Toronto Doors Open

This weekend was Toronto’s 12th annual Doors Open event. Hubby and I biked all around the city to check out a number of venues. Our first stop was Artscape Wychwood Barns. It was the former Wychwood TTC streetcar repair barns, built between 1913 and 1921. The barns were the hub of the Toronto Civic Railway. From 1921 to 1978 it was one of seven streetcar houses operated by the TTC. From the mid-80s onwards, the facility had sat vacant. Since 2001, Artscape in partnership with the City of Toronto has been involved in the redevelopment of the facility into the Artscape Wychwood Barns – a 60,000 sq. ft. multifaceted community centre that brings together arts and culture, environmental leadership, heritage preservation, urban agriculture and affordable housing to foster a strong sense of community. The building officially opened in November 2008 and Artscape Wychwood Barns is now home to 26 artists and their families, 22 individual artists and 11 non-profit arts and environmental organizations.

We joined a tour, and we ate some yummy food at the farmer’s market. We shared a nut burger and some smoked fish fritters.

Refuelled, we got back on our bikes and headed to Spadina House. The property was purchased by businessman and financier and city builder James Austin, founder of the Dominion Bank and president of Consumers Gas. The first Austin Spadina was built in 1866 and modified several times between 1898 and 1913. The Austins and their children used their 80 acres for farming before the land was subdivided and sold. The remaining 5.7 acres include an orchard, a grape arbour and a kitchen garden, along with the more formal areas of lawn and display beds. The last living resident of the house, Anna Kathleen Thompson, negotiated the transfer of the house, furnishings and remaining acreage to the City of Toronto and the province of Ontario in 1978.

It was kind of cool because a month ago I was here with my class, to visit the gardens and it was amazing to see how everything has filled in so nicely. I was able to point out the raspberry patch to hubby and we took a stroll through the orchard.

From here, we headed south and stopped at MaRS. I hadn’t even heard of this place until this weekend. It was on my list because it is related to technology and therefore, it must be of interest to hubby!

Located in the heart of Toronto’s Discovery District, MaRS works to build global companies from Canada’s leading science and technology community. Their approach involves delivering inventive entrepreneurial programming alongside hands-on business-building advice, market research and access to capital. The building has also created an inspiring physical space for the convergence of people and ideas. Since its doors opened in 2005, the MaRS Centre has rivalled technology clusters worldwide with a stunning 750,000 sq. ft. suite of three linked buildings, including a renovated heritage wing of the venerable Toronto General Hospital and two adjoining modern glass tower. More than 2,000 people come to work at the complex in 65 tenant organizations spanning in the innovation spectrum from leading research labs to emerging and mid-size technology companies, multinationals, venture capital, and legal firms. The Centre’s soaring glass atrium and tech-ready meeting spaces have also become prized locations for more than 1,100 meetings, conferences, and events, drawing in excess of 80,000 visitors.

Here, we were able to visit the Lloyd & Dephine Martin Prosperity Institute, the world’s leading think-tank on the role of the sub-national factors—location, place, and city-regions—in global economic prosperity. They had an activity set up, which we passed on. Using construction paper and our imagination, we could build our own city. It is a much simpler form of Sim City, but hubby said it was too much work because we had to cut and paste versus drag and drop. We then took the elevator down to the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab, a unique training, research & production think-tank environment for emerging new media content developers, practitioners, and companies. They show-cased a piece of technology that was quite fascinating. They had a ‘video game’ set up, known as Quetzel and you would put on this head piece which reads your brain activities, which is how you control your actions in the game.

Before leaving MaRS, we stopped in at Mercatto for a late lunch. I had the margherita and hubby had the clam tagliatelle pasta special.

Before heading to our next destination, we decided to check out the Maple Leaf Garden’s Loblaws since we were so close.

Take a look at some of the store pictures and you’ll understand why hubby’s first words were, “I feel angry in here.” We can’t quite figure out why their floors are bright orange. It makes everyone have this weird orange glow. It certainly doesn’t provide a calming environment. We dashed in-and-out pretty quickly and continued onwards along Jarvis Street. Not far, we noticed a massive greenhouse and green space. I had to know what this place was, so we rode in to discover Allan Gardens Conservatory. It’s pretty amazing – this 16 000+ square foot greenhouse in the middle of the city. The plants were gorgeous and in some of the rooms, the blooms smelled delicious. I think hubby started to feel uncomfortable in the room with all the succulents – it was really hot and humid in there. I’m so happy to know that something like this exists in the downtown area, though the neighbourhood is a little bit rough, and there are quite a few homeless and shifty looking people hanging around the place. I wouldn’t recommend going there in the evenings.

After spending about half an hour here, we got back on track and made our way to the Hugh Garner Housing Co-op to check out their green roof. The Hugh Garner Green Roof tops an 181-unit, 8 storey residential building in Cabbagetown, downtown Toronto. The building’s thriving, diverse, community houses over 400 resident members. The Co-op was named for the the Depression-era writer, and cultural city builder, Hugh Garner, who had a close connection to Cabbagetown, where Victorian homes were demolished in the 1970’s to make way for high-rise buildings. The intensive green roof “wild” garden features a mixture of trees shrubs and planting beds. The south roof spans over 8,000 square feet and was completed in the Spring of 2010. The green roof is fully wheel-chair accessible and includes innovative features such as a storm water retention system that collects rain water which is used for irrigation, as well as shaded seating areas.

