Parkin, John Burnett

PARKIN, John Burnett (1911-1975), a leading figure in the development of International Modernism in Canada in the mid-20th Century. Together with his brother Edmund T. Parkin (1913-1994), an engineer by training, and with John Cresswell Parkin, a young Harvard graduate (who was not related to J.B. Parkin), the firm was established in Toronto in 1947 and over the next twenty years became the largest and most prolific architectural practice in the country. Born in Toronto on 26 June 1911, Parkin attended Delta Collegiate Inst. in Hamilton, and studied architecture at the Univ. of Toronto where he graduated in 1935. He moved to London, England where he worked briefly for the National Coal Board, and was noted as "...a very capable assistant on the architectural staff of the Miner's Welfare Committee" (R.I.B.A., Membership Application for John B. Parkin, 7 February 1938). He then joined H.M. Office of Works, designing post offices and telephone exchange buildings before taking a position with the London firm of Howard & Souster (1936-37). It was there that he received his first commission, a surprisingly conservative and traditional design for a large brick house called "Greenways" at South Croydon. After his return to Toronto in 1939 he continued to employ a reserved neo-Georgian style for his first commissions there.

By 1940 Parkin had taken a particular interest in the design of school buildings in the modernist style, and he wrote two influential articles on the subject, illustrated with his own proposals, and with the work of other architects (R.A.I.C. Journal, xix, Sept. 1942, 188-89, illus. ; and xx, July 1943, 99-114, illus.). These included his early and innovative design for Sunnylea School in Etobicoke (1942) which was to set a new post-war standard for school design throughout Ontario. The concept for Sunnylea School was inspired by Eliel & Eero Saarinen's plans for Crow Island School at Winnetka, Illinois (1940). He formed John B. Parkin Associates in 1947, and invited John C. Parkin (no relation) to become partner-in-charge of design while John B. maintained overall responsibility for the firm. Their first works, including projects for schools, public buildings and stations and shelters for the Toronto Transit Commission, were remarkably progressive buildings that caught the attention of the international press. In 1950, during the inaugural year of the presentation of the Massey Medals for Architecture, the firm of John B. Parkin & Associates garnered five medals in one year (a gold medal and four silver medals), a record for the highest number of medals awarded to one firm in a single year. This record remains unbroken to this day as of 2022.

The firm grew rapidly and by 1955 took possession of a new purpose-built office building at 1500 Don Mills Road where over one hundred architects and support staff were employed. It was there that major commissions were carried out for the Sidney Smith Building, Univ. of Toronto (1961), the Bata Shoe Head Office, Don Mills (1965), Toronto International Airport (1963-66), and for Union Station in Ottawa (1969), as well as dozens of other projects for commercial, industrial and institutional buildings across the country. John B. Parkin left Canada and moved to Los Angeles in 1969 where he continued to operate his own office. There, he joined Roy Marshall and Lloyd Laity to form Parkin Architects, Engineers & Planners. He died in Los Angeles on 17 August 1975. (obit. Toronto Star, 19 Aug. 1975, B 2; Globe & Mail [Toronto], 20 Aug. 1975, 2; biog. Monetary Times [Toronto], April 1949, 60; The Canadian Who's Who, viii, 1958-60, 863; biog. and list of works in M. Emanuel, Contemporary Architects, 1980, 673-4). A detailed study of the Parkin Office and the day-to-day operations of the firm appeared in the Canadian Builder [Toronto], April 1961, 28-34, illus. A photographic portrait of John B. Parkin can be found in the R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, Sept. 1947, 335. The Canadian Architectural Archives at the Univ. of Calgary holds an extensive collection of over 9,000 drawings from the John B. Parkin firm dating from 1939 to 1969 (CAA Calgary, Acc. 1A/75.1)

JOHN B. PARKIN (works in England)

SOUTH CROYDON, SURREY, "Greenways", a large private house, 1937-38 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xv, Aug. 1938, 184, illus.)

JOHN B. PARKIN (works in Toronto)

