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A chance to take a peek behind the scenes

The new Breslau headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 804 is one of the buildings available for touring as part of this weekend’s Doors Open Waterloo Region event. [Submitted]

Poking around behind closed doors makes you nosy most days of the year, but Saturday is an exception.

Some 34 sites, including various heritage buildings, architecturally unique structures, and unique sites will be open to the public for the 16th annual Doors Open Waterloo Region.

“There’s a couple of sites in Woolwich this year,” said organizer Karl Kessler. “We always try to have rural, agricultural sites on every year, because so much of our region is agricultural land. We want to make sure we include that.

“And people love to visit farms. Because so many of us live in cities, right? We don’t get a chance – unless we have a farming background – we don’t really have a lot of familiarity with that. So we always try to have one on.”

Woolwich sites that will be represented include Elmira’s Own, a farm dedicated to growing tomatoes. Guests will have the opportunity to tour the greenhouse and learn how the produce is grown year-around.

“Another one in Woolwich is the Woolwich Township joint fire/EMS station in Breslau,” said Kessler. “It was designed by a local architect, and it combines EMS and fire under one roof. It’s interesting because it’s the first one in Woolwich that’s a combined first-responder facility. So people will be able to tour that and see how a facility like that operates. And what goes into making sure that they’re always ready. And how the design of the building fosters the best use of the space.”

Other local areas include the Stevanus Family Farm in Bloomingdale. The farm grows a variety of produce and explains their community supported agriculture program, where people subscribe to get certain produce throughout the growing season.

“There’s also the IBEW 804, which is the local electricians’ union,” said Kessler. “They have a brand new building out in Breslau. It’s really cool. It’s a nice architectural design, but they also have an 8,000-square-foot electrical training workshop where people can tour and try their hand at some basic electrician skills.”

Every building has a unique learning opportunity in itself. Every Doors Open event has a specific theme – for example, 2017 was centred around science and tech. This years’ theme is Places, Patterns, and Plans.

“What the theme is trying to cover, with all the changes we’ve had; so many physical changes we’ve had to the region in terms of our environment,” explained Kessler. “It’s a chance to highlight different aspects of those changes. It’s basically our planning, our built environment. So it’s things like public spaces, infrastructure, urban planning, land use, transportation and overall architectural design. It’s a little bit of how our cities and townships look the way they do. The sites have to do in some way, to tell that story.”

Other structures selected for the event span all across the region including Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge. It is designed to be a drop-in, with guests moving around the spaces at their leisure. For specific sites, there will be guided tours. Last year saw some 17,000 guests across 50 locations.

“We hope that people will see something new in the region where they live if they’re from Waterloo Region,” said co-coordinator Jane Snyder. “And if they’re visited, we hope they get a sense of what life in the region is about.”

“To think a little more about how we use our buildings, especially this year with our theme, how we use our spaces around us,” added Kessler, on the aim of Doors Open. “Sometimes it’s to appreciate the beauty of a particular building, of a building that is thoughtfully designed, it’s also about getting the stories about people who use the buildings and what they like about them. And what it means for people to live and work in certain spaces day in and day out, and how it affects them. We’re in buildings a lot; they undeniably structure our lives, so it’s good to think about them once in a while.”

Admission is free. Doors Open will take place across various sites from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on September 15 (Saturday). More details are available at Doors Open Waterloo Region.

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