In the last weekend of May, buildings across the city will open their doors to invite the public to explore the heritage and architecture behind some of Toronto’s most iconic fixtures. The largest Doors Open festival in Canada, Toronto’s event is a rare chance to explore the city with free access to over 130 culturally and historically important buildings.
With more than 130 participating Doors Open buildings to visit in Toronto, you’ll be spoilt for choice this weekend. The list includes familiar buildings such as Toronto City Hall and the Ontario Heritage Centre – both well worth a look for first timers to the city and the province. Among other annual fixtures returning to Doors Open Toronto in 2016, the opulent Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres and stylised Aga Khan Museum will be offering admission for free, the latter of which has the most amazing Islamic-led design and architectural collections.
More than 30 new buildings have been added to the line-up this year, with the likes of Riverdale Farm, the chic Bata Shoe Museum and the Pure Spirits Still House offering a glimpse into Toronto’s infamous distillery district. Also new to Doors Open Toronto in 2016, the Heliconian Club has a charming exterior with an altogether more important purpose in the community. The first of its kind in Canada, the club has been a social meeting place for women involved in the arts and letters since it was founded in 1909. It was awarded National Historic Site status in 2011.
Past meets present
This year’s theme of “Re-used, Re-visited and Revised” will be explained in the popular open speaker series that continues for Doors Open Toronto 2016, discussing topics around architecture, contemporary design and how the city’s infrastructure is being revitalised. One panel discussion, Why New Ideas Need Old Buildings, will explore the urban Toronto writer Jane Jacobs’ concept that “new ideas must use old buildings” in her centenary year. Visitors can see her influence for themselves in the old school buildings, unused railway tunnels and abandoned brick factories that have been transformed to take on a new lease of life in Toronto.
For those keen to take in as much of the city as possible, a number of walking tours over the weekend will visit multiple buildings, diving into their past and providing a new perspective on Toronto’s urban landscape.
The Riverside: Looking Back While Moving Forward is an opportunity to learn more about the neighbourhoods running alongside the city’s river. Covering the Riverside Bridge, Sunlight Park and the once vaudeville theatre (now base for the Canadian Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffalo) the tour runs three times a day on Saturday and Sunday starting from City Hall.