Toronto Society of Architects launches sixth season of popular contemporary architecture walking tours
The Toronto Society of Architects (TSA) is getting ready to launch its sixth season delivering guided walking tours under the banner Toronto Architecture Tours (TAT). Three tours are offered, each showcasing 10-14 significant examples of contemporary architecture in downtown Toronto. The tours are almost exclusively outdoors, and each is approximately two hours long and cost just $10. All buildings on the tours are vetted and selected by a panel of some of Toronto’s leading architects.
“While Toronto may not be the first city that pops into your head when someone asks what city has great architecture, Toronto boasts a world-class mix of both heritage and modern architecture designed by local and internationally acclaimed architects,” said TSA Chair Jason Dobbin. The idea to start offering architectural walking tours was born in 2009 when the TSA decided to begin a public awareness campaign that extended beyond the traditional society’s membership of industry professionals. “A core part of our mandate involves advocacy, raising awareness and public engagement in issues that affect our built urban environment. The walking tours are a great way to introduce not just visitors but also local residents to some of the great architecture the city has to offer and the important role it plays in the success of our city.”
After a meeting with Canadian expat Lynn Osmond, President of the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 2009, TSA executive member Kevin McIntosh was inspired to develop regular walking tours as a core program not just for education, but also as a fundraising vehicle. “Our guides and executive members are 100% volunteer meaning that after costs related to developing, coordinating and marketing, more than 85% of revenue goes toward funding our other core initiatives like our Urban Affairs Forum series,” according to McIntosh. With some seed funding from the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), the Trillium Foundation and the City of Toronto, the first tours started walking in May 2010.
Toronto has undergone a cultural renaissance of sorts in the last 5-10 years with major building investment in cultural institutions like the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, to name just a few that have received major renovations or redesigns by world-renowned architects like Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Will Alsop and KPMB Architects. “While Toronto is better known for its towers, the Arts & Performance as well as Culture & Campus tours are equally as popular as the Towers tour. There is something for anyone who appreciates great architecture,” notes Marta O’Brien, Tours Coordinator and Trainer.
New to the tours this season will be the new Goldring Centre for High-Performance Sport, a 2,000-seat indoor arena facility at the University of Toronto and recipient of an OAA Award of Excellence (Patkau Architects and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects). “With Toronto hosting the Pan Am Games this summer, we would be remiss not to include some of the remarkable new buildings erected to host the games. The Goldring Centre will be part of the Culture & Campus tour every Sunday afternoon at 1:30pm. The TSA is also working on translating and delivering tours in Spanish for visitors from Mexico, Central and South America.”
Toronto Architecture Tours offers regular tours on Saturdays and Sundays from May 9th through to October 3rd. TAT also runs group tours outside of the regular schedule for private groups, and participates in special events such as Doors Open Toronto each May during which time free “condensed” tours are offered, and various industry conferences hosted in the downtown area.
The TSA is a non-profit volunteer-run organization and chapter of the Ontario Association of Architects. With over 1,200 members, the TSA’s membership is open to industry professionals and the general public alike. Its core mandate is to promote the value of architecture and play an advocacy role in the city, ensuring that architecture and design are key considerations in public discussions and in processes that have an impact on our built environment.