Kicking off a season of festivals, this past weekend Toronto offered up VIP access and a warm welcome, as 150 historical sites, business, community centres and cultural institutions participated in the annual “Open Doors” event. It was my first time attending and I’m sad to say a bit of an after though in the weekend. This means that I only gave myself 3 hours to cruise around on Sunday afternoon during which I quickly realized I wish I had made more time. Despite the short time frame and with the help of Sebastian (my bike) and a willing boyfriend we were able to hit up 4 very different locations.

First stop: the Native Child & Family Services Centre located at 30 College, just west of Yonge.

Reopened in June 2010, the office building has been completely revitalized and is alive with energy and fun design details. As recommended by the charming greeter at the front desk, we started from the rooftop and worked our way down. Levitt Goodman Architects Ltd. took on the project with a focus to recreate a connection to nature in a very urban location. Each floor is flooded with natural light and the sound of water echoes throughout the building via the open concept stairwell. Oversized playful graphics of animals and flora are etched on floor to ceiling glass partitions while bright colours accent walls. The green roof impressed all visitors with lush vegetation, reclaimed wood benches and a steel sweat house resembling an igloo. SAB Mag has a wonderful write up if you’d like to learn a little more.

Second stop: Toronto’s First Post Office located in the St. Lawrence market area at 260 Adelaide Street West.

A quiet exterior from the outside we walked up a couple of steps from street level and entered through a door with the tiniest doorknob ever. The small interior was a flurry of people checking out the artefacts from a simpler system long forgotten in the age of instant messaging. Then for a $1 plus the cost of a stamp we were able to write by quill and ink a letter on linen paper and have it wax sealed and delivered by horse to our recipient. Well not actually by horse but with Toronto’s impending mail strike delivery time may be as authentic as that in the late 1800s.

Third stop: Corus Quay at 25 Dockside, a collaborative design between Diamond and Schmitt Architects and Quadrangle Architects Ltd.

I did a write up on this building a while back and it’s one of my favourite new spots in Toronto. My information to date has all been gathered electronically so I was really excited to finally wander the interior, unfortunately they closed up early and I was still left yearning. We were able to sneak around back and gain access into the public corridor to take a bit of a closer peak. Every detail in this building has been consideration, exemplified by the ceiling which is a stream of automated iridescent fishes moving together in graceful waves. I was a little disappointed but hope they open shop next year. The area is still worth a visit as this up and coming Bayfront area seems to evolve daily. Nearby, the Lower end of Sherbourne dubbed the “Sherbourne Commons” is being transformed into an incredible green space and I promise a blog to come very soon.

Fourth stop: Cannon Design, located in the same building as Figure 3 at 200 University just south of Queen West.

This multi-disciplinary firm operates internationally with offices scattered globally, specializing in healthcare and education institutions. We were able to pop into a presentation about the Toronto firm’s newest project – St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton. Located and inspired by the close proximity to the Niagara Escarpment Cannon was selected from 3 contenders for their holistic design. Highlights of their project include a reduced building footprint, preservation of surrounding greenlands and integration between healthcare professionals and practicing students. The office took the entire 12th floor footprint of the building and offered visitors the chance to wander through the open office layout, libraries and samples rooms. Oversized black and white images were suspended from the ceiling offering up a gallery feel over the more formal workstation spaces.

All in all thanks to the bikes we were able to easily navigate our stops, which made for a lovely Sunday afternoon in the city. Can’t wait for next weekend!