Fort York Visitor Centre
The visitor centre exhibitions celebrate Fort York, the War of 1812’s Battle of York and its legacy that created Toronto, the vibrant, multicultural city we know today.
- City of Toronto
- Fort York Visitor Centre, National Historic Site
- 5,000 sq. ft.
- Exhibit Design, Graphic Design, Master Planning
- Toronto, ON, CA
- Year Completed
As the birthplace of urban Toronto, Fort York is a key component of the city’s history, which is largely unknown in the greater community. As part of a series of major initiatives to rejuvenate the site, the City of Toronto built a new visitors centre to introduce and provide a context for this important National Historic Site. Additionally, the site provides Class A environmentally-controlled exhibition space to showcase the City’s collection. The new exhibits were initiated to coincide with the anniversary of the War of 1812, providing both a history of the Fort and a showcase for Toronto’s historical transition from the town of York, a trading outpost, to the metropolis of today. They include a new orientation film and an immersive multimedia experience along the ramp that runs through the building and up to the fort gates.
- I would like to thank you and your staff for all of your hard work over the last few years…we are very happy with the result… My special thanks for assigning Pauline who I think is a very talented person and a great pleasure to work with.David Spittal
The exhibitions at the visitor centre are divided across the public lobby spaces and the new exhibition spaces of the building. We looked for every opportunity within different exhibit styles to help visitors understand that the quiet urban oasis of today was once a muddy, bloody battlefield.
We chose premiere objects from the City’s collection to display in the lobby, alongside key visitor questions to provide context for site. The orientation film is modern and fast paced. The Vault is designed as a series of precious treasure chests, which give the City a permanent framework to change highlight collections and a place to showcase their most precious objects, the flags flown during the battle, the Fort’s Colors.
A key feature is a 150-foot long ramp that runs through the building up to the level of the Fort. Designed as an immersive experience, it takes visitors through the battle with sound, video and projections. From the ships on the horizon to a fight through the Forest, visitors become part of the action, including the explosion that ended it all.
R&P also developed an inaugural exhibition which deconstructed the outcomes of the War of 1812. It addresses major political legacy issues from defining our border to immigration to our traumatic relationship with First Nations; all impacted by the War of 1812 and its aftermath.
R&P worked closely with City of Toronto curators and the base building architects to help create unique, compelling visitor experiences that compliment the impressive architecture of the new building. The exhibits are bold and fresh, carefully paced to offer a variety of experiences in a relatively compact building. Visitors have welcomed the new installations as dynamic and modern and an excellent companion to the experience of a walkthrough of the historic site. As an offshoot of this project, we also had the opportunity and honor to install a portion of the First Nations components at the Mississaugas of the New Credit community centre with whom we had worked with to develop the content.