AVA ROAD, at Bathurst Street, duplex pair of houses for Dr. Abraham Brodey, 1939 (Toronto Star, 25 Sept. 1939, 24, illus.; R.A.I.C. Journal, xviii, June 1941, 105, illus.)
ROYAL YORK ROAD, near Government Road, residence for John B. Hamilton, 1940 (NORR Partnership Ltd. 1938-1988, 4, illus.)
INGRAHAM-CANADIAN CLOCK CO., Grand Avenue, Etobicoke, 1941 (C.R., liv, 9 July 1941, 34)
SUNNYLEA PUBLIC SCHOOL, Sunnylea Avenue at Royal York Road, for School Section No. 14, Etobicoke, 1942; addition, 1948 (C.R., lv, 4 March 1942, 28, t.c.; R.A.I.C. Journal, xx, July 1943, 99, 103-04, 109, illus.; and xxi, Nov. 1944, 255, illus.; and xxiv, Oct. 1947, 348-49, illus.; C.R., lxi, May 1948, 175)
SWANSEA, residence for Harold G. Bock, Morningside Avenue, c. 1945 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxii, July 1945, 144, illus.)
TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION, bus and trolley shelters, 1946-47, including the Adelaide Street Bus Terminal, Adelaide Street West at Grand Opera Lane (demol.), Long Branch Street Car Loop shelters, and Glen Echo Loop shelters, Mount Pleasant Road at Glen Echo Road, 1946-47 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, March 1947, 88, illus.; xxvii, Aug. 1950, 258, illus.; Architectural Forum [New York], lxxxviii, Feb. 1948, 98-9, illus.)
FOREST HILL ROAD, near Ormsby Crescent, residence for Samuel C. Yolles, 1946 (C.H.G., xxiii, Dec. 1946, 38-41, illus.)
THE CHATELAINE HOUSE, a design for a 'Solar House', prepared for Chatelaine Magazine in Toronto, and exhibited at Hudson's Bay Department Stores across Canada, 1947 (Victoria Daily News, 15 Jan. 1947, 12, illus. & descrip.)
NORTH YORK, residence for Hart D. Wintrob, Forest Wood Street, 1947 (C.H.G., xxiv, July 1947, 20-23, illus.)
NEW TORONTO, Second Street Public School, 1948 (dwgs. at CAA, Univ. of Calgary, Job. No. 4807)
CHRISTADELPHIAN CHURCH, Church Street at Asquith Street, 1948 (M. Emanuel, Contemporary Architects, 1980, 605, list of works)
WESTON, Humber Memorial Hospital, Church Street, for the Weston Rotary Club, 1949-50 (C.R., lxii, Feb. 1949, 151)
YORK TOWNSHIP HYDRO ELECTRIC SYSTEM, Keele Street at Elora Road, office, garage and warehouse, 1949 (C.R., lxii, June 1949, 119)
YORK TOWNSHIP, George Harvey Vocational School, Keele Street, 1949-50 (C.R., lxii, Nov. 1949, 123; lxiii, June 1950, 125)
NEW TORONTO VOCATIONAL SCHOOL, 18th Street, 1949-50 (C.R., lxii, Nov. 1949, 124; R.A.I.C. Journal, xxix, April 1952, 114-15, illus.)
STEDMAN BROTHERS LTD., Richmond Street West at Portland Street, a large 2 storey office and warehouse, 1949-50 (Toronto b.p. 5589, 23 Nov. 1949; Financial Post (Toronto), 14 Jan. 1950, 5, detailed descrip.; C.R., lxiii, Feb. 1950, 134)
FABERGE PERFUMES CANADA LTD., Queen Elizabeth Boulevard, Etobicoke, factory, 1949 (C.R., lxii, April 1949, 158, t.c.)
LONG BRANCH, public school for the Long Branch Board of Education, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, Jan. 1950, 144)
YORK TOWNSHIP, Northwestern General Hospital, Keele Street at Strathnairn Avenue, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, Aug. 1950, 239)

JOHN B. PARKIN (works elsewhere in Ontario)

COBOURG, ONT., dormitory building for the Neighbourhood Workers Association, 1946 (dwgs. at CAA, Univ. of Calgary, Job No. 4607)
OSHAWA, ONT., Oshawa Public Utilities Commission, garage and storage building, Simcoe Street South at Metcalf Street, 1946 (C.R., lix, July 1946, 106)
PARRY SOUND, ONT., Isabella Street High School, 1946-47 (CAA, Univ. of Calgary, drawings Job No. 4615)
OSHAWA, ONT., North Oshawa Public School, Simcoe Street North at Five Points Road, 1947-48 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, Oct. 1947, 350, illus.; C.R., lx, Nov. 1947, 142)
WHITBY, ONT., public school, 1947-48 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, Oct. 1947, 350, illus.; C.R., lxi, Jan. 1948, 176)
POINT AU BARIL, ONT., public school, 1947 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, Oct. 1947, 350, illus.)
BOWMANVILLE, ONT., Ontario Street Public School, 1948 (Canadian Statesman [Bowmanville], 29 Jan. 1948, 1, illus. & descrip.; C.R., lxi, May 1948, 174; R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvii, May 1950, 167)
TILLSONBURG, ONT., Tillson Avenue Public School, 1949 (C.R., lxii, Jan. 1949, 188; and July 1949, 134)
MAGNETAWAN, ONT., public school, 1949 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, April 1949, 116)
PETERBOROUGH, ONT., Queen Mary Public School, Weller Street at Monaghan Road, 1949 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, April 1949, 111, illus.)
OSHAWA, ONT., Central Collegiate Institute, Simcoe Street South at Gibb Street, 1949 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, April 1949, 114-15, illus.)
PARRY SOUND, ONT., High School, 1949 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, April 1949, 112-13, illus.)
NEW HAMBURG, ONT., Huron Street Public School, 1949 (C.R., lxii, April 1949, 154; and June 1949, 116)
OAKVILLE, ONT., residence for Douglas Crashley, 1949 (dwgs. CAA, Univ. of Calgary, Job No. 4917)
AYLMER, ONT., John Street Public School, 1949-50 (dwgs. CAA, Univ. of Calgary, Job No. 4925)
LAKE SIMCOE, ONT., summer residence for Wilfrid Shanahan, 1949 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, July 1949, 204, 206, illus. & descrip.; C.H.G., xxvii, March 1950, 34-5, 74, illus.)
LAKE SIMCOE, ONT., summer residence for Robert Amell, 1949 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, July 1949, 205, 208, illus. & descrip.; C.H.G., xxvii, March 1950, 34-5, 74, illus.)
MUSKOKA, summer residence on Lake Rosseau for W. Reginald Watkins, '...opposite the Royal Muskoka Hotel', 1949 (C.H.G., xxvi, March 1949, 26-7, illus.; R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, July 1949, 204-05, 207, illus. & descrip.)
LINDSAY, ONT., Collegiate Institute, Kent Street West, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, Feb. 1950, 124)
OSHAWA, ONT., Ritson Road Public School, major addition, 1950 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvii, May 1950, 169, illus.)
PETERBOROUGH, ONT., High School, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, Aug. 1950, 238)


VANCOUVER, B.C., Civic Auditorium, 1954-55. The Toronto firm of John B. Parkin Associates were one of 67 firms who submitted a design in this national competition. Their entry, marked No. 82, received an Honorable Mention and a cash prize of $200, and was published in the City of Vancouver document called A Competition for a Civic Auditorium for Vancouver: Report of the Board of Assessors, 1954.