New things are afoot at Fort York. It sounds a bit strange to say that, but one of the oldest — that is, officially “historic” — parts of Toronto is also one of the most rapidly changing. In the last few years, the area around Fort York has become a new neighbourhood and will eventually welcome over 20,000 new residents. New parks are planned (see our post on the adjacent June Callwood park) and the 43-acre site is will become the “lungs” (to steal a notion often attributed to Frederic Law Olmsted) of that new neighbourhood. As a member of the Fort York board, it’s neat to be able to see city building from its nascent stage. Right now much excitement is focused on the long-awaited Fort York Visitor Centre that will be built in time for the War of 1812 bicentennial. Currently some of the historic buildings inside the Fort’s walls also function as administrative offices, which is not ideal, and new interpretive space is needed for exhibits and for welcoming the hundreds of school groups that visit each year.
The new centre will be located outside of the Fort’s west gate, near where the parking lot and Gardiner flyover are now, and allow the historical buildings inside the gate to be given over to full historical interpretation and public viewing. Perhaps most exciting for the neighbourhood is the Visitor Centre will also be a community hub, inline with current thinking that schools and other public buildings can and should serve more than one purpose. That means after-hours meeting and event space and, possibly, a cafe at the heart of what will become a sort of “interchange” or nexus for citywide cycling and walking paths (outlined in the post I made last March). Already the grounds around the Fort walls are populated after-hours with dog walkers and recreational walkers.
With that in mind, the City has just released a call for Expressions of Interest for architectural firms to bid on the project. An emphasis is put on Canadian firms (who can collaborate with international partners) with the hope that the sacred civic ground the centre will be built on will be celebrated and, at the same time, fit in well with the contemporary neighbourhood. It’s not a large project, budget wise, so there won’t be any ROM Crystals going up, but at this site the Fort is really the Crystal, and the new centre will simply add a bit of polish.
For firms interested in the project, please see the EOI call here. Note the March 11 deadline.
The City of Toronto invites design consultant teams, led by a registered Canadian architect, to submit Expressions of Interest (EOI) to participate in a national competition for the design of a new Visitor Centre at Fort York National Historic Site. â€œStage Iâ€ of this two stage design competition is a call for Expressions of Interest.
In 2012, Canadians will commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the subsequent 200 years of peace and prosperity. This milestone offers a timely opportunity to make a significant investment in Fort York, the birthplace of urban Toronto, the site of a turning point in the War of 1812, the city’s oldest establishment, an outstanding resource for learning and discovery, and a cornerstone in the City’s plans for urban revitalization.
The + 25,000 square foot Visitor Centre, estimated at approximately $15 million (not including landscape and exhibition components) and scheduled to open in June 2012 (the building construction to be completed by December 2011), will function as a â€˜Hub’, connecting the visitor to the entire 43 acre (18-ha) national historic site, connecting the site to the neighbouring communities, and contributing to a more coherent identity and improved visitor experience.
Photo by Wanda G.