Raymond Moriyama is perhaps best known for his architectural design of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. But it is not necessarily his favourite, because “I never let a project out of the office without my being anything but happy with it. They are all important to me,” he said in an interview.
In his 50-year career, his firm, Moriyama and Teshima Architects, designed some of the most notable buildings in Toronto — and around the world. They include the Toronto Reference Library, the Bata Shoe Museum, the Ontario Science Centre, the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo and the National Museum of Saudi Arabia. His firm also designed the Multi-Faith Centre and the School of Continuing Studies at U of T, and his firm, now in the hands of his sons, is also designing the new Goldring Centre at Victoria University.
Asked what his advice would be for prospective students at the University of Toronto, he said “my advice is simple. Love what you do and work hard, and aspire high.”
The best advice he ever got was from his father after Moriyama graduated from high school. He wrote a poem for his son in beautiful calligraphy that said “Into God’s temple of eternity, drive a nail of gold.”
Moriyama says the poem “propelled me and sustained me through university and my career as an architect.” He soon realized that architecture needed to be more than nicely proportioned surface treatment. “It if is to be truly ‘golden’ architecture has to be humane and its intent the pursuit of true ideals, of true democracy, of equality and of inclusion of all people.”
While his father’s words were inspiring, his dream of becoming an architect began long before high school. “I knew I wanted to be an architect when I was four years old,” he says. That was when he and his family were interned as “enemy aliens” in a British Columbia camp during the Second World War because of their Japanese ancestry.
At the age of eight, he built his first architectural project — a tree house that he still fondly remembers because the RCMP didn’t find it. He says the tree house “was my university, my place of solace, a place to think and learn.”
Now, as a world traveller, he promotes the U of T as a place to learn, with a great school of architecture. His grandson Stephen is studying at Victoria University and granddaughter Jessica, now doing medical research in Amsterdam, also attended Vic.
Moriyama has received many awards, including the Order of Canada and the Order of the Rising Sun in Japan, and was the first architect in Canada to become Chancellor of Brock University.
A recognition he received in 2013 pleases him the most — The Ontario Science Centre Innovation Award — “it kind of closes the loop,” he said.