The westward view from the 54th floor of the TD Bank tower

Seeing the City from on High

Toronto is very much a city of festivals - there's something for everybody, regardless of if you're a foodie, a film buff, a pyromaniac, or one of scores of other interests, be they community, technical, or fanboy. Perhaps the most universal of festivals though, is the one that went on this weekend: Doors Open, a festival celebrating the very fabric of the city in which we live.

This year for Doors Open, I decided to look at the city from its skyline by visiting the 54th floor of the TD bank tower, and then exploring the central hub of the city that is Union Station. As expected, it was stunning.

Union Station's Great Hall from the glass walkway

The TD tower reminded me in a way of a cathedral; it was designed - from the plaza outside, to the continuous marble floor inside, to every table, chair, and painting - for one purpose, and one purpose only: to impress. Architect Mies Van Der Rohe put his hand to designing everything about the building, from the black exterior which was once the tallest building in the British Empire, to the boardroom table and chairs inside. It is a building that screams "Look at how powerful we are" and it does so with aplomb.

Union Station, on the other hand, was designed both to be an impressive marker of the centrality of rail travel, but also to be a building for the people. Mighty as it is, and as secretive as its back rooms and hidden corridors may have been, it is firstly a functional building. Much of it in a state of disuse right now, aside from the occasional film shoot (our tour guide sarcastically reference the 'great works of American cinema' that are American Pie 2, and 16 Blocks), but still our city lives and breathes around it. Amazingly, the current Union Station redevelopment fiasco seems only an echo of the original, which took over a decade to get built due to inter-governmental wranglings over who should pay how much and for what. The view from halfway up the great hall though, for an aerophobic like myself, was terrifying.

It was a good day all in all. Doors Open is a wonderful festival, and it's only too bad that we don't have an opportunity to explore Toronto to such depths more often.


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