One of my stops during Doors Open Toronto this year was on the campus of the University of Toronto. I did not attend university here, so I look for opportunities to acquaint myself with some of the facilities at this downtown campus.
Hart House is a grand old institutional building designed in the Collegiate Gothic style. It was commissioned by the Massey family and gifted to the University of Toronto by the Massey Foundation. The building was named by Vincent Massey – who later became Governor General of Canada – in honour of his grandfather. Henry Sproatt, along with engineer Ernest Rolph, designed the building, which opened in 1919.
Hart House serves as a gathering space for students, faculty, staff and others who study, work at or visit the campus. There are several facilities housed within the building, including a theatre, a meeting hall, a restaurant, an art gallery, a library and a fitness centre.
The Gothic architecture and stone facade encourage black and white interpretation when taking photographic images of the building. I have included some of my shots below. Although there are no doors in any of these images, this collection is my contribution to Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors blog for the week of June 13th.
The stained glass window in the chapel was one exception, and deserves a full colour interpretation.
Early Anglo-Saxon churches in the UK often had a north door entrance to the nave of the church. Although not considered to be significant at the time, later medieval superstitions led to the north door of a church being known as “The Devil’s Door.”
The Devil’s Door was intended to be left open during any infant baptisms in the church, so that any evil spirits could escape as the child was christened. In medieval times, the north side of the church was considered to be the “sinister” side (Latin: sinestre = left), the side where the evil spirits could hide in the shadows of the building. Following the Reformation (1530s), many of these doors were removed or blocked up.
The north side of a church yard had similar connotations, as it was sometimes used for the burial of suicides, criminals, and infants who had not been baptised.
I learned all of this while visitng Escomb Saxon Church near Bishop Auckland, England. Escomb Church is considered to be the best preserved Anglo-Saxon church in England. The following images of the church are my contribution to this week’s Thursday Doors blog, published by Norm Frampton.
I have been waiting for an opportunity to post a couple of images that include people and columns. Columns are obviously an essential element in the design of structures. In classical and neo-classical architecture, decorative columns were used to identify the main entry to a building, which was usually raised above street level, requiring steps to reach the entrance. The steps and the spaces beneath and between the columns have become places for people, who are often dwarfed by the scale and immensity of the columns. These are great places for people to gather and people-watch.
My door theme for this week includes doors that are part of a Neo-Classical entry design. The first common elements associated with this theme are columns that have a Classical motif. In my first example, the columns are a “faux” element applied to the simple exterior of an industrial building. The other two examples include actual columns – with the third one having columns that physically support a portico above the main entrance.
The second common element is the fanlight window above each door. All three windows have radiating mullions which fan out from the top of the door.
All of these door images are from Toronto, where this style of architecture is often referred to as “Georgian.”
For more blog posts on doors, visit Norm’s Thursday Doors post for this week.
This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge inspired me to experiment with some “other world” treatment of a recent image. There is a new pedestrian bridge connecting the Eaton Centre with the Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Toronto. The architectural design of the structure has a space-age look, and adding some blurring to the image gives it that final touch.
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.
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.
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.