Atrium on Bay
Developer: Trizec Twigg Developments Limited
Architect: Page and Steele Architects
"Atrium on Bay" is a large retail and office complex in downtown Toronto, Ontario, adjacent to the Yonge-Dundas Square. The mixed-use building was constructed in 1981 and is directly connected to the Dundas subway station with hundreds of visitors passing by the masterful terra cotta panels by William McElcheran.
William McElcheran worked with the architects of Page and Steele early in the project to include his design of the passageway leading to a new subway stop on the NE corner of Yonge St. in Toronto.
McElcheran was living in an area of Italy, outside of Florence, that is famous for their terra cotta artisans. At the time, McElcheran was working in bronze at the foundries of Pietrasanta, Italy but he immediately envisioned long sculpted corridors modelled in clay and fired into large ceramic tiles.
One of first things the developers wanted to be assured of, was the durability of the terra cotta and the ability for it to be cleaned. McElcheran decided to open his own terra cotta workshop so he would have total quality control of the project. He bought large gas fired kilns in which he could fire the raw clay tiles he sculpted.
One of the many outstanding features of McElcheran’s composition is the broad diversity of ages and people of different cultures that he chose to depict. The “Atrium on Bay” relief was sculpted in 1982, before many people gave any thought to the importance for people of diverse backgrounds to see themselves represented in the media.
Artist and Master Craftsman
McElcheran was an artist of exceptional skill and vision. He was a master at relief sculpture, as seen in the long passageway of walking figures he created for “Atrium on Bay”. He often commented to his students and his many apprentices that, “A relief is a raised drawing and not a flattened sculpture.”