Toronto - Multicultural places of worship and Toronto’s National Historic Sites will be in the spotlight during the 2008 installment of Doors Open Toronto, a free annual event that gives visitors an opportunity to explore more than 140 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and social significance. Many of the city’s finest churches, chapels, temples, synagogues and mosques are among the featured buildings this year, as well as structures never before open to the public.

Music will play a big part in Doors Open Toronto 2008, united under the banner Sacred Spaces, Sacred Circles. This year’s event is a collaboration with Tafelmusik Orchestra and the Toronto Consort. Organizers will animate more than a dozen Doors Open Toronto venues with special performances, including an event curated by Raheel Raza with Muslim, Sikh and Hindu musicians, choir concerts and an early-morning Aboriginal ceremony at the Gardiner Museum. Also at the Gardiner, world-renowned stained glass artist Sarah Hall narrates a presentation of her captivating work in Toronto chapels, churches, synagogues and a Bishop’s residence (The Colour of Light) on May 24 at 4 p.m.

“Toronto is truly a gathering place for the world’s cultures,” said Rita Davies, Executive Director of Toronto Culture. “The Sacred Spaces, Sacred Circles theme transcends religious and national boundaries and promises to be a vibrant cultural exchange that brings together Toronto’s highest aesthetic and spiritual ideals.”

Among the many Doors Open Toronto annual highlights is the newly completed stone and marble temple at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a masterpiece of design and workmanship with glistening domes and ornate pillars. Built according to the principles of ancient Indian Shilpshastras, no structural steel was used in the construction of this architectural wonder. It is located near Finch Ave. and Highway 427.

Also in the city’s northwest area is Congregation Darchei Noam, Toronto’s only Reconstructionist Synagogue, located at 864 Sheppard Ave. W. Designed by Les Klein and Quadrangle Architects, the building includes contemporary interpretations of traditional synagogue forms and uses unique materials such as Jerusalem stone and Jatoba wood. Inside, the sanctuary features a floating fabric ceiling intended to evoke the traditional Tent of Meeting.

Other Sacred Spaces, Sacred Circles featured on the Doors Open roster for the first time include: Friends House, a Quaker meeting place; Masjid Toronto, a mosque in the heart of downtown; Saint-Simon-the-Apostle, an 1887 Arts-and-Crafts edifice near Sherbourne and Bloor Sts.; Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, a gothic revival building near Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. (the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir performs Saturday, May 24 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.) and; the Toronto Public Labyrinth in Trinity Square Park.

Toronto is also home to 34 of Canada’s National Historic Sites, many of which will be featured on the Doors Open Toronto itinerary. In partnership with Doors Open Toronto, Parks Canada will launch National Historic Sites Urban Walks: Toronto. This includes historic Fort York, the birthplace of Toronto and final resting place for countless soldiers who died defending this British colonial citadel. Other featured National Historic Sites include the Chapel of St. James-the-Less, Osgoode Hall, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, Old City Hall and the private Arts & Letters Club (originally St. George’s Hall).

The public is also invited into buildings that may not be sacred but are nevertheless significant. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, George Brown College opens the doors to its newly acquired storefront property at 215 King St. E., future home of the Chef School - George Brown College. Adapted by Gow Hastings Architects, the College’s new addition integrates modern architectural details into a 1917 heritage building (former home to Pasquale Bros.). A dramatic chef-centred identity will be achieved by locating and displaying the open kitchen and food preparation area at street level.

Note: The 9th annual Doors Open Toronto runs Saturday and Sunday, May 24 and 25. Building hours vary; most buildings are open on one or both days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., however there are always exceptions. Confirm times for each venue. No pre-registration or tickets are required. The complete list of buildings and hours will be available at www.toronto.ca/doorsopen on May 1. The official Doors Open Toronto pull-out program guide will be published in the Toronto Star prior to the event weekend. Public event information: 416-338-3888.

Doors Open Toronto is a Signature Event of Toronto Culture and Live With Culture. Live With Culture is a celebration of Toronto’s extraordinary arts and cultural communities, shining a spotlight on the vibrant and diverse activities happening in the city each and every day. Toronto Culture promotes the development of arts, culture and heritage throughout the city, providing direct cultural services through its museums, historic sites and visual arts centres, and supporting the entire cultural sector of the community.

For more information, visit www.toronto.ca/culture and http://www.livewithculture.ca/.