Doors of Happiness

I recently visited the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. The AKM opened in 2014, and celebrates the arts of Muslim civilisations from the Iberian Peninsula to China.  The collection includes various artefacts and cultural objects that span from the eighth Century to the present.

The stated purpose of the Aga Khan Museum is that it will become “a centre of education and of learning, and that it will act as a catalyst for mutual understanding and tolerance”.

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the aga khan museum

Among the items on display I found and photographed three pairs of double doors, which are displayed here as my contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors for the week of July 12, 2018. There was no indication of the context in which these these doors were originally used, so they can only be admired for their design and craftsmanship.

The first pair of doors are from Northern Iran, and are very specifically dated to have been carved in the years 1486-1487 AD. In the Muslim calendar, this is equivalent to the year 892 H (Hijri). The geometric design is quite unique, especially when compared to contemporary arts and crafts design in Europe.

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Iranian doors, 1486-87

The second pair of doors originates in either Iran or northern India, from the late 18th or early 19th Century. The doors are embellished with carved and painted floral patterns around the edges of the frames and inner panels. The Persian inscription in cartouches at the top is translated to state:

Open the door of happiness for the owner of this door, opener of doors.

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doors of happiness

There is very little information provided about the third set of doors. They are constructed of wood, metal and mother of pearl, and probably originate from Gujarat, India, in the 19th-20th Century.

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pearly gates

A Visit to Stratford – Part 2

The evolution of the use of older church buildings is an interesting study topic. Originally built as places of worship during the early growth of towns and cities, churches were imposing structures funded and constructed by community members. Over time, as local congregations have moved on, and religion has lost some of its relevance, increasing numbers of church buildings have become surplus and may be re-purposed.

The church located at 70 Brunswick Street in Stratford is a good example. According to one source, it was originally named the Congregational Church when it was built in 1873-1874. Congregational churches comprised Protestant groups arising from Puritanism, and were organized on the principle that each congregation should be autonomous. Many congregational churches later joined with other churches in the creation of the United Church of Canada in 1925. At some point in time, this church was named the Mackenzie Memorial Gospel Church.

About 40 years ago, the church was re-purposed as The Church Restaurant, and offered fine dining to local residents and theatre goers. In 2015, the church and restaurant were sold to new owners, and the premises were renamed Revival House. There are three components: Revival, a street-level event space; Chapel, a second-floor gastro pub; and Confession, a small balcony VIP lounge. After the restaurant re-opened, a leak was discovered in the roof. A group of local musicians assisted the owners in organizing a fund-raising event to help pay for a new roof.

Community support to build the original church in the 1800’s has evolved into community funding for the repair of a restaurant and event space in the 21st Century! The new roof can be seen in the accompanying image.

The hinges on the front doors are also noteworthy. Apparently, the ironwork on the doors was crafted by workers at the Grand Trunk Railway, which later became the Canadian National Railway, at their shops based in Stratford.

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Revival House

During our visit, we found a door oddity on Wellington Street in downtown Stratford. This image of a horse (at least I think it is a horse and not a mule) could be attributed to an aspect of the history of the city: either as an “iron horse,” to early railway buffs; or a role in a Shakespeare play, as there are references to horses in several of the bard’s plays. I chose the latter. I also found this Shakespeare quote about a painted horse, which may or may not be relevant.

Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion’d steed,
His art with nature’s workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone.

Perhaps another visit to Stratford is warranted to inquire into the origins of this door. For more encounters with doors, be sure to check out other contributions to Norm’s Thursday Doors.

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the painted horse

A Visit to Stratford – Part 1

Stratford is a city located on the Avon River in south-western Ontario. Sounds familiar? That’s because Stratford (and its river) were named after Stratford-upon-Avon in England when it was first settled in 1832.

Stratford is best known for hosting the Stratford Festival, which presents a variety of theatrical productions among four venues. The original Stratford Shakespeare Festival started in 1953 in an amphitheatre covered by a tent.

There are some published scenic walking routes in the city, including the Festival Walk, which wanders through some of the older residential areas. There are many fine homes – and doors – along this walk. I am presenting some of these doors today as my contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors. After taking these photos on a quiet Sunday morning, it has been interesting to discover some of the history of these buildings and their occupants while writing my blog.

The house at 115 Brunswick Street was built in 1874 in the Italianate style. It features a double door enclosed porch – I love the curved windows.

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115 Brunswick St.

Just down the street, at 91 Brunswick Street, is a house that didn’t make it onto the walking tour list. The house features a Palladian window on the second floor, but some exterior maintenance is long overdue.

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91 Brunswick St.

77 Brunswick Street is aptly named An Artist’s Cottage. It is the home and studio of Gerard Brender à Brandis, an artist who has been engraving small and detailed wood blocks for over fifty years. Brandis produces limited editions of his engravings in his home, including the printing and binding of his books.

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An Artist’s Cottage

The Aubergine Bed and Breakfast is located at 67 Brunswick Street. The sand-coloured brick, the round window and the green and white trim make this an attractive residence.

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67 Brunswick St.

The use of gold leaf on the carving in the heading above the door was the attraction at this house located at 30 Nile Street. Many houses in the neighbourhood have large verandahs, which often wrap around two sides when the house is on a corner lot.

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30 Nile St.

 

 

Doors Open at 6:30 pm …

This past Monday, November 6, 2017, I had the privilege to attend the Tower of Song: A Memorial Trubute to Leonard Cohen. The doors to the Bell Centre, downtown Montreal, opened shortly after 6:30 pm, and the rest, as they say, was history.

The tribute was organized by Adam Cohen, his family and friends, to celebrate the life of Adam’s father, Leonard Cohen. The late Leonard Cohen passed away a year ago, on November 7, 2016. He was born and raised in Montreal, and became a well known poet, song writer and musician.

