For a decade, Doors Open has provided Torontonians with the opportunity to discover and explore some of the unique architectural gems that this city has to offer, at no charge. Since its inception in 2000, it has grown every year, both in attendance and in the number of buildings to visit, and this year’s edition—taking place on Saturday (May 23) and Sunday (May 24)—will feature free access to nearly 175 buildings of architectural or historic significance, many of which are usually closed to the public. This year’s theme is “Lit City: Toronto Stories, Toronto Settings,” the grand finale of a three-month festival that honours literary writers who find inspiration in Toronto and use the city as a setting in their work. Libraries and buildings of literary significance have always been a staple within the official Doors Open program, but this year nearly a quarter of the venues have a prominent literary connection.
Torontoist’s recommendations for the weekend are after the fold.
Artscape Wychwood Barns. Photo by suzannelong from Flickr.
As far as urban redevelopment projects go, the Wychwood Barns is doing an excellent job of living up to its community and environmental commitments. The Artscape Wychwood Barns is the first restoration project in Canada to receive the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standard, and it won the Canadian Urban Institute’s Brownie award for neighbourhood projects, against applicants from across Canada. Three distinct spaces will be showcased as a part of Doors Open, highlighting alternative models for community interaction.
The $1-billion, fifteen-year redevelopment plan for Regent Park celebrated a milestone earlier this month when residents started to move into the first revitalized public housing units of an eight-storey building in the Dundas Street East and Sackville Avenue area. Only the lobby and amenity spaces will be open to the public this weekend, but displays will feature information and images of the entire project and being on-site will provide a great opportunity to check up on construction progress.
To complement the Doors Open success of the TTC’s Harvey Shops, the TTC Greenwood Maintenance Shop has been added to this year’s roster. Nearly 1.5 million passengers ride the TTC on a typical workday, but few are given the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes. On tour at the 190,000-square-foot repair facility, participants can witness major vehicle overhaul work and study machinery and equipment used in the repair of subway cars.
Sure to be this year’s most popular venue, though, is the Don Jail, opening again for the first time since 2001. This famous Victorian-era treasure remains in almost original condition and is full of unexplored details and history. The only major change applied to the building during its thirty-year vacancy was the removal of the cell locks. Doors Open will be the last opportunity to experience the space in all its glory, as the jail will soon be transformed to house the administrative offices of the new Bridgepoint Medical Centre, opening in 2011. Interestingly, for one summer only before the transformation, the Don Jail is available for bookings as an event venue—and already has its first wedding booked. Be prepared for massive lineups at this venue this weekend: only 1,400 people per day will be able to go through the tour, limited to just thirty minutes per group and only twenty-five are allowed on the second floor at any time.
If uncovering secret histories is your passion, the Scarborough Masonic Temple will not only be open, but will permit interior photography. In addition, the richly decorated Toronto West Masonic Temple provides a parallel window into the history of the world’s oldest fraternity.
Another popular returning favourite is the breathtaking temple at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, last year’s most popular site. This Hindu temple in Etobicoke has seemingly endless and incredibly detailed carvings both inside and out, a complete contrast from most modern buildings.
Coach House Press and McArthur & Company, two of Canada’s most respected independent publishers, will invite participants to learn more about the publishing industry and the history of Canadian literature. At McArthur & Co., Greg Gatenby, author of Toronto: A Literary Guide, will share tales of Toronto’s rich literary scene and pointers on other areas of literary interest. (A comprehensive list of other Lit City events specific to Doors Open is available here.)
Finally, don’t forget sunscreen, a comfortable pair of shoes, and lots of patience! (And your mobile device, if that’s your thing: Scrolling.TO has launched DoorsOpenScroller, a mobile web app for most smart phones that lists venue hours, parking and TTC information, and map-integrated addresses.) Have fun and don’t forget to submit your best photos to Torontoist’s Flickr pool.