The space is a wonderful social space and is very well looked after. A lot of care has been taken into maintaining the beautiful shrubs and flowers. They even showed us the irrigation system and how it works. At this time, no edibles are grown because it is a co-operative and they feel it would be difficult to grow enough to benefit every tenant.

Our last stop of the day was Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), but it turned out that their tour was completely booked for the day. Luckily, they were signing up people for tours on Sunday, so we signed up. Not related to Doors Open, Victorinox had a workstation set up and they were allowing people to make their own utility knife. We ran into Sonya’s sister as we were about to check it out and she said that they were completely booked. Hubby and I squeezed over and spoke to the guy in charge of scheduling. I asked him if there was any way he could squeeze us in. I told him how I’d absolutely love to make a swiss army knife. He was a very nice man, and I became the very last person to participate. Hubby didn’t need to make one since he already owns one, but he wanted me to have the opportunity to build one. The thing was, I had to wait about 1.5 hours. We noticed that across the street, there was an installation which looked curious. It was a cardboard house, erected by the organization Raising the Roof.

The Street House, which is located in an alleyway between 367 and 369 King Street West, is made entirely of cardboard. From the outside, it looks like a traditional home, but the rooms inside symbolize the places where Canada’s estimated 200,000 homeless people seek shelter every day. The rooms also feature images, stories, facts and statistics about the realities of homelessness in this country. As I walked through and read descriptions of how actual homeless people defined themselves and their situation, I choked back tears. It moved me in such a profound way, to realize how much hope all of these people had. These people have nothing but the clothes on their back, but they have such a positive outlook and so much self-love. I realize this isn’t the case all the time, but the ones that wrote on the wall, it was incredible.

We walked up to Queen Street and just strolled around until it was time for me to build my knife. The guys were so great to stay late (after the store closed) so that I could do my build.

The next morning, hubby and I got back on our bikes and headed back to MEC for the tour. Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Toronto opened its current location on King Street in 1998. The 42,000 square foot facility was built using 55% recycled materials, including wood recovered from Montreal’s Marconi building, and from the bottom of the Ottawa River. The building is an important milestone in the Green Building Program, as it moved from a traditional building framework to a less energy-intensive approach. Main feature: 10,000 sq. foot green roof and a 40′ climbing wall.

Working with Stone McQuire Vogt Architects, 50 per cent of the MEC roof was planted with more than 40 indigenous species, including wildflowers, ferns and grasses.

Next stop, CityTV at Dundas Square. Getting there was crazy – the streets were chaotic! University and Queen was closed and traffic was backed up from every which way. I think there was a walk-a-thon going on. Luckily, we were on bikes. When we arrived at our destination, there was a line-up. We were probably in line for about 45 minutes, but it was worth it.

In 2007, Rogers Communications Inc. acquired the former “Olympic Spirit Building”, designed by Baldwin & Franklin in 2004, and immediately began work on transforming the space with Quadrangle Architects Limited. Broadcast history was made on September 8, 2009 when Citytv went live and again on October 19, 2009 when OMNI Television first broadcast from this state-of-the-art facility. Currently, Rogers Studios house Citytv and OMNI Television’s unique brands of popular programming, including CityNews Channel, Citytv’s Breakfast Television, CityLine, CityNews and OMNI Television’s OMNI News and Diversity Programming. Citytv and OMNI Television are a part of Rogers Broadcasting Limited, a division of Rogers Communications Inc., which is a diversified Canadian communications and media company.

We were famished after the tour at CityTV, so we stopped at Salad King for a quick bite before going to Corus Entertainment. Again, a 1-hour wait in line was required.

Corus Quay, Corus Entertainment’s Toronto headquarters, represents one of the most advanced media and broadcast facilities in North America. Corus Quay successfully originates and transmits 32 television and 3 Toronto-based radio signals including YTV, Treehouse, W Network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Q107, 102.1 the Edge and Talk Radio AM640. Corus Quay is also home to Nelvana, one of the world’s leading international producers and distributors of children’s animated content, as well as Kids Can Press, the largest Canadian publisher of children’s books. Corus Quay was designed by world-renowned architect Diamond Schmitt Architects and the interior was outfitted by Quadrangle Architects Ltd., an expert in broadcast architectural design. Corus Quay’s open concept design creates a collaborative and innovative work environment. The LEED Gold Certified building is environmentally responsible with features that include a significantly reduced power signature, five-storey biowall for air filtration and energy efficient lighting. Located on Toronto’s waterfront, Corus Quay is the anchor project in the revitalization of East Bayfront.

On the way home, we decided to stop at the Cheese Boutique for the final weekend of the Chef’s Series ($5 for a glass of wine and a food pairing). We had pizza from Pizzeria Libretto. It was a nice way to end our city biking weekend.

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