Czeslaw Brzozowicz

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Czeslaw Peter Brzozowicz (born on June 28, 1911, in Sokolow Malopolski, Poland; died of pneumonia in Toronto on November 24, 1997) was a consulting engineer for the CN Tower, Toronto-Dominion Centre, first Toronto subway line, among many other Canadian construction projects.

Brzozowicz was a structural engineer and visionary who brought sound engineering practices to a young nation not yet known for its building environment. Like many immigrants, he arrived in Canada with a few dollars, his professional training and an inexhaustible appetite for work.

Brzozowicz graduated in civil engineering from the University of Lwow in Poland only months before the Nazi invasion. He served with the Polish army in Poland and France for three years before obtaining a Canadian visa in 1942 under an agreement with the government-in-exile to send engineers for Canada's war industries. His first job was as a surveyor, laying out the highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia. In 1944, Brzozowicz joined Marathon Paper Mills in Toronto, designing their Northern Ontario plants. At the close of the war, sensing Canada was set to boom, he launched a private practice as a consulting engineer. His first client was Canadian Breweries Ltd., whose ambitious expansion plans - typical for the time - called for several reinforced concrete structures in Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor and Montreal.

Brzozowicz made a name for himself designing concrete structures reinforced with embedded steel bars. It was a relatively uncommon practice in Canada, since the short construction season was considered unfavourable for poured concrete walls. Gruff and insistent, he was at the forefront of an engineering trend that would become enormously popular.

Brzozowicz designed grain elevators and other industrial structures in Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal. Working with Pigott Construction, he contributed to such Canadian landmarks as the A.V. Roe aircraft facility and one of the world's largest automobile factories, General Motors' Autoplex in Oshawa, Ontario.

Brzozowicz left indelible imprints on the Canadian landscape. He consulted extensively on Toronto's first subway line, which ran under Yonge Street from Union Station to Eglinton Avenue. C.P. Brzozowicz Ltd. supplied engineering know-how for the construction of the Commonwealth's tallest building in the 1960s, Mies van der Rohe's Toronto-Dominion Centre.

His expertise was invaluable in the design of the world's first tower with a revolving restaurant, the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario. That turned out to be a dress rehearsal for a later, more ambitious project, when Peter was involved in the crucial shoring of the CN Tower, the world's tallest freestanding structure - and one made of reinforced concrete.

Despite these accomplishments, Brzozowicz's family was the source of his greatest pride. With Danuta, his wife of 48 years, he raised three daughters and three sons, dividing their time between their north Toronto home, a ramshackle cottage on Georgian Bay and an apple farm near Collingwood, Ontario.

A graduate of the old school, Peter believed anything was possible if you studied and worked hard. He made sure each of his children received a traditional Catholic education and the encouragement to pursue a worthwhile endeavour. If he was saddened that none took up his work, he never showed it.

The Brzozowicz family home was one of the more than 700 projects that took shape on his firm's wooden drafting tables in his lifetime. Peter resisted his fondness for reinforced concrete and dressed his commodious home in warm red brick, built in 1957. Dwarfed now by the adjacent buildings, it is, like many of his projects, a monument to simpler times, when Canadians toiled in factories, goods moved by water and families assembled at the dinner table.

When the house is eventually vacated by his family, it will undoubtedly be razed to make way for something dubiously considered better. The wrecking crew would be well advised to bring plenty of dynamite.

Source[edit]

  • Lives Lived, Globe and Mail, January 27, 1998. Author: Mark Toljagic.