Fort York Visitor Centre Wins Canadian Architect Magazine Award of Excellence

Visitors-centre award

On December 16 Canadian Architect magazine announced that the Fort York Visitor Centre has been recognized with one of its Awards of Excellence for 2011.

Designed in joint venture by Patkau Architects of Vancouver and Kearns Mancini of Toronto, the building–part of a $23 million upgrading of Toronto's birthplace–will start construction during the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. It will sit just outside the gates to the ramparts of the fort, within the National Historic Site and tucked into a slope in the ground that was once a bank on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Administrator’s Report (spring 2012)

by David O'Hara, Site Administrator

The year 2012, as expected, is already proving to be very busy. On the heels of another successful Queen Charlotte’s Ball in January, it was an honour to partner with Senior College of the University of Toronto on a daylong event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. From the Ashes of War, A Nation is Born was sold out, thanks to our wonderful partners at Senior College and to all of those who participated in the event.

The Visitor Centre Project and rehabilitation of the Garrison Common are proceeding as planned. Construction of the new building is expected to be tendered in April for a mid-year start. Rehabilitation of the Garrison Common will begin by the end of March with the seeding of the former tree nursery site, which is almost 2 ½ acres in size. The area will be ready to support activities by the time of the launch of the War of 1812 Bicentennial in June.

Over the next two months, the Fort York staff and our partners will be working on various components of the 2012 program. Our largest undertaking, led by artists Thom Sokoloski and Jenny-Anne McCowan and commissioned in partnership with Luminato, is The Encampment, a large-scale art installation comprising 200 A-frame tents erected within the fort’s walls. Each tent will contain a visual representation of an aspect of the war’s civilian history. Like archaeologists, selected ‘Creative Collaborators’ will commit to “getting their hands dirty” by unearthing and transposing civilian stories from the War of 1812 into art installations that will be set up in each tent. If you are interested in becoming a Creative Collaborator, please visit for more information. See all the other Toronto Bicentennial programs and events at

Within the walls of the fort, our current archaeology exhibit has been recently removed from the Brick Magazine to allow for various capital improvements to the building itself. Some components of the exhibit have been relocated to the Blue Barracks. Work on the Stone Magazine has just been completed and the installation of an exhibit on Black Powder is anticipated in the next few weeks.

Recently too a request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for the detailed design of the national historic site lands to the east of Bathurst Street adjoining the Library District Condominiums. By May of this year a team will be on board to assist with the long-term planning and development of these parklands. Meanwhile, a cleanup of the east entrance from Bathurst Street was also completed a short time ago. In future, this entrance will function more as a secondary entry point, open for special events only, so we can direct museum visitors to our main entrance and Visitor Centre at 250 Fort York Boulevard where they can be properly oriented to the site as they begin their visit.

Fort York Guard Reports In

by Ned Gallagher

The 2011 season has been a tremendous success for the Fort York Guard. The Guard expanded to twenty-eight members, and the Volunteer Program, under new Drum Major Baknel Macz, added six young drummers and fifers. Despite this size, the Guard competed in the Fort George Soldiers' Field Day Drill Competition as a single unit–and won! In addition, Patrick Jenish, a new Fort York Guard, stood first in the individual speed loading competition with a time of 12 seconds. A week later, the Guard marched in the Warriors' Day Parade at the CNE, an event with a competitive component that the Guard and Drums had won two years running. This year the Guard took the Re-enactor' Shield yet again.

Fort York Guard on Parade. Credit: Kathy MillsFort York Guard on Parade.It was also a year of great managerial success. Under the care and supervision of Joseph Gill, and with the counsel and hard work of Kevin Hebib, the Guard was able to equip the large staff with all the gear it needs. The Guard also successfully managed a major leadership transformation. Baknel Macz assumed the role of Drum Major with both energy and ability, and Mark Riches reinforced his reputation as a strong manager and commander. With such excellent leadership, a solid group of returning staff, and new equipment, the Fort York Guard will be something to watch during the 2012 Bicentennial.

Ned Gallagher has served with the Fort York York Guard for eleven years, most recently as its Sergeant-Major. Along the way he attended and graduated from Trent University.

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.