Two hundred years and one month ago—to the day—the rumbling of cannon fire shook the fledgling town of York as nearly 2,000 American troops stormed the shores immediately south of the city’s sole defense, Fort York. The ensuing 'Battle of York', as it would come to be known, resulted in a decisive American victory and a brief looting-filled occupation of the city. Though the defeat at York would prove to be one of our young nation’s darkest moments, an ambitious counter-assault on the U.S. Capitol, where the White House was burned by British forces, turned the tide of the war to the Redcoats’ favour, and contributed to the end of a protracted, territorial war. Two centuries after the bloody Battle of York, a rumbling similar to 19th century cannon fire can be heard near the grounds of the Fort York National Historic Site. But fear not condo residents, we are not under attack!

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoFort York Visitor Centre construction hoarding, image by Jon Hurd

The sound of cannon fire has been replaced by the sound of drills and excavators, as construction is now underway on the Fort York Visitor Centre. The unique concept, designed by Vancouver-based Patkau Architects Inc. and local firm Kearns Mancini Architects Inc., will create a new interpretive pavilion for and entrance to the National Historic Site along Fort York Boulevard, just below the Gardiner Expressway.

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoFort York Visitor Centre, rendering courtesy of Patkau/Kearns Mancini

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoFort York Visitor Centre under construction, image by Jon Hurd

There is plenty of work left to do before the Corten steel and glass façade can begin to rise along Fort York Boulevard. The first concrete and rebar walls are now in place on the long and low building's footprint.

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoConcrete rising from the Fort York Visitor Centre site, image by Jon Hurd

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoConcrete rising from the Fort York Visitor Centre site, image by Jon Hurd

$19 million in funding has been secured from all three levels of government for the $25 million project. The 2-storey, 24,000 square foot building will provide an entrance hall, orientation theatre and an exhibit room, adding significantly to the valuably immersive historical experience that is Fort York.  

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoFort York Visitor Centre under construction, image by Jon Hurd

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoFort York Visitor Centre under construction, image by Jon Hurd

60 feet above, portions of the underside of the Gardiner Expressway will again be illuminated by “Watertable” – a multimedia art installation which transformed a stretch of the aging arterial route’s deck into a display which highlights the original location of the Lake Ontario shoreline. Though the display has been temporarily removed for repair work on the Gardiner, it is to be reinstalled in the near future. Once open in 2014, the Fort York Visitor Centre will be complemented by the dramatic forecourt created out of a newly landscaped under-Gardiner space and by this pre-existing public art piece.

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoFort York Visitor Centre and Watertable, rendering courtesy of Patkau/Kearns Mancini

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoUnderside of Gardiner at Fort York Visitor Centre construction site, image by Jon Hurd

Fort York Visitor Centre, Patkau Architects, Kearns Mancini, TorontoUnderside of Gardiner at Fort York Visitor Centre construction site, image by Jon Hurd

For additional information including building facts and renderings, please visit the associated dataBase page, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the related forum thread, here, or voice your opinion in the comments section provided below.