxii, April 1945, 79, illus. One of his classmates in Winnipeg was Harry Seidler (1923-2006), who later became the leading modernist architect in Australia. In late 1944 John C. moved to Toronto and briefly worked in the office of Marani & Morris. In 1945, after receiving a scholarship at Harvard University, he moved to Boston and attended classes taught by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, both of whom were acknowledged masters of the Bauhaus School in Germany, and who were singularly responsible for introducing ideas of the Modernist Movement to a whole generation of students in North America. Parkin wrote about his experience at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard in the R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiii, April 1946, 100, 102.

After returning to Toronto, he submitted a progressive design in the Canadian Small House Competition, and from the 330 designs received, he was awarded Second Prize for his effort (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, Jan. 1947, 14, illus. & descrip.; Globe & Mail [Toronto], 18 Feb. 1947, 5). He became a partner of John B. Parkin’s office in 1947, and continued to collaborate with him until John B. moved to Los Angeles in 1969. The Toronto firm, now headed by John C., was renamed Parkin Architects Engineers & Planners, and later became the Parkin Partnership.

After 1950, his major achievements as Chief Designer in the office of John B. Parkin include the winning design in the competition for the Ontario Association of Architects Headquarters, Park Road, Toronto (1953-54), the Don Mills Shopping Centre, Toronto (1957-58), the Toronto International Airport complex (1963-66, later called Terminal One, and now demolished), the new Union Railway Station, Ottawa (1966-68), and major additions to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1973-77). He was awarded the R.A.I.C. Gold Medal in 1979. Parkin died in Toronto on 22 November 1988 (obituary and tribute Globe & Mail [Toronto], 23 Nov. 1988, A 25; 26 Nov. 1988, C13; biog. The Canadian Who‘s Who, viii, 1958-60, 863-64; biog. and list of works in Muriel Emanuel, Contemporary Architects, 1980, 606-08, illus.). An extensive biography of Parkin, with photographic portrait, was published in The Canadian Architect, May 1989, 43-46. An early photographic portrait of John C. Parkin was published in the R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, Sept. 1947, 335.

A major collection of original drawings by John C. Parkin, and by the firm of John B. Parkin, is now held by the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, Que. Another collection of drawings and original photographs of works by the firm of J.B. Parkin is held at the Canadian Architectural Archives at the Univ. of Calgary. The successor firm to the office of J.C. Parkin was Neish, Owen, Rowland & Roy (now called NORR Architects). A small exhibition catalogue entitled Remembering John Creswell Parkin was published by the Royal Canadian Academy in Toronto in February 1991 and contains essays and commentary by Macy DuBois, Detlef Mertins, and H.P. Daniel van Ginkel.