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Tiny Toronto is Still Gross, But Possibly on the Mend

The model is currently surrounded by this blue curtain.

We posted, a little while ago, about the scale model of downtown Toronto, located in the rotunda at City Hall, which, with its thick layer of grime and its brown beverage stains, was maybe a little too realistic in its miniature portrayal (1:1250, precisely) of the downtown core. We now know that plans are underway to rehabilitate or replace the model―though it could be dismantled and never replaced without help from the public. We also know what caused the model’s slide into decrepitude: Terrorists!

Carolyn Humphreys, a manager in the Urban Design section of Toronto’s department of City Planning, wrote, in an email, that the model was originally constructed to assist planners with drafting the 1991 official plan for the former City of Toronto, and was installed in the rotunda for visitors to view sometime in the mid-nineties. It was originally split into several four-by-four-foot sections, all of which were positioned on a plywood table. The table was surrounded by a floor-length cloth skirt. This arrangement was relatively easy to disassemble, make modifications to, and clean.
Then, 9/11 happened, and it was determined by one functionary or another that the area under the skirted table was a potential hiding place for evildoers. The model was affixed, in one piece, to a solid surface, and the area underneath it was drywalled off. Ever since then, the model has been difficult to maintain.
Tiny Toronto was left to accumulate dust and dirt until a few weeks after our original writeup, when it was cordoned off with a blue curtain (pictured above), to which a note had been attached, asking anyone interested in sponsoring the model’s renewal to call or email the Toronto Office of Partnerships.

Terrorists (and lack of a scale-model maintenance budget) are destroying our miniature city.

“We have a real desire to either fix it up or replace it, and the issue right now is funding,” said Robert Freedman, director of Urban Design for the City. The model hasn’t been changed substantially since the mid-nineties, so revamping it would entail bringing it up to date.
Urban Design, Freedman said, is investigating replacing the model with a newer, more technologically sophisticated one, with buttons and display panels (“Where you could actually have people interact.”). They might also retrofit the existing one. But since they don’t yet have a source of funding, it’s not certain that any of this will happen.
At the moment, the model is in limbo. Unless Urban Design finds a cleaning company with the skills to restore Tiny Toronto to its original glory, they’re going dismantle it and begin contemplating starting from scratch. Do you own or work for a cleaning company with model-cleaning capability? This is your opportunity. Urban Design is looking for two quotes: one for business hours cleaning, one for after-hours cleaning. Applicants should also provide a description of what, precisely, they would do in order to clean the model. If this sounds appealing, get in touch with Urban Design and make us all prouder of our city―and our other, tinier city.
And if you do score the contract, maybe let us know?
(Or, if you or your company would like to sponsor the model’s restoration, send an email to the Toronto Office of Partnerships.)
Photos by Joel Charlebois/Torontoist.


  • http://undefined mizzmonsta

    It doesn’t *have* to be interactive… A simple, static scale model would be perfectly alright!

  • http://undefined deadrobot

    Why not make it an Augmented Reality exhibit? Nice James Cameron/Google Canada tie in!


    It also doesn’t have to be “updated/revamped”. It’s a piece of art from a certain era. Keep it that way. It reminds us of a time when the SkyDome was free of tacky red font…

  • http://undefined rich1299

    It’d be neat if they could do a model like this of the the city every 25 years or so and have them all side by side somewhere so you could see the differences over time, or perhaps on just one model have a series of little trap doors and wee elevators so that you could press a button for a particular year and the buildings that have been torn down would disappear underneath and be replaced with the new buildings arising from below. Sure it would cost a bundle and take a crew to maintain it but it would have a huge neat-o factor.

  • http://undefined Adam

    I agree with the above comments: a simple cleaning would suffice. Then, if the city wanted to introduce a fancier model in future, there would still be something in the mean time for City Hall visitors to admire.
    Sadly, the model doesn’t extend to Dundas and Dupont!

  • Greg

    I think the revamping could be a joint project between the U of T, Ryerson, and Waterloo architecture schools. They have the facilities (woodshops/rapid prototyping). If the city could pay for materials, the students could rebuild it — labour is the greatest cost in such an endeavour.

  • Mark Ostler


  • rek

    That $100 million Miller found can’t cover the cleaning? We need Scotiabank Presents: A Scale Model of Toronto (with Scotiabanks indicated)?

  • http://undefined Bubba

    They should just get rid of it and replace it with a digital version, that anyone can view online or at a kiosk in the rotunda, it will cost very little to maintain and can be easily updated.

  • http://undefined Pan Von Sol

    For a minute there I thought you were describing a Nuit Blanche map…

  • David Toronto

    Architectural firms and museums all have large-scale
    models and they need to be kept clean. Maybe the city
    could ask them for leads and suggestions.

  • Adam Sobolak
  • http://undefined r-dean

    interactive would be cool though.

  • http://undefined Alexander

    Auction it off and use the proceeds to pay for a replacement. A movie studio or real estate developer might want it. If a non-profit group wanted to donate it to a university or the ROM, people could chip in for that.

  • http://undefined jem

    What am I missing? Once clean, it just needs a clear plastic cover. For when not in “use”.