Raymond Moriyama, a distinguished Canadian architect, passed away on September 1, 2023, leaving behind a legacy of architectural excellence and a commitment to the values of democracy and inclusivity.
Architectural Marvels Around the World
In 1970, Moriyama co-founded the renowned architectural firm Moriyama & Teshima Architects in Toronto, alongside Ted Teshima. Together, they embarked on a journey to design and create significant buildings that would leave an indelible mark on the global architectural landscape. Some of their most notable projects include the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
Moriyama’s architectural philosophy was rooted in a deep belief in humane architecture, emphasizing the pursuit of ideals like democracy and unity among all people. His designs were a testament to his dedication to creating spaces that not only served practical functions but also promoted harmony and inclusivity.
From Childhood Dreams to Architectural Vision
Raymond Moriyama’s path to becoming an architect was unconventional and inspiring. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, he endured a challenging childhood, marked by a traumatic accident that left him with burns and scars. During the eight months he spent bedridden after the accident, he drew inspiration from an architect he observed coming and going from a nearby construction site, carrying blueprints and a pipe. It was in that moment that he made the life-altering decision to become an architect.
Moriyama’s journey was also shaped by the activism of his father, an outspoken pacifist who was arrested and imprisoned for his beliefs. This experience left a lasting impact on young Raymond, as he witnessed the resilience and determination of his family during challenging times.
Internment Camps and Building Dreams
During the Second World War, when Moriyama was just twelve years old, he and his family were subjected to internment. Japanese Canadians on the West Coast, including Moriyama’s family, were unjustly classified as security threats, leading to their confinement in the Slocan Valley of British Columbia. These years of hardship profoundly influenced Moriyama’s later career.
His time in internment camps was marked by adversity, including the loss of a potential younger brother due to a miscarriage experienced by his mother. It was during this challenging period that Moriyama sought solace in building a treehouse as a means of escape and solitude. This treehouse became a symbol of his resilience and determination, as he used limited resources to construct it. He described it as his “university” and a place for contemplation and learning.
A Journey of Determination
After the war, Moriyama’s family reunited and resettled in Hamilton, Ontario. There, he attended Westdale Secondary School and worked in a pottery factory. His ambidexterity allowed him to complete his piecework efficiently, affording him extra time to study for school.
In the years that followed, Moriyama attended the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1954. He continued his educational journey, obtaining a Master of Architecture degree in civic and town planning from the School of Architecture at McGill University in 1957.
A Family Legacy
Raymond Moriyama’s influence extended beyond his lifetime. His sons, Ajon and Jason Moriyama, followed in his footsteps and became architects themselves. After his retirement in 2003, they assumed leadership roles at Moriyama + Teshima Architects. In 2013, Ajon Moriyama founded Ajon Moriyama Architect, where he pursued independent architectural work in Toronto.
A Visionary Architect’s Legacy
Raymond Moriyama’s architectural contributions, born from a childhood dream and shaped by resilience, have left an enduring mark on the world. His commitment to creating spaces that promote unity and democracy serves as an inspiration to architects and dreamers everywhere. As we remember him, we honor not only his architectural achievements but also the enduring human spirit that fueled his journey from adversity to architectural greatness.