SPECTRUM OF LIGHT: The doors to Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
By Dennis Kucherawy, Corktown Correspondent
A lot of Torontonians once looked down their noses at Regent Park.
Well, that was then. This is now!
Last week at a prestigious conference in Los Angeles, it was declared a “Great Place” by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA).
Actually, the distinction honors Daniels Spectrum, which its Toronto designers…Diamond Schmitt Architects… describe as “a transformative cultural centre at the heart of downtown Toronto’s regenerated Regent Park Community.”
EDRA’s 46th annual conference was held May 27th to 30th.
The Great Places Awards, EDRA explained in a news release, are unique among programs that honor professional and scholarly excellence in environmental design and pay special attention to the relationship between physical form and human activity or experience. These honors seek to recognize work that combines expertise in design, research and practice and that contributes to the creation of dynamic, humane places that engage our attention and imagination. Award-winning projects reflect an interdisciplinary approach that is enduring, human-centered, sustainable, and concerned with the experiential relationship between people and their environment (built and natural) over time.
In its announcement of the Great Places award recipients, EDRA described Daniels Spectrum – Regent Park as “the centerpiece of a $1 billion renewal of Canada’s largest public housing project in downtown Toronto and a cultural hub for the Regent Park neighborhood.”
“Daniels Spectrum brings together community-based arts and cultural groups and provides professional performance, rehearsal, learning and social enterprise space where none previously existed,” EDRA said. “Operated by the non-profit Artscape, Daniels Spectrum is rooted in nurturing talent, community outreach and providing a sustainable model for future growth.
“It’s about celebrating new programming initiatives and mounting culturally diverse events in world-class facilities, including the main 400-seat Ada Slaight Theatre and additional sound-isolated performance and rehearsal spaces. The tangible benefits of the facility helped to realize a $10-million goal in private donations.”
Daniels Spectrum tenants consist of Native Earth Performing Arts, the Regent Park School of Music, the COBA Collective of Black Artists , the ArtHeart Community Art Centre, Pathways to Education, the Regent Park Film Festival and the Centre for Social Innovation.
Among frequent presenters is Acting Up Stage Company with such hit musical productions as “Once on This Island,” “Falsettos” and “Elegies.”
It also holds special events including, a week from Wednesday, on June 10th, a 65th birthday celebration of Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, one of Canada’s greatest civil libertarians and pioneering human rights activists. The evening will feature cocktails and food and entertainment by some of our finest talent including Canada’s treasure, singer blues/jazz singer Jackie Richardson.
In a news release, Donald Schmitt, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects said he and his colleagues are honored with this recognition: “The design objective was to facilitate interaction among the tenants, students and public and to make the centre a vibrant and welcoming crossroads for the community.”
Daniels Spectrum was one of five “exemplary projects” and a book about architecture, planning, landscape architecture and urban design honored. It shared the “Place Design” category with Group Melvin Design / Sikora, Wells, Appel of New Jersey for its project intended to enliven Roosevelt Plaza Park in the state’s city of Camden.
The 2015 Place Planning Award went to evoleEA of Pittsburgh for the Upper Lawrenceville Community Visioning Targeted Development Strategy and the University of Arkansas Community Design Centre
The 2015 Place Planning Award went to the University of Arkansas’ Community Design Centre for the Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario.
The Place Research award recipient is buildingcommunityWORKSHOP of Dallas, Texas for its study “Race & the Control of Public Parks” that examines the relationship between parks, design and “publicness,” asking “How, when and for whom are parks created?”
The 2015 Place Book Award goes to “Community Matters: Service Learning in Engaged Design and Planning,” edited by Malika Bose, Paula Horrigan, Cheryl Doble and Sigmund C. Shipp.
The winners of this year’s Great Places awards were chosen by an esteemed jury of research and design professionals.
For more information, visit: www.edra.org/greatplaces.
About Diamond Schmitt Architects, www. dsai.ca:
It is a leading full-service architectural firm based in Toronto with an international reputation for design excellence and sustainable design solutions. An extensive portfolio includes performing arts centres, academic buildings, libraries, sports facilities, master plans, residential and commercial buildings. Equally extensive is work completed for the healthcare sector, with life science facilities, research laboratories and hospitals.
About Daniels Spectrum:
Daniels Spectrum has previously been honored with a Civic Trust Award in 2015, Good Design is Good Business Award from Architectural Record Magazine in 2014, and Best New Venue in Canada for Meetings and Events from the BizBash Event Style Awards in 2013.
It is named for The Daniels Corporation, the developer in partnership with Toronto Community Housing Corporation revitalizing the 69-acre post-war public housing community with 5,115 rent-geared-to-income and market rate residential units and amenities.
For more information, visit: www.danielsspectrum.ca
Dennis Kucherawy, a long-time Corktown resident, believes the Daniels Spectrum’s weekly Corktown Ukelele Jam at its Paintbox Bistro gave it the competitive edge to win the EDRA Award. After all, how can the Spectrum not be a “Great Place” if you can learn how to play “Mele Kalikimala” there in time for Christmas?