John C. Parkin fonds

John C. Parkin fonds

Part of


  • John Cresswell Parkin (archive creator)
  • John Cresswell Parkin (architect)
  • John B. Parkin (architect)
  • John B. Parkin Associates (architectural firm)
  • Parkin Architects Planners (architectural firm)


John C. Parkin fonds

Dates of creation



  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • Approximately 56,680 drawings (including reprographic copies)
  • Approximately 6,861 photographic materials
  • Approximately 86.541 l.m. of textual records
  • 121 notebooks
  • 50 artefacts
  • 16 works of art
  • 8 sound recordings
  • 6 moving images
  • 2 posters
  • 1 book

Scope and Content

The John Cresswell Parkin fonds, 1929-1987, documents the professional activities of Parkin as a Toronto-based architect throughout his entire career from 1929-1987. The majority of materials record 347 architectural projects dating from 1945 to 1986. Most of these document his architectural career at his firm Parkin Architects Planners after 1971. His work at firm John B. Parkin Associates (1947-1971) is also documented, but the materials are sparse.

The project records, which include built work, proposals, competitions, and feasibility studies, document the design, planning, execution, and completion of projects through drawings, textual records, photographs, presentation panels, paintings, and artefacts. While the majority of these projects are located in Toronto and surrounding area, projects from across Canada are documented, as well as some international projects in Jamaica, Afghanistan, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Algeria.

Apart from projects, the fonds documents Parkin’s personal and professional interests, achievements, and his rich participation in the Canadian arts community. His achievements are recorded through diplomas, certificates, medals and other memorabilia while his interests are evident through research files, correspondence, published articles, lectures, posters and art work. His early interest in architecture is also captured through his student work and diaries from his youth and early adulthood. Finally, Parkin’s involvement in dozens of clubs, committees, boards, and councils are recorded through minutes, annual reports, correspondence, invitations, speeches and certificates.

The fonds also contains office files from both major firms documented in the fonds, covering the years 1960-1988. These files consist of correspondence, promotional materials on the firms and projects, and research on topics of interest. Audiovisual materials also cover promotional activities for both firms. Finally, yearly diaries (day planners) kept by Parkin document his personal and professional life through meticulous records of daily activities.

Although the names of John C. Parkin’s firms changed several times as they evolved, project series descriptions in this finding aid only refer to the firms using their prominent names. The chosen firm names are John B. Parkin Associates (to refer to the firm he headed with John B. Parkin from 1947 to around 1971) and Parkin Architects Planners (to refer to the firm he created on his own after his spilt with John B. Parkin around 1971).

Reference Number



Prior to their transfer to the CCA, materials from the 1987 accession had no discernable order. The 1997 accession was intellectually arranged into series upon arrival at the CCA and some materials were physically arranged based on their format and content. The materials from all accessions have now been combined and arranged by series. Most materials have been separated by format within each series and subseries. The drawings and reprographic copies have been further arranged by material type. Where possible, the original order of records has been maintained or records were arranged in an attempt to recreate the original classification scheme of the creating office.

Materials have now been arranged into 6 series:

AP018.S1: Architectural Projects

AP018.S2: Office Files

AP018.S3: Professional Papers and Awards

AP018.S4: Diaries

AP018.S5: Student Work

AP018.S6: Artwork and Photographic Materials

Biographical notes

John Cresswell Parkin was a prominent Canadian architect in the latter half of the twentieth century. From the outset of his career in the 1950s, his modernist designs helped usher in the era of the International Style in Canada. Based primarily in Toronto, his work defined much of the city’s modern skyline by the 1980s. Some of these buildings can still be seen today in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and St. John’s.

Parkin was born to Canadian parents in Sheffield, England in 1922. He received his Bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1944 from the University of Manitoba. In 1947, Parkin received his Master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University, where he studied under architect Walter Gropius. Before his graduate studies commenced, Parkin worked briefly at the firm Marani & Morris.[1] Upon graduation, Parkin partnered with architect John B. Parkin (no relation) and landscape architect Edmund T. Parkin (also no relation) to start the firm John B. Parkin Associates, where he was senior partner in charge of design.

