Ask Torontoist: Fence Makeover in Blansdowne
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Ask Torontoist: Fence Makeover in Blansdowne

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to [email protected].

Reader Joanna Ranieri asks:

At the intersection of Lansdowne and Paton there’s a big, vacant lot with lots of chain-link fence. Recently this amazing painted wooden mural has appeared there, covering the entire fence with shadow cut-outs of local landmarks and buildings. How did it get there?

Torontoist Answers:

A short jaunt north of Bloor on Lansdowne sits the site of the former TTC Lansdowne barns. Built in 1911, the massive brick carhouse formerly occupying the site was, in its heyday, an ultramodern, integral part of the network of streetcar lines that once stretched through Toronto’s west end. After serving Toronto’s transit system for eighty-five years, the barns were retired from use in 1996, and in 2003, the buildings were torn down.
Although it was once rumoured that it would serve as the location for new 14 Division police headquarters, the large corner lot currently sits vacant. The property is contaminated with the common industrial solvent TCE (trichloroethene), which the TTC asserts leached from the former General Electric factory at Ward and Wallace. In 2005, the TTC issued a lawsuit against GE to the tune of twenty-five million dollars in damages. Until the dispute is resolved, the site remains a massive, desolate stretch of gravel and industrial waste. Sexy.
In the fall of 2008, the TTC undertook the commissioning of a piece of artwork to be applied to the fence surrounding the lot with the aim, TTC Chair Adam Giambrone says, of “making the best of the situation” until clean-up can begin. After an open call for proposals and a lengthy selection process, artists Scott Eunson and Marianne Lovink began working on their winning project this past January.

Images courtesy of Scott Eunson and Marianne Lovink.

Eunson and Lovink both live and work in Bloordale, and the series of graphic plywood silhouettes they’ve created is based on imagery from the neighbourhood’s past and present. Splashed across the long stretches of fence like a storyboard, the piece, Lovink tells us, is designed to “animate” the space and to “patch a hole in the fabric of the city.”
It seems to have done the trick. Joanna Ranieri, the reader who asked Torontoist about the installation, says that the corner has become the highlight of her bike ride to work each morning. To get the drive-by experience of this public art gem, see the rough cut of this video by Eunson and Lovink.