Change Comes From Within
Raising heritage awareness is critical in communicating ideas of the built environment to the public. An opportunity to advocate for and foster awareness through heritage interpretation arose at two heritage properties in prominent and busy areas within Toronto’s downtown core. The densely populated areas of Yonge Street and Dundas Square are the perfect ‘gallery’ for this advocacy.
HNR Properties Limited
Phase 1 and 2 Complete, Phase 3 Ongoing
Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) Award, Heritage Education, Awareness & Scholarship 2020
At a point where tenancy was transferring and the ground floor storefronts for each building were undergoing a period of temporary inactivity, the client was seeking an alternative to the typical signage for the buildings’ glass storefronts. We recognized an opportunity to both shutter and promote the buildings’ heritage value by presenting and communicating its character-defining elements through representational and abstract architectural diagrams.
The installation at 211 Yonge brings attention to the details of the principal façade’s upper storeys and is represented through a 1:1 scale drawing. At 21 Dundas Square, we designed and installed a fantastical drawing of the building’s parapet detailing. Future installs will graphically document the process occurring on the interior, and the extensive and ongoing rehabilitation currently occurring at the building.
By concealing less desirable and messy interior construction activity, the storefront interventions protect the buildings’ stature, communicate its heritage value, and express its character-defining elements.
Although the protection measures are light, the need to maintain the dignity of a heritage building (in whole or part) through less active periods is an important part of its ongoing conservation.
Through this type of advocacy, the character-defining elements are better understood and valued by the public, continuing to inform them on the importance of historical properties that form part of the city’s collective memory.
These interpretation pieces are installed along the glass storefront and adjacent to the sidewalks for each building. We had designed them to bring attention to the character-defining elements on the upper parts of the buildings, the areas that are generally difficult to observe and can go unnoticed by the public as they walk by a building.
Following installation, we discovered observers who engaged with the pieces also stepped away from the buildings (some even crossed Yonge or entered Dundas Square) to gain a better vantage point and observe the upper storey details.
With the building storefronts redesigned, a new relationship is formed with the public. This new relationship reanimates the public realm and presents information that would have been interpreted differently if it had been conveyed through other mediums (ie. books, journals, magazines).