Welcome to my new weekly “column” about writing spaces in Toronto. It is my intention to profile places around the city where I have written and places where you too can write. It is an idea I have had for a while and I thought now is a better time than tomorrow to get started on this particular adventure through the city in an attempt to explore new writing spaces while also sharing my experiences with other writerly-types who “just can’t work at home.” I hope the journey will be as enjoyable for you as I know it will be for me. Without further ado, let us start with the place I have been writing for the last decade.
When: This particular time was a summer evening, though I have also written here in the morning and afternoon and each has their benefits. Evening is generally less busy which means it is also more quiet. If you arrive early enough, say before 10am, you will find the same atmosphere. Between 11am and 6pm most classes are taking place and thus when the most students and faculty are milling around. This can be an issue with seating, which is why I enjoy either the early morning or evening hours.
I wrote: Blog posts
Inspiration: I come to write at Hart House with inspiration already in check as it is my default office away from home. If you are looking for inspiration you can find it in the Gothic architecture, the sprawling nature of the University of Toronto’s downtown campus and the student life that surrounds you.
Review: Hart House, being a student centre, is busier during the autumn and winter months, though there is still a spattering of patrons in the summer months. My favourite place to write is the small library on the second floor at the west side of the building. They are currently doing renovations but the design is Gothic and it would take more than the month they have allotted to make any major changes to this. What I enjoy the most is the silence of the space and its comfort. If you can wrestle part of a couch away from a napper I find they – the couches – are ideal. The window wells also offer comfort, though the radiators underneath can really belt out the warmth and it can get pretty toasty if you get too close.
In addition to the library, my other favourite spot is the large table in the second floor vestibule near the Gallery Grill. It is great for group writing sessions, but also for solo ventures. And because of the size of the table – think a 4ft. by 4ft. square – you have enough space to set-up a comfortable working space and have all your notes strewn about in whatever manner you desire.
All of the writing space at Hart House is public, with no private rooms for rent so I would say it is best for the actual task of writing. Some rooms are more social and do allow for conversation, but I have mostly come here solo and so have no need for conversing in any way but with my fingers tapping a keyboard.
With respect to outside space, there is a patio on the south side of the building that is more or less connected with the Arbor Room, a cafeteria, that is located in the basement. I would recommend coming with a full laptop battery and sunglasses if you desire to sit outside, though I can’t speak to this specifically because I always find myself wandering inside. Another outside space is the courtyard in the centre of the building. It is quieter and more serene but seating is scarce and because Hart House is also an event space for weddings and conferences, the courtyard space is usually being used for such things. If you want to write in a better “courtyard/atrium” type space, walk the literal 30 seconds next door to the University College building and make your way to its interior. I enjoy this outdoor space more than the one at Hart House.
Hours: 7am to Midnight, literally everyday
Food/Drink: Arbor Room cafeteria; Gallery Grill; Vending Machines
WiFi: Yes, but it is only available to students.
Website: Hart House