AES Downsview Celebrates its 10th Anniversary - 1981

scroll down for more photos, links and a related article published in the July / August 1981 issue of Zephyr

Building as it appeared on the 10th anniversary in 1981

sculpture by Ron Baird

satellite dish

solar panels to heat water

welcome and directions from long time head Commissionaire Alex Ochocinski

a rare view of the wind tunnel

spacious library

Internal Links detailing planning and photos of the building opening in 1971

The New Home of the Canadian Meteorological Service

Opening of AES Headquarters, 4905 Dufferin St. Downsview

More Photos from 1971

Related Article from July / August issue of Zephyr

AES Downsview Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

This summer the Atmospheric Environment Service (AES) celebrates a modest but important anniversary. It's the 10th birthday of its impressive building, located at 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview in the north west corner of Metropolitan Toronto.

In actual fact, a great deal more than the anniversary of a piece of real estate is being commemorated. It is just 10 years since the Canadian Meteorological Service, formerly under the Department of Transport, became AES, and it is also a decade since the Department of Environment came into being with AES as one of it key arms.

The 10th anniversary of the building is the "concrete" event, however. Looking back over a decade it will be recalled that the structure, located in a spacious, wooded 15-acre site was finished in June 1971, after a rapid two year construction period. And it will be remembered that the building began with a couple of other good omens: it was actually completed for less than its estimated cost - for slightly under $8 million instead of for slightly more than this amount. Furthermore, the reinforced concrete structure cost only $23 per square foot to build compared to $30 for most buildings of similar type at that time.

Official opening in October 29, 1971 (see more via internal links above)

The official opening took place on October 29. Despite the lateness of the season, the weather was exceptionally fine and summer-like. There was a large gathering of invited guests. A special platform was set up in front of the building. flanked by scarlet-coated RCMP officers. An orchestra was specially commissioned. There was an official ribbon-cutting ceremony by Arthur Laing, the then minister of Public Works whose department has continued to be responsible for the physical maintenance of the building, and by Jack Davis, at that time minister of the Environment. Reg Noble the then assistant deputy minister also played a leading role in the ceremony, which was followed by a reception and by tours of the building.

The premises were open for inspection not only by invited guests, but by members of the public, 10,000 of whom trooped through its airy corridors and shiny new installations on self-guided tours during a two day open house period. The route covered the entire building and included such highlights as the 30-meter wind tunnel, the satellite labs and the spacious library. There were also free movies in the auditorium and hostesses on hand to help out in case visitors got lost.

Tours are a tradition

The tradition of arranging tours of the building has been maintained over the decade. The reputation of Canada's number one weather building has spread far and wide, and it's considered a landmark, not only in Toronto, but right across the country. During the year ending April 1981, Information Directorate (ID) conducted some 20 group tours of the premises, consisting largely of teachers, adult students and special interest groups.

Tour leader Jean Schlenkrich (right) reports that the wind tunnel and the satellite lab are still the most popular attractions but that there is considerable interest in the instrument calibration shop, the computer centre, the instrument displays in the large entrance lobby and, during fine weather, in the big white satellite tracking dish and the instrument compound immediately south of the building. ID would have given even more tours if requests from teachers wanting to bring class loads of younger students had been accepted. Because of the difficulty of controlling younger visitors and of the fragility and cost of the material in the building, these requests are usually re-directed to the Ontario Science Centre.

More generally, visitors to the building comment on its spacious layout which makes it easier for personnel in various branches to rub shoulders with one another in other places than the elevator. They also speak about its beautiful surrounding parkland, its leafy inner courtyards and it extensive parking lots.

Even more than the wind tunnel or the satellite dish, the object that symbolizes the building in the eyes of countless passersby is the huge clanging Ron Baird sculpture. Many visitors think its anemometer-like cup wheels or sun-shaped metal disks serve some scientific purpose and are surprised to learn that their function is purely decorative. Its protective oxide coat has ensured that over the years it has rusted in harmony with the weather, yet its steel core has remained intact. Most AES employees tend to ignore the 25 meter high "weather monster" but for almost everyone else it's a living, whirring example of meteorology apotheosized into art.

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