Over his nearly six-decade career, architect Jerome Markson has left his mark on Toronto and the field.
Markson is the recipient of the 2022 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Gold Medal, the highest honor the institute can bestow in recognition of a significant and lasting contribution to Canadian architecture.
“Markson’s work reveals his lifelong commitment to humanism, inclusiveness and generosity, teaching us valuable lessons about urban housing and its essential relationship to city building,” say the jury comments. . “His work embodies a deep caring for those who will use and enjoy his projects and the communities in which they exist. Many architects will offer praise by referring to their colleagues as an ‘architect’s architect’. Jerome Markson certainly deserves the title of “architect of town planning” – a probably more difficult and exceptional achievement within the profession.
Markson, now 90, was born in Toronto in 1929 to immigrant parents from Lithuania and Poland. The family lived near Kensington Market. Growing up in the city had a big impact on Markson’s career, he told the Daily Commercial News.
“I’m a born and raised Torontonian and went to school here in Toronto,” he said.
“The important thing is to create good places where people can live, work and enjoy their lives.”
After World War II, Markson, a Jewish Canadian, began studying architecture at the University of Toronto in 1948.
“The first year of school, shortly after the Second World War, there were so many students returning from the war in Canada that there was no room at the university here downtown , so our first year was in another location out of town,” Markson said.
The summer before his final year of architecture school, he attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the United States where he met his wife Mayta Silver, a ceramic artist from Winnipeg who was also studying at the school. The couple married after Markson graduated from the University of Toronto in 1953 and they have been together for 65 years. They always made time to travel and see architecture in other parts of the world, he said.
Markson began his practice during a period of transformation after the war.
Early in his career, he worked for Eugene G. Faludi; James Murray; George Robb; and Venchiarutti & Venchiarutti before opening his own practice called Jerome Markson Architect in 1955.
“When you graduated in architecture at that time, you had to spend several years working for other architects, and then you got your papers to become an architect in Ontario,” he explained. “I started pretty early on my own.”
Markson is well known for his work on private homes, such as the Moses House in Hamilton, but also on other buildings such as the David B. Archer Co-operative in Toronto; True Davidson Metro Home for the Aged in Toronto; medical buildings like the Group Health Center in Sault Ste. Married; and cultural and community buildings like the Frederick Horseman Varley Art Gallery in Markham and the Cedarvale Community Center in Toronto. He describes his style as contemporary.
“I started out building private homes for individual clients in Hamilton, city and country, and then moved into housing,” he said. “It has become an important part of my job.”
Markson practiced as architect Jerome Markson until 2015. He said he had never been interested in a big firm and would take on projects of all sizes. There have been two instances in his career where he partnered with others: Ronji Borooah from 1992 to 2005 and Ernie Hodgson from 1992 to 1999.
Although he had a successful career, there were ups and downs.
“You could have very good years of success and then suddenly there’s no more work for architects,” he said. “It happened twice very seriously for our business and we continued.”
Laura Miller, associate professor of architecture at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, has written a book about Markson called Toronto’s Inclusive Modernity: The Architecture of Jerome Markson.
In terms of accolades, Markson’s work has received over 50 design awards throughout his career. He is a Fellow of the RAIC, a recipient of the DaVinci Award from the Toronto Society of Architects, the Arbor Award from the University of Toronto, and the Lifetime Design Achievement Award from the Ontario Association of Architects. His work has appeared in a number of publications and he has served on juries and award committees, such as the Mississauga City Hall Jury. He also directed the Toronto Society of Architects.
Markson offered some advice for those considering pursuing a career in architecture.
“It takes maximum involvement and reflection and keeping up with changing times.
“You have to have that passion to help make the world a better place.”
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