Portrait of architect Irving Grossman in the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood in 1979

12.04.23 - Expanding the affordable-housing legacy of architect Irving Grossman

Architect and alumnus Irving Grossman, well-known for his socially conscious design work, is the namesake of a new Fund aimed at inspiring innovation in an area challenging Toronto and other major cities around the world right now: housing affordability. 

The Irving Grossman Fund in Affordable Housing, named for the award-winning Toronto modernist who acquired his Bachelor of Architecture degree from U of T in 1950, will recognize and support Daniels Faculty students, professors and community partners tackling the urgent issue of how to make housing more accessible to all. 

Grossman, who also taught at U of T’s School of Architecture for many years, designed a wide range of buildings throughout his 45-year career, from single-family homes to synagogues to the Administration Building at Expo 67, but he was especially noted for his social and mixed-income projects, including such milestone Toronto housing developments as Flemingdon Park, Edgeley Village and the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood. 

“My working-class background, together with my interest in art, led to architecture being a natural creative outlet for me, especially social housing,” he once said. 

Irving and Helena Grossman’s son, Jonas Grossman, established the Irving Grossman Fund in Affordable Housing to honour his father’s legacy and to inspire a new generation of architects and urbanists to make a contribution in the field, a prominent area of teaching and research at the Faculty. 

Over the past several years, more and more students across disciplines have been exploring affordability issues, which are especially resonant in Toronto, a city increasingly marked by income and housing disparities. New faculty with expertise in the subject are being appointed, while exhibitions such as the recent Housing Multitudes show highlight ongoing Faculty research on the topic. 

“The Irving Grossman Fund in Affordable Housing will further enable our Faculty to advance and disseminate novel knowledge on housing with an emphasis on social equity, urban affordability and design innovation,” says Dean Juan Du. “It’s a fitting tribute to Irving Grossman, who made significant contributions in these areas, especially through his projects here in Toronto. We appreciate the Grossman family’s continued contributions to the city and the Faculty.” 

The new Fund, which takes effect in 2023-2024, is the second initiative to bear Irving Grossman’s name at the Faculty.  

In 2002, Helena Grossman led family and friends in the establishment of the Irving Grossman Prize, which is awarded annually to two Master of Architecture students demonstrating excellence and innovation in their final design theses on the subjects of multiple-unit housing or the adaptive reuse of buildings for housing purposes. 

To date, more than three dozen students with demonstrated professional promise have been awarded the Irving Grossman Prize. 

For their sustained contributions to the University of Toronto, both Irving and Helena Grossman received Arbor Awards, the highest honour bestowed on volunteers by U of T.   

In 2018, Helena Grossman (here flanked by U of T President Meric Gertler and U of T Chancellor Rose M. Patten) received an Arbor Award for her significant volunteer contributions to the Daniels Faculty. 

As a student, Irving Grossman was already garnering accolades, winning the Ontario Association of Architects Scholarship, the Architectural Guild Medal and the prestigious Pilkington Glass Fellowship. Among his professional awards were the Massey Medal for Architecture and a Canadian Centennial Medal. He was also a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. 

In 1995, the year of Grossman’s death, he and fellow architect Jerome Markson, a good friend, were honoured by the Toronto Society of Architects with a fellowship award in recognition of their “exceptional contribution to the profession of architecture and the cultural life of Toronto.” 

More than a decade later, Irving Grossman was awarded his very last prize: a posthumous Landmark Award from the OAA for his role in the design of the still-vibrant St. Lawrence Neighbourhood, regarded by many as a paragon of mixed-income development and, as The Globe and Mail described it in 2013, “a template for urban housing.” 

Banner image: Architect Irving Grossman surveys the burgeoning St. Lawrence Neighbourhood in 1979. Graham Bezant photo courtesy Toronto Star Photograph Archives