Before delving into the article I thought I would point out that two prominent Ottawa architecture firms (Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Architects and NORR Architects) are once again opening their doors as part of Doors Open Ottawa 2013. Though architecture offices are no longer dominated by a sea of drafting tables and the scent of cigarette smoke they are still worth exploring. The endless rolls of drawings, the material library, and code binders all hint at the complexities of designing a building.
Originally published in the Centretown Buzz
by Jeff Salmon
May 17, 2013
As children, we are all born with an innate curiosity and a desire to explore. However, as adults, this is often muted to some extent. Yet, even as adults, there are times when we give in to our curiosities. Those of us who enjoy evening walks probably relish the glimpses into buildings whose lights remain on, as it gives us a chance to peek into spaces that are otherwise protected by the opaque reflections of glass in daylight. It is hard to pass up the opportunity to discover what is happening behind the walls that define our public spaces.
Whether you are comparing how a neighbour’s house stacks up to your own or peering into an office building, it is exciting to imagine what it would be like to inhabit these spaces, as you say to yourself: “Oh, I like that! But that, not so much.”
The other half of the excitement is imagining what is happening in the building, beyond what you can see. These curiosities converge with reality during the annual Doors Open Ottawa event, as patrons are given the opportunity to walk through or tour some of these buildings.
Doors Open is an event that began in France in 1984 and has since spread to many cities around the globe. Toronto held the first Doors Open in North America in 2000 and, in 2002, Heritage Ontario launched Doors Open Ontario.
The premise of this event is to celebrate and promote heritage, architecture, and design by allowing access to culturally and historically significant buildings. 2013 will mark Ottawa’s 12th year of participation and each year new buildings are added to the roster. While the list tends to showcase prominent heritage buildings, the number of contemporary buildings included for their design merit continues to grow, which is a promising sign for Ottawa.
For many people, Doors Open represents their annual exposure to building design, where they consciously take in the spaces and details that have come together in the form of architecture. For a couple of days, people plan their trips to these buildings as you would map your route through a gallery; they admire and question the brush strokes of architects rather than artists; and they take tours where volunteers tell them stories about the history and design of the buildings.
In this context, the inclusion of more contemporary buildings expresses that a building’s significance is not measured in years. It shows that Ottawa is not only concerned with preserving heritage sites but also actively moving forward with building projects that are enhancing the urban fabric and built environment. In this sense the value of Doors Open cannot be understated, as it publicly identifies and showcases Ottawa’s heritage and design priorities.
Unfortunately, not every building in Ottawa that is worth seeing can be included in Doors Open. However, it is worth noting that there are a number of buildings in Ottawa that have been recognized by the Ontario Association of Architects in the past few years as part of their annual Awards of Design Excellence, and most are accessible any time of the year. These buildings include:
– Rideau Canal Skateway Chalets (CSV Consultants Inc. Associates, 2012)
– Ottawa Convention Centre (BBB Architects Ottawa Inc., 2012)
– City of Ottawa Central Archives and Ottawa Public Library Materials Centre (Shoalts and Zaback Architects and Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects, 2012)
– Canadian Museum of Nature (Padolsky, Kuwabara, Gagnon joint venture Architects, 2011)
– Front to Back Infill (Colizza Bruni Architecture Inc., 2011)
– The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat (Maki and Associates and Moriyama & Teshima Architects in collaboration, 2010)
As Ottawa adds to its portfolio of notable buildings, it is important to indulge your curiosities and go explore these buildings—and Doors Open happens to be a great way to do so. Plan your route and enjoy Ottawa’s two-day “Architecture Gallery.”
Doors Open takes place June 1 and 2, 2013. Additionally, Impromptu Playground, the first collaboration emerging from yowLAB, has designed a play installation—playscape—for the Ottawa International Children’s Festival, which runs May 28 to June 2, 2013.