From 1947 to around 1971, John B. Parkin Associates was an influential business that spanned the country and grew to be the biggest and one of the most successful architectural firms in Canada. Seminal projects from the firm included the Ontario Association of Architects building, the Salvation Army National Headquarters, Terminal 1 at the Toronto International Airport, the Bata Shoes office, and Ottawa Union Station. The firm also worked with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design and build the Toronto Dominion Centre in downtown Toronto and with Viljo Revell on Toronto City Hall. The sustained growth of the firm led to a keen interest in office practices and management on the part of John C. Parkin. The firm eventually integrated an engineering department and a specifications writing department, two practices that were rare in architectural firms at the time. John C. Parkin wanted a fully integrated office that practiced responsibility and professionalism by delivering drawings and work on time.[2]

Beginning around 1968, the firm John B. Parkin Associates underwent a series of mergers and changes to its structure and partners. For one, the firm merged with Smith, Carter, Searle and Associates of Winnipeg to create a firm that operated simultaneously in Manitoba and Ontario, under two different names – Smith, Carter, Parkin in Manitoba and Parkin Architects Engineers Planners in Toronto.[3] At this time, John B. Parkin moved to Los Angeles and soon after, John B. and John C. parted ways. John B. Parkin would remain in LA, and John C. would leave to start his own firm, Parkin Architects Planners. The old firm, Parkin Architects Engineers Planners, would continue to change names as the firm evolved to eventually become NORR (Neish, Owen, Rowland and Roy), as it currently exists. Around 1975, John C. and John B. reintegrated their separate firms under a loose affiliation for the purpose of sharing personnel and technical information across borders. This holding company was known as Parkin Associates Ltd.

In 1976, the name of John C. Parkin’s firm was changed once again to become Parkin Partnership Architects Planners. Notable projects for this firm included major work on the Art Gallery of Ontario, the 1500 Don Mills development, the Toronto Sun building, Health Science Complexes at the University of Ottawa and Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the Hamilton Trade Center and Arena (Copps Coliseum). John C. Parkin also designed several hospitals, university buildings, private residences, office buildings, hotels and sports complexes across the country, along with development studies for international airports around the world.

Apart from his day to day work at the firm, Parkin’s life was marked by a rich participation and achievement in the arts, architecture and education. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Toronto from 1947-1948 and was a visiting professor at McGill University from 1966-1967. He acted as chairman of the National Design Council (1961-1970), Governor of the National Film Board (1964-1967), Chairman of the Architectural Advisory Board for Expo ’67 (1965-67), and President of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1970-1980), among many others. Parkin’s work was highly awarded, winning him 40 Massey Medals for Architecture, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), two honorary doctorates, and the CC Order of Canada in 1972. John C. Parkin died in late 1988 at the age of 66.

[1] Linda Fraser, Michael McMordie, and Geoffrey Simmins, John C . Parkin, Archives, and Photography: Reflections on the Practice and Presentation of Modern Architecture (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2013) 88.

[2] Fraser et al., John C . Parkin, Archives, and Photography, 111.

[3] “People,” Architecture Canada Newsmagazine, February 15, 1971, 10-11, http://sextondigital.library.dal.ca/RAIC/PDFs/Volume48/vol48_02_15_1971_OCR_600dpi_PDFA1b_compressed.pdf

Conditions governing access

  • Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • For materials donated by Jennifer A.C. Parkin, they hold the copyright. Permission must be sought from the copyright holder before reproductions can be made. For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA(reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of John C. Parkin on 7 October 1987 Gift of Jennifer A.C. Parkin on 23 December 1997 and in 2000

Custodial history

In 1987, John C. Parkin transferred the bulk of the fonds to the CCA. After his death in 1988, his daughter, Jennifer A.C. Parkin, acquired more of John C. Parkin’s records, which she transferred to the CCA in 1997 and 2001.

Archivist's note

  • The materials received in 1987 and 1997 were inventoried upon arrival to the CCA. Some preservation methods were imposed on the 1997 accrual and the materials were roughly arranged into series based on their content and format. From 2018-2019, Anna Haywood processed and described this fonds. Materials were arranged into new series and subseries. Materials were described down to the file-level. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada. Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au gouvernement du Canada.

Credit line

When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation: John C. Parkin fonds, Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal. When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

Language of material

English, French

Related units of description

  • The John B. Parkin/NORR fonds at the University of Calgary Archives and Special Collections includes archival material complimentary to this fonds. These records cover the years 1937-1974 and include mostly architectural projects from the firm of John B. Parkin Associates. Projects with complimentary materials at this repository have been identified at the project series level.

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