Holding Up History: Self-Guided Tour
Jan 21
Feb 28 2022
DesignTO projectevent: tour online

‘Holding Up History’ is a two-part program exploring the influence of façadism as an architectural and conceptual strategy for bringing elements from the past into the future. Through a panel talk and self-guided tour, the influence of façadism in the city’s built environment will be discussed.

The City of Toronto is grounded in a rich history and exciting stories. A lot of its history is held in the structures and monuments that form its built environment. As the city develops, a recurring discussion remains: How might these heritage structures be preserved? A conservation strategy that architects and developers have turned to is “façadism.” As a concept, façadism exists in various forms throughout the city. The practice involves incorporating elements of existing structures in the process of innovating new forms. While the palimpsest approach results in the creation of interesting structures, the question remains: How effective is façadism at paying respect to Toronto’s history? 

This self-guided tour highlights 10 different sites across the city featuring diverse applications of façadism in Toronto and heritage conservation alternatives. With personal anecdotes from various community stakeholders, participants will be encouraged to explore and critique structures such as Honest Ed’s, The Drake Hotel, Massey Hall, and Hermant Building, paying attention to factors such as historical and current contexts, as well the communities they were designed for.

‘Holding Up History’ is organized by DesignTO and supported by the Ontario Association of Architects.


  • Ria Al-Ameen (Associate, Giaimo), Sunday School Lofts
  • Christopher Borgal (President, GBCA Architect), EY Tower
  • Norman Clarke (Manager of Real Estate and Procurement, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto), Native Child and Family Services of Toronto
  • Stephanie Mah (Creative Director, Giaimo), Hermant Building
  • Lia Maston (Principal Architect, Firma Architecture), Old North Toronto Collegiate Institute
  • Marianne McKenna (Founding Partner, KPMB Architects), Massey Hall
  • Donald Schmitt (Principal, Diamond Schmitt), The Drake Hotel Modern Wing
  • Lulu Wei (Director, ‘There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace’), Honest Ed’s




Ria Al-Ameen, Christopher Borgal, Norman Clarke, Stephanie Mah, Lia Maston, Marianne McKenna, Donald Schmitt, Lulu Wei



Who should visitors contact with questions regarding accessibility?
Robyn Wilcox