Parkdale People's Palace: Rethinking a Heritage Church as Revitalized Social Infrastructure
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In recent decades, Canada’s church buildings have been steadily declining in number and use due to the increasing secularization of society and the diminished role of Christianity in the country. Rather than demolishing the buildings, methods of adaptation and/or intensification of usage can prolong the buildings of heritage value; however, their revitalization is often impeded by the constraints of heritage and the need for sustainable financial investment, delaying opportunities for creating socially beneficial spaces for the community. Considering the history of Toronto’s church buildings as community-oriented places and the growing demands for an abundance of social infrastructure, this thesis asks: how can a church building in disrepair become more socially relevant to its community through architectural adaptation? South Parkdale is a neighbourhood demonstrating a commitment to social equity in the face of dramatic gentrification forces. Neighbourhood understanding is developed through mapping, photography, and community reports, which reveal degrees of social tension and priorities and provide a basis for surrounding church buildings to work both for and within a robust community-oriented agenda. Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church is selected for its signs of disrepair and intent for revitalization and is explored through photography and drawing. Inspired by key community directions and community-oriented design precedents, this thesis builds on the community’s existing needs to suggest Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church’s transformation into a community food hub. The design proposal introduces new spaces and programming for public connectivity and integration of the many members of community, thus suggesting greater communal usage and renewed social relevance. In its entirety, this thesis argues for an intersection of heritage and social infrastructure empowered by community ideals in order to present socially constructive futures among Toronto’s declining church buildings.
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Matthew Daniel Dlugosz (2023). Parkdale People's Palace: Rethinking a Heritage Church as Revitalized Social Infrastructure. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19917