Doors Open is an annual event in the city attracting architects, designers and anyone wanting an opportunity to experience the history and culture of Toronto. This Saturday and Sunday is an opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at over 150 of Toronto’s most striking, sacred and most fascinating buildings. But I realize that trying to tour all the sites within 48 hours is, well, a bit crazy, so here’s my TOP5 to see.
George Brown College Waterfront Campus – 51 Dockside Dr. In just a few years, George Brown has grown to an enviable academic institution. The new waterfront campus design by Toronto’s Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, with its sweeping lake views and rooftop terraces, has a lot to do with the newfound respect. After touring through the architecturally striking learning facility, check out other nearby waterfront jewels, including Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Commons, and the Corus Quay building.
Regent Park Aquatic Centre – 640 Dundas St. E. If you haven’t noticed Regent Park is getting a serious makeover. The latest building in the neighbourhood’s ongoing overhaul features the kind of daring, contemporary architecture that would make even the most discerning neighbourhood snob consider moving to this once-derelict area. Designed by Toronto’s MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, the building features a classic theme of black and white, with accents of blue and a beautiful knot-free cedar ceiling above the entrance and pool area. The exterior of the building is almost entirely glass. Remember to bring your trunks for either lane or leisure swims.
R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant – 2701 Queen St. E. Dubbed “The Palace of Purification”, this 1941 art deco masterpiece is the ultimate blend of form and function. The myriad arches and sumptuous marble floors give it the look of a Tuscan palazzo but, 70 years on, it still supplies the city with millions of litres of clean drinking water every day. The plant was commissioned by (and posthumously named after) Roland Caldwell Harris, Toronto’s Commissioner of Public Works from 1912 until his death in 1945. Harris was Toronto’s first and longest serving Public Works Commissioner. Film buffs might recognize it from movies like Strange Brew, Half Baked and Undercover Brother.
Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology – 205 Humber College Blvd. Rexdale isn’t known for its world-class architecture but this exceptional building designed by Taylor/Hazell Architects has racked up an armload of design awards. The location is a favourite among hikers, cyclists, photographers, and nature-lovers. The oasis of flowers and trees makes the area feel more like a country meadow than the heart of suburbia. Closed Sunday.
Dineen Building – 140 Yonge St. Originally built in 1897 as the showroom of the Dineen Hat and Fur company this building was designed as a showpiece in the shopping district. By the end of the 20th century, the Renaissance revival building was covered in soot and used as a flophouse. Thanks to a careful restoration undertaken in 2012 it is now valued as a rare surviving example of late 19th Renaissance Revival architectural style.
Creating Toronto – The Story of the City in Ten Stops For those who enjoy walking tours and perhaps don’t know much about the city’s history, Heritage Toronto is leading free 90-minute tours of the need-to-know highlights, featuring important contributions to science, transportation and culture. In ten brief stops at some of the city’s signature sites such as St. Lawrence Market, Union Station and Elgin/Winter Garden Theatre, this tour explores key moments of innovation and creativity that have defined Toronto. The walks are led by PhD-level historians and leave from 95 Front St. E at 10:30 and 2:30.