The overall experience was magical and overwhelming, listening to more than 20 renditions of Leonard Cohen’s music by various artists, who volunteered their time to participate. My most favourite songs of all were k.d. lang’s rendition of “Hallelujah,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Damien Rice. My partner and I had seen Leonard Cohen and Damien Rice in a concert together in Dublin in 2008, and this brought back many fond memories of that overseas trip.

Also worth mentioning were performances by Sharon Robinson, who sang “I’m Your Man,” and provided background vocals with the Webb sisters for much of the concert; Patrick Watson, a local singer who I had not been aware of; and the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, who performed the background vocals for “You Want it Darker.”

Leonard Cohen penned many poems and song lyrics, so I will leave the last words to Leonard (and his co-writer):

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.”

chorus to “Love Itself,” written by Sharon Robinson and Leonard Cohen

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tower of song

A Visit to Crawford Lake

I recently visited Crawford Lake, located NW of Toronto, near the City of Milton. Crawford Lake is a conservation area that is managed by Conservation Halton, which is a regional land use administrative authority.

Although Crawford Lake Park is named after a farming family that settled by the lake, the park is known for the reconstructed Indigenous longhouses located on the site. The original inhabitants of this site were Nations of the Iroqoian linguistic group, who occupied a village on the site from around the 13th to the 17th centuries.

Three of the longhouses have been reconstructed and are used as presentation spaces and to display artifacts found during archaeological investigations at the site.

The images presented focus on the wooden structure of the longhouse. They are also being posted in conjunction with this week’s theme of Black & White Sunday: Structure on Paula’s Lost in Translation blog.

The basic structure consists of tree trunks that are buried in the earth, and connected at the top with flexible poles. The cladding consists of bark from trees. I am unsure of the materials used to construct the roof membrane.

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turtle house entrance
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turtle house elevation
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lattice structure
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silhouette

Doors Open Toronto – Part 3

This is my third and final post on the downtown Toronto buildings that I visited as part of Doors Open Toronto. Before I describe these buildings, I thought that I would provide some more background on the event.

Doors Open Toronto provides an opportunity to visit buildings in the GTA that may or may not be regularly open to the public. The event also includes walking tours and other special events such as guest speakers, visits to architects’ offices and concerts.

This event was originally developed by the City of Toronto as a millennium project in 2000, and just completed its 18th annual showing, on the last weekend in May. Toronto was the first North American city to offer a Doors Open program, which has inspired many similar events. The event relies on all of the participating businesses and organizations, the financial support of several sponsors, and the efforts of many volunteers.

The Toronto Star newspaper (one of the sponsors) publishes a broadsheet map and listing of all of the opening buildings a couple of weeks before the event. This is very useful for planning your itinerary. The City of Toronto also maintains a website that lists all of the buildings and provides some background information on each one.

Some of the most useful information on the website includes the photography regulations for each site. There are three basic options for shooting indoors: not permitted; permitted without tripod; or permitted with or without tripod. There are similar levels of restrictions on interior filming. I have discovered in other indoor shooting in Toronto that there is a lot of emphasis placed on governing the use of tripods. I am at a loss to understand why tripods are not allowed inside some buildings.

The theme for this set of images is social spaces. First on my itinerary was St. George’s Hall, which is home to the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto. This building – opened in 1891 – was originally the home of the St. George’s Society, a charitable organization which supported new immigrants to Toronto. The A&L Club moved in as a tenant in 1920 and, much later, purchased the building in 1986.

As this is a private club, public access on the weekend was a special occasion. It was only in 1985 that the Club welcomed women as members. The Club has a permanent art collection on display, and also exhibits artistic work by its club members. In the 1920’s, the Club became a meeting place for artists, some of whom became known as the Group of Seven. They included J.E.H. MacDonald, who was Club President from 1928 to 1930.

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St. George’s Hall
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Doors open at St. George’s Hall

Massey Hall is a concert hall that was first opened in 1894. The building was financed by Hart Massey, a devout Methodist and a founder of the Massey-Harris agricultural equipment corporation. Massey donated the hall to the city for “musical entertainments of a moral and religious character, evangelical, educational, temperance, and benevolent work.” The temperance movement was an important part of the hall’s history, as no alcohol was allowed on the premises until a bar – named Centuries – was opened 100 years later.

Massey Hall was the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir until 1982, when both groups moved into their new location at Roy Thompson Hall. Both of these facilities are collectively managed by one non-profit corporation. Massey Hall is now primarily used for rock concerts, and it can seat about 2,700 patrons.

The fire escapes were added to the front facade in 1911 to improve fire exiting. A revitalization project, to be funded as part of the development of a nearby condominium on Yonge Street, will address some of the shortcomings in public gathering areas outside the main hall and the backstage area. If the project renderings are to be believed, the exterior fire escapes will be removed as part of the upgrade.

The address of Massey Hall is listed as 178 Victoria Street, yet the main entry doors and box office are actually located on Shuter Street.  I find this confusing.

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Massey Hall

St. Lawrence Hall is located one block north of the St. Lawrence Market. The hall was constructed in 1850 and it was Toronto’s first large meeting hall. It was named for the downtown neighbourhood, or ward, where it is located.

When the hall first opened, thousands of African American slaves were fleeing to Canada after the US Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The hall became an important meeting place for the abolitionist movement, and hosted the North American Convention of Colored Freemen in 1851.

The opening of larger performance centres, such as Massey Hall in the 1890’s, led to a decline in use of St. Lawrence Hall. However, it was refurbished in 1967 as part of a centennial project, and is now a popular venue for weddings, conferences and art shows.

I like the symmetry of the front entrance and facade. Too bad that the period street lights were not so precisely aligned.

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Doors open at St. Lawrence Hall