Heritage building opens their doors to Waterloo Region

Photo by Jess Dik
Photo by Jess Dik

Region of Waterloo businesses and buildings invited in region residents this past Saturday with the celebration of the annual Doors Open Waterloo Region.

The concept of opening up heritage buildings to the public began in France over 20 years ago and quickly spread. The first North American event was put on by the City of Toronto in 2000.

Two years later, Doors Open Ontario was launched, and the decision to run and fund the event was taken on by the region, from which Doors Open Waterloo Region emerged.

Since it began 14 years ago, the event has been embraced by residents, with organizers relying on word-of-mouth and user social media to help grow and popularise Doors Open, a duty which Kitchener-Waterloo residents performed with enthusiasm, even managing to have the hashtag #DOWR2016 trend on Twitter in the area.

“It’s an event that can tend to be geared a little bit more towards heritage, a little bit more towards architecture, it’s a little bit academic in a way, so we’ve tried to make sure that Doors Open is really about just getting into interesting places,” said Karl Kessler, Doors Open Waterloo Region coordinator.

“We try to have a broad mandate for Doors Open, and in doing that we want to make sure that we engage the community and that they feel that.”

This past weekend had the highest number of participating locations in the event’s history in K-W, with a total of 48 buildings open to the public.

Buildings end up being a part of Doors Open in a myriad of ways, either by contacting the group, scoring high on the annual visitors’ survey, or catching one of the coordinators’ eye while out scouting the region.

This year, Doors Open Waterloo Region decided on a theme of ‘Into Science + Tech,’ which was fitting, considering the recent boom in industry offices set up in the area, including this years’ most popular Doors Open Waterloo Region venue, Google’s Kitchener office.

“We’ve never done science and tech on its own as a theme, so there was lots to choose from,” said Kessler. “It was a good time to do it, there’s been so much growth—I mean we could have done it five years ago and been fine, but there’s been so much growth.”

To fit in with the theme, Laurier opened up its own Science building as part of Doors Open, offering tours of the building and having professors and students on hand to walk participants through labs and research work.

“We opted to open the science building and we worked with Dr. Ken Maly to have those exhibits upstairs, as well as to have faculty of science students to show the innovative work that’s happening on Laurier’s campus, related to science and technology,” said Siobhan Bhagwat, coordinator of ceremonies and events at Laurier.

“A lot of times people are aware of Laurier in the community, but they don’t quite recognize how many amazing things are happening here.”

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