Topologically, compact toric varieties can be constructed as identification spaces: they are quotients of the product of a compact torus and the order complex of the fan. We give a detailed proof of this fact, extend it to the non-compact case and draw several, mostly cohomological conclusions. In particular, we show that the equivariant integral cohomology of a toric variety can be described in terms of piecewise polynomials on the fan if the ordinary integral cohomology is concentrated in even degrees. This generalizes a result of Bahri-Franz-Ray to the non-compact case. We also investigate torsion phenomena in integral cohomology.