What to check out at Doors Open
Alex Bozikovic picks some of the best spaces to see as the event shines a light on the city's built spaces
The brand new
TTC York University station
The Toronto Transit Commission will open its Toronto-York Spadina Subway extension in December; two of the stations will be ready this weekend for a preview, Downsview Park and York University. I've seen the York station and it is deeply impressive: A boomerang-shaped building that will create a new hub at the centre of York's campus. Designed by engineering firm Arup and distinguished British architects Foster + Partners, the architecture brings light down into the ground through an "amphitheatre" planted with native shrubs and grasses dug into the ground. Past that, the roofs rest on sculptural curves of concrete and an installation by British artist Jason Bruges will translate the station's air currents into patterns of coloured light.
The new and remade
The Daniels Building at 1 Spadina Cres.
The new home of the University of Toronto's architecture, landscape and design school combines a pointy-turreted 1875 seminary with a spiky contemporary addition. It's a remarkable fusion of old and new – as I wrote this month, it's already one of the best buildings in Toronto.
MoCA at the Auto Building
Later this year, Toronto's Museum of Contemporary Art will move into this 1919 industrial loft building on Sterling Road. The understated renovation, by architectsAlliance, is still in the works, but visitors will get a good sense of why the museum was attracted to this tall, burly and refined structure. (Advance registration is required, but the tours are now fully booked.)
Completed in 1932 by city of Toronto City J.J. Woolnough, this very fine art-deco complex at 505 Richmond St. W., has been basically invisible for decades. A thoughtful new condo project will soon add housing but preserve its "Great Hall" as a public food hall. You can tour that hall and imagine how it will open onto the adjacent park, bringing back the site's history as one of Toronto's first markets.
If you haven't already seen them
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
The modernist concert hall was a treasure when it opened more than a half-century ago (as the O'Keefe Centre) and it looks perhaps even better today; a new plaza by the landscape architect Claude Cormier jazzes up its west side. On Saturday at 1:30 p.m. I will be giving a talk on the history of the building, its architect, the modernist Peter Dickinson, and its place in Toronto's architectural history. Also on display, as part of the Contact photography festival, are Leala Hewak's The Weight of Air: A Picture Parade of Peter Dickinson's Buildings – vignettes of this architecture as it's been lived in – and Don Hewak's Camelot, a digital installation that repurposes photos of the O'Keefe Centre in the early 1960s.
One of Toronto's grandest and most venerable buildings, dating originally to 1832, Osgoode Hall is generally public but a bit forbidding; that fence around the front lawn tends to put people off. If you haven't been inside the rambling complex, you must and don't miss Cumberland & Storm's breathtaking 1860 Great Library: Its triple-cube proportions and ornate, eclectic ornament will lift your spirit while supplying lots of eye candy.
Toronto Necropolis Cemetery Chapel
Architect Henry Langley's 1872 confection is both sober and playful, a gift to the street and to the adjacent cemetery. One of the very best buildings of Victorian Toronto, the chapel has details that are worth examining closely in a guided tour.
The tower that remade Toronto's skyline and self-image in the 1960s, this tall, dark and handsome structure remains one of Toronto's great pieces of 20 th-century architecture, and indeed one of the most significant works by its main architect, the German pioneer Mies van der Rohe. The banking hall is worth a visit any time; Doors Open allows you the privilege of seeing the bank's top levels, including the private dining room on the 54th floor.
While the adjacent Aga Khan Museum has become part of the city's cultural landscape, the Ismaili Centre, its design led by the Indian modernist Charles Correa, is less easy to visit. Yet its central prayer hall is one of the great sacred rooms – and one of the great rooms, period – in Toronto.
Inside the architect's studio
How is today's city being designed? The Toronto Society of Architects offers an Open Studio Program that lets you meet some of those who are envisioning the future city. Among them are Hariri Pontarini, Kyra Clarkson Architect, Atelier RZLBD at Bayview Village and DTAH, whose office in the Rosedale Valley ravine is worth a visit just to gawk.
The 18th-annual Doors Open Toronto takes place May 27 and 28. For details see toronto.ca.
Alex Bozikovic is The Globe and Mail's architecture critic and co-author of Toronto Architecture: A City Guide, out June 27.