Doors Open allows a unique look into Waterloo heritage and architecture

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Photo by Safina Husein

Doors Open Waterloo Region, which took place this past Saturday Sept. 16, 2017, gives individuals the chance to explore the heritage and architecture of unique buildings throughout Waterloo Region.

During the day-long event, almost 50 buildings across the Region opened their doors to the public, allowing them to take free tours of the facilities.

“Doors Open is a chance, it’s an event that give the public a chance to see inside interesting places. They are either interesting for their architecture or what’s going on inside, or for their heritage,” Karl Kessler, co-coordinator of Doors Open Waterloo Region, said.

This year, almost half the buildings and facilities that were open to the public were completely new to Doors Open, while the other half have been a part of the event in past years, but not necessarily last year.

“It’s rare that we have a site on two years in a row. We try to mix it up a lot so that people if they miss it one year, it’ll come back around more often than not,” Kessler said.

“There’s lots of new and exciting sites as we’re building new buildings every year.”

Two sites included in the event were Wilfrid Laurier University’s Library and Lazaridis Hall.

“Buildings, we take them for granted but often you catch yourself wondering what goes on in some places, especially if it’s an interesting looking place. You wonder what that place is about, what goes on in there”

In correlation with Ontario 150 and Canada 150 celebrations taking place throughout this year, the theme for Doors Open Waterloo Region was identity and innovation.

“Those are two words that we hear a lot and sometimes it’s hard, I think, to know what they mean,” Kessler said.

“Those are two words that are branded and used quite a lot locally so what we decided to do with those two words was define them a bit and put a finer point on them.”

For identity, the Doors Open event focused on the many peoples that have made up the Region of Waterloo, including those from pre-settler periods, Indigenous Peoples, all the way to recent immigrant groups.

On the innovation side, explained Kessler, Doors Open included the essential science and technology aspects of the region, but also branched out beyond that to new and unique facilities that are innovative.

In addition to the facility tours that took place throughout the day, there were six public talks that were held for individuals to attend.

“The [talks were] all related in some way either to theme or the overall mandate of Doors Open, which is heritage, architecture and community building in terms of getting inside places and finding out how people use their spaces,” Kessler said.

For example, one of the six talks took place at Ontario’s only surviving stone Mennonite meetinghouse — the Detweiler Meetinghouse. Sam Steiner, a Mennonite historian and author, was the speaker who gave those who attended an overview of life and faith amongst Mennonite settlers.

“Buildings, we take them for granted but often you catch yourself wondering what goes on in some places, especially if it’s an interesting looking place. You wonder what that place is about, what goes on in there,” Kessler said.

“What we hear back from the hosts and from the visitors is how much they enjoy interacting with each other … it just makes them look at these places in a new light.”

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