Bricks that Work

We made it! Dana and I arrived in Toronto at about 2 pm yesterday. He’s here to create a National Student Food Charter–that is, he’s here to unite the stated culinary desires and sustainability preferences of students from across this great nation into a single unified, cohesive document, which will be used as a reference for students at about 1/3 of Canada’s universities (to start) as they take names, rock the boat, and change food purchasing standards.

I’m mainly just here to eat…and watch TV…and blog…and study for the NCLEX. It’s not as exciting.

Full disclosure: I’ve been aching for a roadtrip for quite a while. It’s only 5 hours from Ottawa to Toronto, but it was a great way to scratch that itch. I may have gone a little picture-crazy when we made our first sightseeing stop in Toronto.

Our first sightseeing stop was not at the Home Depot.

The Don Valley Brickworks is a building/historical site with a loooooong history. As the name cleverly suggests, it began as a brick factory, and bricks from this fine institution can be seen in 68 current Toronto buildings.

In the factory days, there were 4 “chimneys” that piped smoke into the sky and clearly identified the name of the factory…just in case anyone forgot. The chimney towers read “Don” “Valley” “Brick” “Works”, but nowadays people just think this place is called “Valley”.

Just kidding. They don’t think that.

After the brickworks stopped working bricks, it was abandoned. This would be a tragic loss of history, but not everyone forgot this place…ravers (is that a word? Rave-attendees sounds less appropriate) , rebellious teenagers, and other youthfully indiscreet Torontians remembered. They HARDCORE remembered. If the graffiti and old stories are any indication, these walls have seen some killer parties. I think this place would be super-spooky at night, but maybe that makes a good rave? Clearly I’ve been to so many.

It’s a good thing that flower on the window’s a new renovation…the graffiti-taggers would have had a field day (see what I did there?)!

After the Rave Days, the place fell in to more and more serious disrepair…until now.

Now, this place is a living art/educational/economical/ecological center.

While the “bones” of the place have remained the same (see above), there have clearly been some updates–the space now houses several gardens, a pizza oven (!!!!), a store, a cafe, and a project center (where the old kilns used to be).

There are weekly tours and events for all ages, and the back of the campus (where the chimney tower is) opens to a few condensation ponds and myriad hiking trails. There’s ice skating in the winter, ecological exhibits year-round (the above photo is a living wall that depicts Toronto’s 5 main rivers and explains watersheds), and a hefty plant sale in the summer.

Which is where, in an amazing show of self-control, I didn’t buy this Bay Laurel.

I really enjoyed this place. It felt a bit “disrepaired”, but that’s part of the history/point/charm. I don’t see this feeling going away when it’s completely finished, either (there are a million future plans in the work). The materials for the reconstruction have mostly been donated, and as a result, there’s a permanent throw-in-the-kitchen-sink-and-we’ll-make-it-work vibe. The bricks for the new walkways, for example, were donated from other construction projects in Toronto…and so they don’t really go together.

But the people standing on the bricks totally do.

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