Friday, September 19, 2014

The Fort York Visitor Centre: An Important Step Forward

The Fort York Visitor Centre is about to open. It is a marvellous accomplishment.

The Fort York Visitor Centre: in harmony with its surroundings

Decades (literally!) of patient, persistent work, wrangling, and planning went into making the Visitor Centre a reality. A generation of stakeholders and all levels of government have been involved.

The Fort has been an oft-forgotten, sometimes neglected gem in the heart of the city, but the Visitor Centre marks an important step forward in the evolution and life of the Fort.

The Visitor Centre is a clean, elegant, low-slung building that somehow manages the trick of bringing solemnity to the underside of the Gardiner Expressway. It was designed by Patkau Architects Inc. / Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. and has already won awards.

On duty at the Visitor Centre entrance

I’m one of those fusty stick-in-the-mud types who are highly resistant to change, and I was anxious that the Visitor Centre might turn out to be an over-expressive architectural carbuncle drawing attention away from the actual historic site.

Not to worry.

The Fort now has a world-class facility with which to welcome visitors and provide context for the history of Toronto, as well as host events and exhibits. It’s part of an overall vision that recognizes that the Fort and the accompanying Garrison Common are an integral part of the community and have a participatory role to play.

Beautiful, functional gallery space 

Inside, the Visitor Centre seems well-laid out, and I look forward to seeing how the space is used by different exhibits. The Immersive Ramp on the upper level is particularly intriguing; I want to see how it develops.

On display at the moment (in addition to materials relating to the First World War) is a donation of 11 paintings inspired by the War of 1812 by noted artist Charles Pachter (if you’ve been to College subway station, you’ve seen his handiwork).

Thirst for Victory, by Charles Pachter
City of Toronto Museums, A14-33

The Fort York Visitor Centre is celebrating its opening this weekend with the On Common Ground Festival. Check it out!

Get Fortified!

p.s. while you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to drop in to the recently opened 99th branch of the Toronto Public Library, the Fort York branch on Bathurst.

Fort York branch of the TPL

Further reading:

Full disclosure: the Friends of Fort York and I collaborate together on the website, Fort York and Garrison Common Maps.