“Doors Open” – Toronto’s Architectural Festival – Free of Charge!

You may have figured out by now that I am bit of an architecture buff. Well, the great thing is, since 2000 Toronto has its very own free-access architecture weekend where you can get access to more than 140 interesting buildings, many of which are usually closed to the public.

It’s a great event and it’s grown every year, both in attendance and buildings to visit. This year Doors Open will be held on May 28 and 29, 2005. Locals and visitors alike enjoy getting first-hand access to some of Toronto’s unique architectural gems. Here is an interview with Kristen Juschkewitsch, (Acting) Supervisor, Museums and Heritage Services, for the City of Toronto’s Culture Department.

1. Please give us a brief overview of the annual “Doors Open Toronto” event. When is it held, what type of event is it?

One weekend, once a year in May, over 100 Toronto buildings open their doors for free inviting residents and tourists to step inside. The 2-day event, taking place Saturday and Sunday, May 28 & 29, celebrates Toronto’s architecture, urban building permit services toronto design, cultural spaces and places. Visitors can explore places of worship, roof gardens, industrial sites, police stations, historic houses, campuses, transportation hugs, architects’ offices, theatres, contemporary structures, urban landmarks and more.

This year, 148 extraordinary buildings are taking part and many of the participating buildings are not normally open to the public. Most venues organize guided tours, special exhibits or activities to enrich the experience. Doors Open Toronto is designed to appeal to an audience with different interests, cultural backgrounds and ages. The event is a success because not only does it allow Torontonians the opportunity to express extraordinary enthusiasm for their city, but also it taps into people’s interest in architecture, history and allows them to be part of their community.

Visit http://www.doorsopen.org for complete details.

2. Please tell us a bit about the history of “Doors Open”. Who came up with the idea, how did it come about?

Karen Black, Manager of Museums and Heritage Services, City of Toronto Culture Division and Jane French, Project Manager, Doors Open Toronto, brought Doors Open to Toronto. Developed as a millennium project for May 2000 and modeled on Doors Open Days in Scotland, Doors Open Toronto was the first of its kind in North America.

Doors Open Toronto is a signature event of the City of Toronto Culture Division, which is committed to the development and promotion of arts and culture in the city. The event relies on the support of its sponsors, partners and volunteers in the community. Without this level of support Doors Open Toronto wouldn’t be the success it is today.

3. How has the event evolved since the beginning? And how big is the attendance? Please give us some of the facts and figures.

In its first year, Doors Open Toronto attracted over 70,000 visitors to 96 buildings. Over the past five years, there has been a steady climb in attendance due to the event’s growing popularity. In 2004 over 185,000 visits were logged at 155 of the Doors Open Toronto participating locations. These figures clearly show that the Doors Open weekend has struck a chord with Torontonians and visitors alike.

The success of Doors Open Toronto can be measured in a variety of ways. As I mentioned, the number of participating buildings has grown from 96 in the first year to 155 last May. Also, architects, developers, leaders in education, business, cultural, recreational and faith communities from around the city now approach us wanting to participate.

Doors Open Toronto has inspired programs throughout Ontario with the launch of Doors Open Ontario by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 2002. The Heritage Canada Foundation has encouraged communities across Canada, including St. John’s and Calgary, in developing their own Doors Open programs.

In October 2003 Open House New York was launched with generous acknowledgement from organizers of the influential role played by Doors Open Toronto. The First Annual Doors Open Denver was also a huge success this past April.

4. What type of buildings does it include and how many? Are these buildings accessible at other times of year?

The program allows visitors free access to architecturally and/or culturally significant properties that are either not usually open to the public, or would normally charge an entrance fee. Buildings are selected based on a number of criteria developed by the City’s Culture Division including buildings of architectural and/or historic significance, not normally open to the public; sites that are open to the public to some degree i.e. theatres, places of worship, museums, etc. are required to provide behind-the-scenes access and/or enhanced interpretive programming; significant interior spaces with original design and/or successful adaptive re-use features and buildings representing the cultural diversity of Toronto

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