Report From Fort York (fall 2011)

by David O'Hara, Site Administrator

It was welcome news when we heard that the Fort York Visitor Centre, designed by Patkau Architects of Vancouver and Kearns Mancini Architects of Toronto, had been awarded a 2011 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence. Initiated in 1968, Canadian Architect's program is to evaluate projects that are in the process of being built, or are about to be built. By evaluating unfinished concepts and projects, the idea is that the jury will have assessed the merits of each submission based on a purer set of architecture and urban design ideas. Submissions are judged on their response to the client's program, site, geographic and social context, physical organization, form, structure, materials, and environmental features.

Every year, a notable jury of distinguished architects from across Canada and abroad is assembled. This year the jury, which included Peter Sampson (Principal, Peter Sampson Architecture in Winnipeg), Walter Francl (Principal, Walter Francl Architecture in Vancouver), and Diarmuid Nash (Partner, Moriyama & Teshima Architects in Toronto), reviewed a near-record number of submissions from across Canada, and selected a total of 8 Awards of Excellence, 4 Awards of Merit, and 2 Student Awards for projects in locations ranging from Vancouver to Halifax to the Arctic Circle. Each of the winning projects will be featured in the December issue of Canadian Architect.

Co-winners in the Award of Excellence category include Zeidler Partnership Architects / Snøhetta for Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, Toronto, Ontario; Saucier + Perrotte / HCMA Architectes for the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences/CDRD, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia; Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, in association with Smith Carter Architects & Engineers for the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited for Two Hulls House, Nova Scotia; gh3 for Stormwater Quality Facility SWQF, Toronto, Ontario; Williamson Chong Architects for Abbey Gardens, Haliburton, Ontario; and B+H Bunting Coady for West Coast Middle School, Anmore, British Columbia.

While the building design of the Visitor Centre continues to win rave reviews, its construction has been delayed. When building tenders were received after the recent 'Request for Quotations' they were much higher than anticipated. City staff and the project management/design team are currently working closely with all stakeholders to prepare the project for re-tender as early as possible in 2012. This means that the Visitor Centre will be completed in 2013 to open during the Bicentennial, as planned. The project continues to have the full support of all levels of government, the Fort York Foundation, and other stakeholders.

On 'The Common' we can report that we have successfully recaptured over two acres of original battlefield with the recent removal of the Garrison Tree Nursery. On December 5th, Quartz Restoration, our landscape contractor, arrived on-site to begin removing the fencing and hedge, and grading the area for a Spring phase of work when the weather is better for seeding/sod. The addition of this parcel of land will have a tremendously positive impact on the site, providing additional space for programming and events while physically and visually connecting the walled fort with the Common and military burial ground to the west.

Another update relates to the Fort York Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge, which was approved at City Council on November 29-30, when staff reported on a number of alternative, lower cost options for the bridge along with funding possibilities. Of the five options, ranging in cost from $11.2 million to $19.7 million, three will be looked at in greater detail before a final approach is selected. Staff also reported on the Master Planning process for the Ordnance Triangle lands north of Fort York, being undertaken by Build Toronto, where it is expected that the majority of Section 37 and other development-related funding will be identified to fund the bridge.

On the programming front, our 2012 season kicks off with Queen Charlotte's Birthday Ball: Queen Charlotte Salutes Scotland on January 21 and on February 8 Senior College of the University of Toronto presents 'From the Ashes of War, the Birth of a Nation' - a one-day exploration of 1812 - inspired literature and music, the battle at Fort York, the participation of women, and the contribution of Aboriginal peoples.