Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Native Child and Family Services: Doors Open Toronto

Another one of the buildings I staked out to see during the Doors Open Toronto weekend was that of the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. This building from the outside, in a office block on College Street, is pretty nondescript from the street level. But it was the unique features that ensured that I made the trip up this far north of the city grid.

A self-guided tour once inside the front doors, the space was immediately open plan and light. The leaflet available informed me that this four-storey building was the result of a need to bring together the various aspects of this service from their originally scattered locations. This service was founded to assist Native families access services from a single point of entry, within a service managed by the community.

One of the most outstanding features of the building is the Longhouse, or the People's House, situated in the middle of the main floor. Reportedly modelled on a teaching lodge at Curve Lake, this one is made of ceder and used as a central meeting room.

The lighting inside the Longhouse is made to simulate fireside atmosphere, and the space allows for a table or just chairs, arranged in a circle, which is a traditional aspect of ceremony.

The dome of the Longhouse is a real feature, but then the light and cascading greenery at the sides of the stairways are also a real theme within the building. All along the frosted glass walls of the offices and meeting rooms upstairs are animal images, and downstairs there is a wall of traditional greetings in a number of Native languages, from territories around Toronto and and greater Ontario.

The rooftop of the building is a green roof, with a garden planted with traditional medicines. These have been planted in a traditional manner up here on this green oasis surrounded by tall city buildings.

In addition to the patches of garden and paths is the Healing Lodge, which brings ceremony to the city dwellers accessing the service.

This is truly a beautiful and carefully planned, space for this service, bringing urban design, environmental considerations, along with traditional and important cultural features of Aboriginal Canada together to create an amazing place to work and seek assistance.

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