Over the next few weeks, the E.R.A. Office Blog will be presenting a series of biographies of Toronto’s modernist architects. The second in this series are Jack Klein and Henry Sears, who built many housing projects in the former Municipality of North York, and yet very little is known about them. Below is an excerpt from North York’s Modernist Architecture Revisited.
Toronto architects Jack Klein and Henry Sears focused on affordable, contemporary residential dwellings. They produced publications on housing theory and built a wide variety of both functional and experimental projects, including modernist row housing, apartment buildings and private homes. Their firm opened in 1958 – on the same day as Raymond Moriyama’s practice, with whom they shared a three room studio in Yorkville.
Klein and Sears were most concerned with the quality of built environment in which we live; row housing of the time was slum-like and ill-considered, and suburban housing was becoming too expensive for the average homeowner. The firm authored many publications on these topics, including the Core Area housing study for the City of Toronto, Urban Renewal with Eric Ross Arthur, and Room to Learn: A Study on Housing for the Canadian Student.
They also designed many significant multi-unit row housing projects including Oakdale Manor and Yorkwoods Village, as well as parts of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood in Toronto, for which they were awarded the OAA award for Excellence in Residential Design. Sears and Klein were awarded a Massey Medal for the Don Valley Woods project, and completed a number of notable private residences at 54 Blue Forest Drive, 16 and 18 Bitteroot Drive, and 17 Beaver Valley Road.
Henry Sears was inducted into the RAIC College of Fellows in 1971. He died in 2003, and Jack Klein died shortly thereafter, in 2005.
The Don Valley Woods project is in the process of being rezoned, and all of the buildings on site are threatened with demolition.