Accessibility, Family, Parenthood, Photos, Toronto

Doors Open 2014

One of my favourite weekends of the year in Toronto is Doors Open. Over 150 buildings open their doors to the public for tours and events to check out the architecture and programs offered within their walls. It’s a great way to get to know our city and as little as I know about architecture, I do love it a lot. Here are some photos from this weekend’s adventures around the city in what was THE perfect weather for exploring.

Our first visit was to the National Ballet. There was a long line which was difficult for the kids (waiting is just NOT fun) but Tallula quickly made a friend and Sebastian was happy to hang out with his dad and chat to the folks in line. The tour guide took our group via the elevator and allowed ample wait time for both the kids. Tallula loved exploring and they both enjoyed seeing the kids practicing their ballet dancing. The tutu’s were also an interest for all of us. The practice tutu’s cost about $600 and last between 10-15 years, depending on their care. They are each hand sewn. The guide spoke to me afterwards, hoping that the tour accommodated Sebastian well enough and said that there needs to be a special ‘Sebastian Tour’. I gave her my contact info in the hope they I could perhaps be on a volunteer committee to ensure other Doors Open venues accommodate wheelchair uses as best as possible, which is not possible in some cases where the buildings have not been updated. I left feeling hopeful though.

Canada’s National Ballet School  The campus showcases historic, heritage buildings surrounded by modern, glass structures, allowing the public to witness students dancing in the light-filled studios fronting onto Jarvis Street. The heritage buildings were formerly home to CBC radio and Ladies Havergal College and have been fully restored. The 12 modern studios provide magnificent training spaces for dance students while the Mona Campbell Town Square at the heart of the School is frequently used to host events and is the gathering place for staff, faculty and students alike.


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After lunch we walked over to the Native Child and Family Services. Tallula had a little nap in the carrier with Ali while Sebastian and I explored. He played a drum in the sweat lodge/meeting place and we looked at some colourful paintings hung on the wall where the ramps were. Although each floor was accessible by a ramp or elevator, the rooftop terrace was not. We were able to park Sebastian’s chair and walk the two flights up to the rooftop where we spent a good amount of time relaxing in the garden in the sunshine. But for adults and bigger kiddos, this space would not be accessible. Tallula loved exploring the garden and jumping off the big rocks, but only when holding one of our fingers. I found the staff and volunteers at this location so friendly and forthcoming. We also enjoyed looking around the market at hand made goods. While looking at the native handicrafts/artwork and even the colours of the medicine wheel in the quilt in the meeting room, I was reminded of my short time teaching on the reservation in South Dakota the summer after graduating from college.

Native Child and Family Services The newly renovated, four-storey, 30,000 sq. ft. office building stands at 30 College St. and is the headquarters for Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. The bold entrance sign, in the shape of an Ojibwa hand drum, signals a strong Aboriginal presence. On the main floor are a water feature and a patterned floor inspired by beadwork from an Ojibwa purse dating to the 1800s. The most striking feature is the award-winning longhouse, a contemporary interpretation of traditional lodges that were the dominant building form of the local First Nation people. The roof is a true green roof with traditional medicines and crops. The key feature on the roof is the healing lodge that is influenced by the traditional sweat lodge.







The kids had the most fun at The Beaches Firehouse. They got to climb into the big truck and pretend to drive it as well as sit on the step of the old Ford fire truck. (‘Give me keys’ demanded Tallula with her hand outstretched.) And daddy even helped them ‘slide down’ the fireman’s pole, when no one was looking. We picked up an activity booklet/colouring book as well as a pamphlet on how to make sure you have an escape plan for individuals with physical disabilities. It’s definitely something to think about and plan for because you just never know. I still remember learning about fire safety when I was a kid. I have the most vivid and frightening images of children having died asleep in their beds during a fire. Firefighters used to come to our school to teach us fire safety. I was pretty scared for a long time.

Fire Station 227 Built in 1905, this station dates back to the horse era. Its clock tower is a popular landmark site in the Beach. Significant interior and exterior renovations have been recently undertaken at the fire station. Its architectural style has a Dutch or Flemish stepped gable on the south front, and may also be considered within the context of being influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. It includes Classical details in the form of massive flat pilaster strips on the left and right sides of the apparatus bay door. A sort of William and Mary lintel over the door and there are classical revival details over the south entrance door of the hose tower. The three windows below the clock have an Arts and Crafts look about them, whereas the large semi-circular arch below the stepped gable is a classical version of the expansive semi-circular arches of the Romanesque Revival of the 1880s-1890s.


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We tried to tour the TTC Russell Carhouse and discovered it was only open on the Saturday so we took a couple photos of the street cars and then barely made it to the Riverdale Hub. I’d love to volunteer here when I’m not busy being a mom. We had a lovely chat with the woman who gave us the tour so I didn’t get any photos inside, but it was a really peaceful, beautiful, building.

Riverdale Hub A marriage of 19th century Industrial construction and 21st century Brutalist sustainable build, the Riverdale Hub embodies reclamation and environmental consciousness in this Little India Retrofit. The Riverdale Hub is a grassroots organization that develops social enterprises, providing marginalized women and families with services and training, enabling them to develop sustainable livelihoods. Though the Riverdale Hub has only been in the community for 13 years, the building is rich in Toronto history. Found in derelict condition, it has since been revitalized and expanded to create the sustainable community hub it is today. Geo-thermal heating and cooling, photo-voltaic tracking system, solar panels and a functional and accessible eco roof initiating construction this spring, the Riverdale hub places environmental responsibility at the forefront of their mission.

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Building descriptions courtesy of Buildings – Toronto Doors Open.  I’m already thinking about what we will explore next year!


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