While out walking around U of T’s downtown campus in 2001, Toronto photographer Jim Allen noticed the rooftop greenhouse at U of T’s Earth Sciences Centre and decided he had to see it. “I didn’t have a project in mind initially, but when I got up there, I realized it’s really quite a special place,” says Allen, who is best known for his whimsical portraits of Canadian celebrities such as Jane Jacobs, Oscar Peterson and Rick Mercer. He began looking for more campus rooftops to capture with his lens, and, more than five years later, Allen is still snapping away. What enticed him, he says, was the architectural variety of the campus skyline and the mechanical complexity of the modern rooftops. The Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research is, he says, “a feast for the eyes” while its complex ventilation systems, designed to safely vent dozens of laboratories inside, is a technological marvel.
With more than 140 photographs in his collection, Allen hopes to organize a gallery showing of his rooftops project soon – but he keeps finding new views to shoot. “I think I’ve done just about every building in the place, but I’m not sure,” he says with a laugh. “I just keep coming across chimneys hidden between buildings.”