The front of 211 Yonge

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


Toronto, Canada

Start Date


Completion Date



Phase 1 and 2 Complete, Phase 3 Ongoing




Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) Award, Heritage Education, Awareness & Scholarship 2020

Illustration building reading "To bring you a new 21 Dundas Square"

Creative Solution

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.

Architectural drawing of highrise heritage building

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.

Architectural drawing of midrise heritage building
An abstract building illustration
Illustration of original 211 Yonge front


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.

Glass doors with illustration of historical building overlaying the glass

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.

A door with exterior text and illustration shot from the interior


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).

A door under the banner "Snack Stop" with exterior text and illustration

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