In an age of specialization, urban planners are by definition highly multidisciplinary, cultivating or enlisting others with skills in architecture, urbanization, landscaping and project management. But few in the planning field have been as widely and deeply skilled as Roger du Toit. His wide-ranging expertise helped make him one of Canada's most important and influential urban designers, who was bestowed a rare triple official recognition as a professional architect, landscape architect and planner.
From the creation of vast campuses to small parks, his firm, du Toit Allsopp Hillier (now known as DTAH), improved the look, feel and function of communities across the country. When Mr. du Toit died on May 31 in Toronto at 75, from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident, the design profession lost one of its most prominent players.
He was instrumental in reshaping both the iconic and the everyday aspects of Canadian cities, beginning with his home base of Toronto. His early career milestones including serving as project architect for the CN Tower and project captain for the proposed redevelopment of the downtown railway lands that surrounded it, both while working with architect John Andrews from 1965 to 1972.
Mr. du Toit was a member of the high-calibre team working with architect George Baird to produce the first design guidelines for downtown Toronto, published in 1974. The two men took some of the Toronto study's concepts regarding view corridors and streetscaping to Vancouver in 1982, when they devised the urban-design templates for downtown Vancouver's north and south sections.
"The defining feature of Roger's career is his understanding of the fabric and landscape of a city, as opposed to the individual buildings that make it up," Mr. Baird said.
In collaboration with other designers and consultants, Mr. du Toit oversaw long-term planning frameworks for universities in Vancouver, Nanaimo, B.C., Regina, Minnesota and Kuwait – large-scale projects that required consideration of small-scale detailing.
He paid close attention to how people used, and travelled through, communities, and devised shelter overhangs, lighting, greenery, streetscaping and strategic pedestrian connections, said Andrew Brown, a consultant who worked with Mr. du Toit on campus planning at both the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Island University.
"His fundamental commitment was to the spaces between buildings," Mr. Brown said.
Roger Terence du Toit was born in Cape Town on Dec. 20, 1939. He earned an bachelor of architecture from the University of Cape Town in 1963, but left shortly after graduation. Toronto architect and fellow South African emigrant Shirley Blumberg noted that the brain drain prompted by the country's apartheid laws of that era had a strong effect on many of her compatriots.
"When you grow up in South Africa and leave at a time like that, you tend to carry with you a sense of social responsibility, and I think that characterized his work," Ms. Blumberg said.
Mr. du Toit's career began at a time when the importance of urban planning was gaining recognition and fostering intense debate. Jane Jacobs's 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, argued that existing urban-renewal strategies were stifling street life and ignoring the needs of ordinary people. The writings of Ms. Jacobs, who moved to Toronto from New York in the late 1960s, were a strong influence on Mr. du Toit throughout his career.
After a short time working for an architect in London and a year spent teaching at the College of Technology in Oxford, England, Mr. du Toit moved to Toronto in 1965. He received his master's degree in architecture from the University of Toronto in 1966 and joined Mr. Andrews's practice that year.
In May of 1967, he met Sheila Kingston at a dinner party. He made an indelible impression that evening, she recalled, by give her a twig teeming with spring buds: "How could I not fall in love with him?" The couple married within a year and lived for decades on Toronto Island.
In 1972, they established the firm du Toit Associates Ltd., with his wife serving as business manager for the burgeoning practice. Her steadfast professional and personal support would prove to be a crucial factor in Mr. du Toit's success throughout his career.
The firm evolved into Roger du Toit Architects in the late 1970s, as John Hillier and then Robert Allsopp joined the partnership. In 1985, the partnership became known as du Toit Allsopp Hillier and, since 2012, by its acronym DTAH to reflect its expanding team, which now boasts 10 partners and 35 employees in total.
From repurposing Toronto's 19th-century Gooderham and Worts distillery site to managing the complex environmental assessment of the city's Queens Quay revitalization, Mr. du Toit had a hand in some of the most distinctive projects in recent urban history.
In Vancouver, his ambitious 1990 framework for UBC's major building expansion favoured preservation of the site's old-growth forest. Working with a team that included world-renowned landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, he sought to integrate plantings and pedestrian walkways.
"He told me how important [it] is that we keep the old-growth forest as part of the plan," said Ms. Oberlander, who is based in Vancouver. "He said that the trees should come through the campus 'like fingers,' as he put it. He recognized how the trees connect you to the past, as well as being magnificent specimens of ecology."
A vivid manifestation of his respect for nature is DTAH's current greening of the Toronto waterfront, done in joint venture with the Dutch firm West 8, which includes a tree-lined promenade, an extension to a walking trail and a series of "wave decks" hovering over Lake Ontario. And since 1979, Mr. du Toit had been overseeing the long-range plan of the Wascana Centre in Regina, which offers a network of parks, community buildings and bird sanctuary centred around Lake Wascana.
Mr. du Toit also left his mark on the National Capital Region, beginning with a 1983 siting study for the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History). The firm then devised the ceremonial route connecting Ottawa and Gatineau, now known as Confederation Boulevard. The final stage, designed and implemented by DTAH, was completed and dedicated in 2000 as a millennium project.
Since 1985, Mr. du Toit had been leading the firm in its long-term plan of Ottawa's parliamentary and judicial precincts, including the siting of the future federal court building, which the government is now considering scuttling in favour of a memorial to victims of communism. In a previously arranged presentation at Ottawa City Hall earlier this month, DTAH partner Mr. Allsopp fervently defended the rationale and integrity of their original vision for the government precinct, and the value of maintaining a carefully considered plan for the most symbolically important place in the country. Mr. Allsopp's presentation, titled "Heart of the Nation," was dedicated to Mr. du Toit.
Mr. du Toit leaves his wife, Sheila, and sons Rob and André.