This evening, Toronto Culture and Fort York are unveiling a permanent public art installation under the Gardiner Expressway (off Fort York Boulevard, between Bathurst and Fleet Streets). In WATERTABLE, Toronto artists Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak use video and lights to create the effect of rippling water on the underside of the highway—a reminder that the Gardiner runs along what used to the original shoreline of Lake Ontario. Ever wonder why the the Toronto Harbour Commission building is notably not on the harbour? It used to be surrounded by water on three sides!
The installation marks the new entrance to Fort York, and the City’s first attempt to turn the Gardiner into something that doesn’t inspire public hatred. It is often seen as a fence, or wall even, that separates the waterfront from vibrant city life. But while the cry for the Gardiner’s destruction is loud and clear, the total demolition of the highway is financially unfeasible. Maybe it’s time to try loving the Gardiner.
Last August, Torontoist considered ways that the Gardiner itself could be revitalized, applauding cities like Shanghai and Paris for their solutions for incorporating infrastructure into the urban landscape. Is public art the solution to making the Gardiner more permeable, so that downtown culture can diffuse through to the waterfront? It’s possible. For now, it makes the Gardiner a little easier to like.
Councillor Joe Pantalone (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina) will join city staff for an open house at Fort York’s Blue Barracks tonight from 4–7 p.m. Hat tip to CanCult.