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Joseph Shepard Building

4900 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, M2N, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2000/12/01

General view of the Joseph Shepard Building, showing the fourteen-storey, pyramidal stepped massing and asymmetrical composition, 2000.; Public Works and Government Services Canada / Travaux publics et Services gouvernementaux Canada, W. Keenan, 2000.
General view
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1975/01/01 to 1977/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/10/07

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Joseph Shepard Building is located in the urban core of the North York region of Toronto. The fourteen-storey, modern office complex is pyramidal in form with stepped massing and an asymmetrical plan. The building’s walls are clad in rust-red and brown clay brick and have continuous bands of windows and brick spandrels that create a strong horizontal emphasis. Prominent features of its design are its five-storey atrium, many open-air terraces, public courtyard and accessible mall. A strong architectural vocabulary unifies the interior and exterior. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Joseph Shepard Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.

Historical Value
The Joseph Shepard Building is closely associated with an increase in federal government expenditures on public services in the 1970s and the decentralization of federal departments. This resulted in the opening of regional offices, as well as the consolidation of federal departments in highly visible office complexes. Locally, the building represents a significant phase in the development of an urban core for North York. The building is an exceptional example of a federal-municipal initiative in creating a civic sub-centre core.

Architectural Value
The Joseph Shepard Building is valued for its very good aesthetic and functional design qualities. The design followed a complex functional program that focused on energy efficiency, visitor approachability, quality of workspace and a flexible floor plan. To meet these demands, bronze anodized aluminum panels above the windows were used to reduce solar heat gain, masonry materials that are familiar to the neighbourhood were chosen, and the natural lighting allowed into the interior spaces was maximized. The very good craftsmanship of the building’s well executed exterior and interior are demonstrated in the masonry work, the integrated ceiling grid, the natural finished woodwork, and the art works that were commissioned at the time of construction and integrated with the building’s architecture. This design, one of the largest and best works to date by architect Macy DuBois, won an award of excellence in 1979 for its energy-efficiency.

Environmental Value
The Joseph Shepard Building is compatible with the present commercial character of its urban core setting within North York and is a known building in the area.

Sources: Andrew Waldron, Joseph E. Shepard Government of Canada Building, North York, Toronto, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 87-006; Joseph Shepard Building, Toronto, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 00-077.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Joseph Shepard Building should be respected.

Its very good aesthetic and functional design and very good materials and craftsmanship, for example:
- the fourteen-storey, pyramidal stepped massing and asymmetrical composition that includes a front courtyard and forty-six open air terraces;
- the rust-red and brown clay brick exterior walls and other materials such as the exposed concrete, earth toned clay tiles, terrazzo, bronze and natural wood elements;
- the continuous bands of windows with bronze anodised frames with ‘V’ shaped indents every three metres and the continuous brick spandrels;
- the bronze aluminium panels above the windows, which reduce solar heat gain in the building;
- the interior layout which emphasizes the spread of natural light, approachability and adaptability and includes open concept office space, a five-storey main atrium and cafeteria that allow for daylight in public spaces, interior window walls and the two three- storey, south atria which allow natural light to enter inner office spaces;
- the ceiling system, which uses a five-foot grid pattern and carries all services;
- the ten-foot (three metre) square lightwells that surround each concrete column and are illuminated by valence lighting;
- the naturally expressed interior materials and finishes and planter boxes, both freestanding and structurally integrated;
- the art works that are integrated into the architecture, including the wooden silhouette sculpture of local citizens and workers involved in the building’s construction, concrete bas-relief figures incorporated into the concrete walls of the cores, a large-scale work of art in the north atrium and photographic works throughout the building.

The manner in which the Joseph Shepard Building is compatible with the character of its urban core setting and is a familiar building in North York, as evidenced by:
- its scale, stepped massing and materials, which appear as a link between the older residential character of the core and its present high-rise tower setting;
- its familiarity throughout the city of North York due to its location in a high traffic area in the urban core, its publicly accessible mall, and the public services provided for by the federal departments within the building.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type



Office or office building

Architect / Designer

Macy Dubois



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Québec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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