Well said Jim! I certainly agree with you and look forward to its completion. Nancy Island Historic Site will also be getting a new multi-million dollar visitor centre come 2012 as well and will have more details come February, March of 2010.
With three huge War of 1812 capital projects already in the planning and construction stage to date (Fort York, Nancy Island & Lundy's Lane Museum) things are looking good and there is allot more to come!
----- Original Message -----
From: James Yaworsky
Sent: Saturday, December 19, 2009 12:25 PM
Subject: [Bulk] Re: 1812 Old Fort York's Bicentennial Project - New Visitor's Centre design chosen
> >I don't like it.
> > Typical of what passes for architecture in Toronto these days, it is
> > about the building not the asset it represents.
> > Craig Williams
I *do* like it.
Given the constraints of the available space and limited number of access points to the site, restricted by the hulking monstrosity that is the Gardiner Expressway and the railway corridor immediately north of the Fort, I think the plan makes excellent use of the site. It doesn't encroach unduly on either the actual Fort or its lines of sight, and makes a very valid attempt to show where the original shoreline lay. It seems to be built mostly on what was, at the time of the War of 1812, the lake.
In addition, the layout of the building, being very long and narrow, allows for a sort of prolonged orienting gallery entrance to the Fort. It seems to create a fairly large public space to the south of the fort (i.e. in what was the lake in 1812), and allows for the sorts of activities that will not only attract visitors to the Fort itself, but support other functions that will probably be important to the future financial health of the site. People have to want to keep coming to this site, long after the bicentennial, with its special events, is over.
I think whatever was going to be built would have to have a height restriction otherwise it would add to the dwarfing of the buildings of the Fort that already exists. It couldn't be on the Commons, it certainly shouldn't be in the Fort itself. There also seems to be a lot of thought given to making overall access to the Fort a lot easier than it has been for many decades, and that access will be by a variety of means, from public transit to cars to walkers and bicyclists.
What sort of building would be more appropriately about "the asset", which I assume is the Fort itself? Stone and/or log walls, flagstone flooring, gas lighting? Georgian architectural style?
It seems to me that this plan is an excellent *visitor's center", which is, of course, its stated purpose. It wasn't meant to be an architectural statement in and of itself. It was meant to achieve a number of goals related to complementing, not rivaling, the Fort. Reasons are given for each design choice that seem to reflect valid concerns - re-establishing the "beach", keeping the modern stuff down low, making sure any visible "modern" elements are of materials that are clearly visibly "modern" (thereby not misleading any visitor as to what's original and what isn't), etc., etc.
If this center gets built (and it seems it will be) then the 1812 - indeed, the entire heritage community in the GTA - should be very, very happy. We haven't seen such a major investment in a heritage site down this way (Windsor/Essex) in a very, very long time. In fact, thinking about it, I guess I should say "we have *never* seen such a major investment in a heritage site down this way..."
Looking at the plans, frankly, had me both salivating and turning green with envy. Could it be better? Perhaps - but come on! It's damned impressive!!! Is it a major investment that will have a positive impact on the future of Fort York and all things related to heritage? Undoubtedly!
Let's celebrate, not start nit-picking and looking a gift horse in the mouth! Especially since this horse appears to be a Queen's Plate contender, not some broken-down hack in the glue-factory holding pen.
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