Abel Joseph (Jack) Diamond, principal at the Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt and one of the most significant Canadian architects of his generation, died on October 30, 2022. He was one week shy of his 90th birthday.
Born in South Africa—where he established his first architectural practice—Diamond studied architecture at the University of Cape Town, and politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University. In 1965, after teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and working with Louis Kahn, Diamond inaugurated the Master of Architecture program at the University of Toronto. From that time Toronto became his home.
According to firm co-principal Don Schmitt, Diamond was a teacher, collaborator and mentor who shaped an exhilarating studio culture. A gold medalist of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, a Member of the Order of Ontario, and an Officer of the Order of Canada, Diamond’s contributions are evidenced through numerous projects including the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, the Mariinsky II Theatre for opera and ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Life Sciences Centre and Medical School at the University of British Columbia.
Beyond architecture, Diamond was one of five commissioners appointed by the Premier of Ontario to review land use, transportation, taxation, and governance in the Greater Toronto Area. He was also a commissioner in the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He had a great love of music and was a member of the Bach Tercentenary Festival, the International Choral Festival, and a Life Trustee of the Canadian Opera Company.
One of Jack Diamond’s last works was the 2016 design for the (unbuilt) United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent to Whitehall and the British Parliament in London. The design, says Schmitt, engages the landscape and shapes a visitor’s journey from darkness towards light. Its composition, its materiality and spatial power had a remarkable eloquence.