Doors open

Sunday was a perfect day for stomping around Toronto and peering into interesting buildings normally blocked from public eyes. And peering and appreciating Toronto’s architecture is what the Doors Open event is all about. It only runs for one weekend in May every year, and with over 150 buildings to choose from – everything from churches to City Hall – you basically have to pick your favourites, and hope for the best. We got to see three buildings:

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The CBC Broadcasting Centre. They have a neat children’s museum on the ground floor, with video clips and memorabilia from Mr. Dressup, The Friendly Giant and other excellent CBC children’s shows from the ’80’s. Upstairs on the 7th floor is the carpentry department. Up there they have sets for Coach’s Corner (with a cardboard cutout of Don Cherry!) and Athens 2004, plus other great stage props, such as the Royal Canadian Air Farce’s Chicken Cannon sign.

The clock on the right just cracks me up. It’s a Gorg clock from Fraggle Rock, designed by Tim McElecheran. The clockdial is inscribed with imaginary numerals, and since the Gorgs are Muppets with four fingers, McElecheran used an octal numbering system. My geeky heart flutters just thinking about it.

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The BMW Toronto dealership. Silverlotus remarked that this was a sleazy way to get people to spend an afternoon ogling cars, and she’s probably right. Still, the building has some architectural merit: all the walls are made of glass, including the elevator, and they use a moat around the dealership to cool the building. Perched on a hill overlooking the Gardiner Expressway, it has a commanding view of the downtown core. It’s also the largest facility of its kind in Canada.

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Union Station. If there was ever an award for Most Neglected Historical Landmark, Union might get it. Once the hub of activity during the heydays of locomotives, Union is now a pitstop for subway and GO Train commuters, and it’s in need for $150 million in repairs. The washrooms have the same fixtures they enjoyed when they were brand new in the 1930s.

What hasn’t aged a bit, however, is the Great Hall. It’s flanked by two giant windows on either side to let light in, and the bricks are made of a special Minnesota limestone that further reflects this light. The giant windows are actually translucent glass hallways that employees can walk through, which you can see in the picture to the right. Despite all that ingenuity, there was one gaff – the carving of the name of the city of Sault Ste. Marie is mispelled.