Convocation Hall (University of Toronto)

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Convocation Hall
Uoft conhall.jpg
Convocation Hall
Address University of Toronto
31 King’s College Circle
Toronto ON M5S 1A1
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates 43°39′38.50″N 79°23′43.50″W / 43.6606944°N 79.3954167°W / 43.6606944; -79.3954167Coordinates: 43°39′38.50″N 79°23′43.50″W / 43.6606944°N 79.3954167°W / 43.6606944; -79.3954167
Owner University of Toronto
Seating type Reserved seating
Capacity 1,730
Built 1904 (1904)-1907 (1907)
Opened 1907
Renovated 2006 (2006)
Expanded 1947 (1947)
Construction cost $200,000

Convocation Hall is a domed rotunda on the grounds of the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Designed by Pearson and Darling and completed in 1907, it was inspired by the grand theatre of the Sorbonne and the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford.[1] While the building's namesake purpose is to host the annual convocation ceremonies, it also serves as the venue for academic and social functions that involve large audiences throughout the year.[2]


Convocation Hall under construction, 1906

In the latter half of the 19th century, the university began to see the need for a considerably larger ceremonial auditorium beyond the confines of University College, made more apparent by a fire that damaged much of the college in 1890.[3] The construction of Convocation Hall was mainly financed by $50,000 raised by the University of Toronto Alumni Association and matching funds provided by Ontario government. The cornerstone was laid in 1904 and the construction completed three years later at almost twice the originally estimated cost.

Major additions and expansions to the building occurred in 1912 when a large pipe organ was installed in the auditorium, and in 1947 with an alteration and addition to the examination hall. The building would not become equipped with air conditioning until 1997.[4] In 2006, a major restoration and refurbishment was undertaken by E.R.A Architects with funding from the alumni association. Work entailed refurbishing seats, restoration of grandeur of the circular foyer including decorative finishes, historical millwork, lighting installations, installing accessible washrooms and a fresh coat of paint,[5] and restoration of the historic pipe organ—the fifth largest in Toronto. The next year, Convocation Hall celebrated its centennial.

Over the years, Convocation Hall has served as the venue for major events and performances. Songs on Premiata Forneria Marconi's album Live in USA were recorded at the hall in 1974. Bob Marley & The Wailers performed two shows of the Rastaman Vibration Tour there in 1976. Other popular musical performances during the 1960s and 1970s included appearances by Frank Zappa, Van Morrison, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Captain Beefheart. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe gave an address to a capacity crowd there in the 1980s. The building hosted a recording of musician Hayden's live album, titled simply Live at Convocation Hall, in 2002. In 2007, former Vice President of the United States Al Gore delivered a public lecture on climate change at Convocation Hall and presented his documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth. In 2009, Michael Ignatieff was at the hall to launch his book, True Patriot Love. The building also appeared in the film Mean Girls and in the pilot episode of the television series Fringe.


Convocation Hall Facing north
The oculus at the top of the hall's dome
Perspective view of columns
Inside the auditorium during convocation

Convocation Hall is a structure with great historical and architectural significance. It was built during a time of great technological, industrial and cultural change.[6] It was also a time of great architectural change. Architect Frank Darling was influenced by the neoclassical revival in architecture from the mid-18th century and the Greek revival of the 19th century. The design of Convocation Hall was to be that of a classical revival building, with historic neoclassical features and elements incorporated into the modern structure of the hall. In the case of Convocation Hall these elements are from both the Greek and Roman periods and include columns, the building's entablature, and its domed roof. There is an emphasis on principles of proportion, symmetry, geometry and uniformity of parts. The Hall's design reflects a formal character which reflects strength and inspires pride. It incorporates a repeating pattern of circular forms to convey messages of centrality and inclusiveness. The purpose of these circular forms was to make Convocation Hall both the metaphorical and physical centre of the expanding University.[7]

The two most dominant and accentuated features of Convocation Hall are its exterior columns and the large domed roof. The columns are a cross between Doric and Ionic columns, as they consist of features typically seen on each type. There is a Doric style fluted shaft to the column, which is very chubby in form with a very large base. At the top of the column lies a typically Ionic capital. The large domed roof is made of copper, which has oxidized into the classic green frequently seen in historic Canadian buildings. At the centre of this domed roof is a large glass oculus, which allows in great amounts of natural lighting into the centre of the large hall beneath. Supporting this domed roof are strong structural beams which interiorly form into arches between the balcony seating on the third floor of the Hall. Materials used in the construction include glazed yellow and grey stock brick, stone block, steel, concrete, copper, glass, wood, terrazzo, and plaster.

With a seating capacity of 1,731, Convocation Hall comprises four stories, including two main seating floors. Attached in the rear of Convocation Hall are an examination hall that formerly served as exhibition space, and Simcoe Hall, which houses the university’s executive offices.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Raymer, Elizabeth (2006). "Alumni Launch Campaign to Restore Convocation Hall". University of Toronto Magazine (Spring 2006). Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  2. ^ Duffy, Dennis (2002). "As Canadian as a Snowflake". University of Toronto Magazine (Spring 2002). Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  3. ^ University of Toronto - News@UofT - Your Thoughts - Celebrating Convocation Hall's centennial (Jun 14/07) Archived December 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ U. of T. The Bulletin, June 9, 1997, Articles Archived December 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Alumni Launch Campaign to Restore Convocation Hall". UofT Magazine (Spring 2006). 
  6. ^ Eksteins, Modris (12 June 2007). "Celebrating Convocation Hall's centennial". University of Toronto Bulletin: 16–20. 
  7. ^ "A Century at Convocation Hall | By Graham F. Scott | University of Toronto Traditions, Convocation Ceremony | University of Toronto Magazine". Retrieved 2014-03-26. 

External links[edit]