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Architectural style

Most buildings – especially those built for religious purposes – are developed within the canon of a specific architectural style. Some are elaborate and ornate while others are more simple and refined. The styles of worship are as varied as the faith groups they represent. Here, you can explore the many styles that appear in places of worship throughout Ontario. Find out, too, what buildings have been built in which style – and surprise yourself at how many different styles you can find in your own community. Learn to spot the difference between Renaissance Revival and Commissioner’s Gothic.

1. Art Deco
Also known as “Zigzag,” Art Deco takes its name from the Arts Decoratifs Exhibition that took place in Paris in 1924-25. It also applies to the “jazz age” style of interiors, furniture, jewelry and industrial design. This style emerged after the end of the First World War and was a self-conscious break from the past. Ornamental or decorative elements were either stripped of historical references, or historical references were highly stylized and transformed. It exhibits angular geometric forms, diagonal patterns, and multicolour primitive motifs applied to planar boxlike massing. Wall surfaces include brick, cast stone, terra cotta and smooth stucco. Accent materials include sculptural terra cotta, dressed stone, modern metal alloys, glass block and stainless steel. In grand expressions of the style, figurative planar images, bas relief and even sculptural works are executed in tile, terra cotta and other materials. Floors are often decorative stone, tile and terrazzo. In Ontario, the Art Deco style was once popular for cinemas, high density residential blocks, commercial storefronts, and offices, but very rarely found in the architecture of places of worship in the province.

6 record(s) found
2. Arts and Crafts
The Arts and Crafts style refers to a set of design principles that applies to art, design and architecture, and attempts to re-establish the artistic skills of craftsmanship that were threatened by the rapid industrialization of the 19th century. Arts and Crafts architecture emphasizes vernacular traditions, the act of construction, handcraft, rational design, comfort, simplicity, large planes, strong textures, earthy hues and simple local materials. In North America, the style came to be known as Craftsman or Stick style. William Morris was the most important writer and theorist of the style. In England, the style was expressed architecturally by Philip Webb, in America by Gustav Stickley and the Greene Brothers. In Ontario, architect Eden Smith was its most prominent proponent. The Arts and Crafts style is not common in Ontario’s places of worship, though a number of examples can be found throughout the province.

35 record(s) found
3. Baroque Revival

3 record(s) found
4. Beaux-Arts
This neoclassical style is named for the French School of Architecture – l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts – that had a great impact on architecture during the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Beaux-Arts architecture employs balance and symmetry and a hierarchy of spaces – from "noble spaces," such as grand entrances and staircases, to utilitarian ones of increasing privacy. Beaux-Arts buildings are often grand and ornate, but always exhibit clarity of form and are decorated with classical elements such as columns. In Ontario, the Beaux-Arts style was most prominently used for civic buildings. The Beaux-Arts style is not common in Ontario’s places of worship, though a number of examples can be found in southern Ontario.

7 record(s) found
5. Byzantine Revival
Inspired by the golden age of Emperor Justinian in the mid-6th century, this style draws on the monuments of Constantinople and Ravenna – the best-known being the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Characteristic forms include massive round arches, domes atop thick walls, barrel vaults, mosaics on the interior and tiled dome roofs. Floor plans of Byzantine Revival churches often consist of a large domed central space on a Greek cross central plan. The style is closely associated with eastern European religious architecture. In Canada, Byzantine Revival-style places of worship were built from the late 19th century onwards, at first mostly in the western provinces where eastern Europeans first settled in Canada. In Ontario, a few prominent examples were built in the first decade of the 20th century (e.g., St. Anne's Anglican Church, 270 Gladstone Avenue, Toronto) and were considered avant-garde at the time. More Byzantine Revival places of worship were built in Ontario in the mid-20th century, reflecting the settlement patterns of eastern Europeans in the province.

54 record(s) found
6. Eastern Orthodox
This style of religious architecture was inspired by the Orthodox churches of eastern Europe, Russia, Greece and the near east. Typified by simple and compact massing, domes (onion domes are common), thick wall architecture, intersecting barrel vaults and plain exteriors. The interiors are often highly decorated, including icons, murals and other artwork. Eastern Orthodox architecture is often referred to as Byzantine Revival. Eastern Orthodox places of worship, however, are not typically as wide and do not necessarily have a Greek Cross central plan. Eastern Orthodox can also refer to more superficial applications of eastern architectural details to forms that are more traditionally western European. Examples of Eastern Orthodox architecture can be found throughout the province. Eastern Orthodox places of worship began to appear in Ontario in the 1920s and 1930s, though the majority of them were built in the 1950s and 1960s, as eastern European communities became more established in the province.

29 record(s) found
7. Edwardian Classicism
Edwardian Classicism is associated with the reign of King Edward VII (1901-10). The style incorporates Classical features (colonettes, voussiors, keystones, etc.), but they are understated and applied sparingly. Edwardian Classicism has simple, balanced designs, straight rooflines and relatively simple detailing. Cornice brackets and braces are block-like; most doors and windows have flat arches or plain stone lintels. Buildings in this style generally have smooth surfaces and many windows. Compared to the exuberant Victorian predecessor styles, Edwardian Classicism exhibits more compact and simplified massing, restrained use of ornament and less elaborate colour schemes. Detailing is inspired by that of the English Renaissance architects Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren. Popular for residential, commercial and institutional buildings at the turn of the 20th century, this style is relatively uncommon among Ontario’s places of worship. Religious order residences associated with places of worship, however, often employed Edwardian Classicism.

12 record(s) found
8. English Colonial Revival
Colonial Revival buildings are a self-conscious attempt to recall the 17th and 18th century architecture of the first colonies in North America. Also known as Neo-Georgian, in Canada the English Colonial Revival is a revival of the architectural styles that arrived with the United Empire Loyalists. The style is more common to residential architecture, but is also found in some places of worship. While this style is uncommon among religious buildings in Ontario, some good examples exist in southern Ontario.

11 record(s) found
9. French Colonial Revival

5 record(s) found
10. Georgian
Technically, the term “Georgian” refers to an era more than a style, spanning the reigns of George I to George IV (1715-1830). Georgian architecture, however, can be characterized by a formal arrangement of parts; it employs symmetrical composition enriched with classical details, such as columned facades. Georgian architecture in Upper Canada (now Ontario) was inspired by the vernacular architecture of early American colonies. It can be found in some of the earliest towns in southern Ontario – United Empire Loyalist settlements, in particular.

25 record(s) found
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