A citywide open hahs

A recent trip to Toronto happened to coincide with an event they've been doing there for a decade now: Doors Open Toronto, a kind of citywide open house. All weekend, all comers are invited to step inside 175 buildings for a look around, free.

All these buildings, all over town, with all their architectural styles. The grand bank buildings downtown have a few security guards to keep an eye on things, and many venues feature special exhibits and have volunteers on hand to answer questions, conduct behind-the-scenes tours, give talks or offer other activities -- one church we went into not only had a couple performing live music but also invited visitors to go upstairs and ring the church's bell. Ask your inner child how cool that is.

Doors Open partners with Lit City -- Toronto Stories, Toronto Settings, "where books meet buildings," which produces a program of author readings and walks that highlight neighborhoods and landmarks featured in literature.

The kick-off party was held at the Royal Ontario Museum the Friday evening before: free admission, all galleries open, live music and a Lit City panel.

And for four years now, there's been a kid-friendly aspect to cater to children, with a separate guide booklet that emphasizes the open buildings and activities most appealing to the little ones.

Most buildings are open both Saturday and Sunday, roughly from 10-5, and there is no preregistration, no tickets, no admission charge. You just show up and wander around, whether you're a local who's just never seen the inside of some of those edifices you hurry past every day or a tourist who just happened to be in town and thinks, "I can go in here and it's free? Neat. What happens?"

This could translate so readily to Pittsburgh. Think of all the groovy old buildings -- and new green ones! -- we have all over town. All those lavish, ornate bank buildings and theaters/concert halls from the city's golden boom years, all the intriguing renovations and repurposings (Cork Factory, for example), all the new LEED-certified eco-showplaces, the August Wilson, the Warhol, the Kelly-Strayhorn, Byham, Benedum and Heinz Hall, the banks, the colleges and universities, the courthouse, the Cultural District art spaces ... I can't begin to name or even think of them all, but you can probably come up with a half-dozen before the next time you blink. Corporate and historic/preservation sponsorships should be easy to elicit, and the city could pony up some promotional cash. It would provide an opportunity for arts organizations to reach new audiences with some free or low-cost performances, organizations with decaying historic infrastructure might scare up some sympathy and donations, and suburban commuters might work up a little passion for the little-known treasures hidden among the potholes and construction detours and blight like pearls in oysters.

History and Landmarks? CDCP? Visit Pittsburgh? You listening?


1 Response to "A citywide open hahs"

H.O. Blues said... 6/09/2009 9:15 AM

This sounds like a great idea for Pittsburgh. The realtively compact downtown and other areas would be ideal for such an event. Stadiums, museums, lobbies, etc. would be ideal for small performance artists.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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