At the old-new Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto's heritage community gathered last night to celebrate its best, and mourn its losses.
The Royal Conservatory of Music is really the perfect place for the Heritage Toronto awards ceremony. It’s an old building with a new addition, restored and integrated into the street and with modern educational needs, proof of the concept that reviving can be better than replacing. Last night heritage architects, designers, writers, activists, researchers, and supporters gathered there to mark the successes of the past year—and also to brace themselves, a bit, for the fights that may be to come. (Though HT avoided any immediate cuts at the recent city council budget debate, everyone in the room was well aware that further fiscal challenges are ahead.)
The highlight of the evening was a keynote address given by TIFF’s Cameron Bailey, who discussed the history of festivals in Toronto and the way in which they’ve both shaped and been shaped by the city’s evolution. Drawing a line from Orange parades at the turn of the 20th century, through Labour Day parades in the decades that followed, and down to Pride and Caribana today, Bailey teased out the ways these festivals are expressions of community, and thus the ways we as a city are changing.
The evening also commemorated Paul Oberman, who died in a plane crash in March. A real estate developer with a particular interest in heritage projects, Oberman spearheaded the renovation of the train station on Yonge street that’s now the Summerhill LCBO (“the Taj Mahal of liquor,” quipped former mayor David Crombie in a tribute video), among many other restorations in Toronto. His work was recognized with a posthumous Special Achievement Award.
Awards were given for architecture, books, media, and community work. The top winners in each category:
- Architectural Conservation and Craftsmanship (awards of excellence): John Street Roundhouse and Seventh Post Office;
- Book (awards of merit): Imagining Toronto (Amy Lavender Harris); Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven (Ross King); Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto (Shawn Micallef);
- Media (awards of excellence): Brick by Brick: The Story of the Evergreen Brick Works (video); Jane-Finch.com (website).