The Sharon Temple Visitors’ Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario will be the first permanent gallery dedicated to the story of the Temple and the first permanent home for the Temple’s archive of historic artifacts and documents. In 2006, the Toronto Star named the Sharon Temple one of the 10 most architecturally important buildings in Canada. It celebrates the significant role that the Temple and its constructors, The Children of Peace, played in the creation and evolution of responsible government in Canada and the establishment of our modern civil society.
SvN’s design of the Visitors’ Centre responds to the site by lying low and reacting to the undulating terrain – like being draped over the grounds. It remains small in scale as if to demure to the Sharon Temple and the Town Hall of East Gwillimbury, while offering stunning upward views of the Temple. The reverse board and batten cladding echoes the rhythm and haptic sensation of the wood cladding familiar to local vernacular buildings in this rural context. The Visitors’ Centre will be completely accessible with seamless access pathways mitigating the natural terrain and allowing for free movement on the grounds.
SvN’s site and architectural design strategies combine to create a powerful new experience of Sharon Temple and its cultural landscape:
- The site of the new building (including relocation of Temperance Hall) was chosen to open and frame an oblique view of Sharon Temple from Leslie Street near Mount Albert Road, while also enhancing existing site features including topography, hedging and site trees.
- A new arrival court / parking lot is defined by the edge of the existing low lying woodlot.
- The new building creates a seam between the inner temple landscape and the arrival forecourt, improving views to the north from the temple.
- The architecture of the new Visitors’ Centre frames views of Sharon Temple to build a narrative and draw visitors through the building to better understand the cultural and historical significance of the site.
The South Galleries display artifacts from the rich cultural heritage of the Children of Peace, including musical instruments, tapestry and Rebellion Boxes – small wooden boxes carved by prisoners captured during the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. Large expanses of glass frame views of the grounds and offer visitors an uninterrupted, upward view toward the Temple. The interior volumes remain minimal, with painted white walls and vernacular hardwood floors. The artifacts are well lit with pools of light flooding into the space from windows on all walls and an offset, north-tilted skylight.