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competition underway for major art commissions in west don lands

Waterfront Toronto has convened a distinguished jury, including art and design experts and a member of the local community, to evaluate proposals for three public art sites along Front Street east of Cherry. The jury will recommend the winning concepts this month and the commissions will be complete by summer of 2015. We are excited to share some of the proposed concepts here online.

This competition represents the next phase of the West Don Lands Public Art Strategy, which provides a framework for integrating art into the public realm that celebrates the industrial heritage of the West Don Lands site, as part of looking forward to a sustainable, vibrant future. The three commissions are being undertaken simultaneously in a continuing effort to build a West Don Lands art collection that is unique and expresses the on-going narrative of the site.

The proposals entered into the competition come from a shortlist of emerging, mid-career and established artists who represent high-calibre talent from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Artists were invited to make proposals that would animate the public realm at each of the three designated sites: the Pan Am Legacy, the Children’s Art Zone and the Front Street Landmark.

Ten of the shortlisted artists granted Waterfront Toronto permission to publish snapshots of their concepts. All associated copyright and intellectual property is retained by the artists.

Pan/Parapan American Games Legacy

The largest of the three sites, located at the intersection of Bayview Avenue and Front Street , is the centre of the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Athletes’ Village. The selected artwork will commemorate the legacy of the Games, which acted as a catalyzing force in the revitalization of the West Don Lands. Proposals include (in alphabetical order by artist name):

Wolfgang Buttress – Oculus 
Artist’s description: “Oculus creates a commanding, ethereal presence and lends a sense of purpose for activities and meetings, and focus for contemplations and reflections. Views of the rural hinterland, the urban realm and the skies above are framed and celebrated by Oculus. It is a new landmark, a destination point and a beacon, defining and celebrating a confident sense of place. Inspired by an abstracted cedar leaf to symbolise shelter, enclosure and nature’s life cycle, Oculus’ fundamental and inherent patterns and rhythms earth the sculpture into the site and within the viewer’s perceptions.”


Jun Kaneko – Temporarily Untitled
Artist’s description: “My concept for this proposal is to visually unify the Streets and Park at the public art site with an engaging highly visible focal element during the day and evening. Its contemporary vertical form is wrapped with bold colors emphasizing the horizontal movement of pedestrians, automobiles and the architecture. The colors resonate the circadian cycle of energy and light from the urban park and residential activity. Darker bands at the upper strata disappear around the brighter colors and float them in the sky at night while defining a vertical presence in daylight.”

John Alan McEwen – A Legacy of Rings and Animals
Artist’s description: “John McEwen’s proposal consists of two life-size animals cloaked in skins of stainless steel stars and a monumental penannular ring. When dusk falls, flame-like filaments close the gap in the ring with an animated program of flickering flames. The two animals, a lion, perhaps stepping off a coat of arms and a bear perhaps stepping out of the Pleistocene internally glow as they head towards the ring and towards the Don River. Momentarily real as they step out of context they and the ring do not belong to anyone or any institution but only to the imagination of each person passing by.”

Blue Republic and The Third of May Arts Inc. also submitted proposals for the Pan/Parapan American Games Legacy site, but declined to have their work posted here.

Children’s Art Zone

The middle site, located one block west of Bayview Avenue and Front Street, will contain artwork that seeks to engage with children. The winning proposal will attract and engage the young and the young-at-heart, inviting thoughtful and playful interaction. Proposals include (in alphabetical order by artist name):

Ernest Daetwyler – Where the Wild Things Are
Artist’s description: “The project Where the Wild Things Are for the Children’s Art Zone will engage children and adults alike on an immediate, personal level, connecting to the common childhood experiences we all share, with animals reminding of fairy tales told over generations and a maze, that proves to be, upon further inspection, Block 16 on Front Street. Further, by featuring the wild animals that are still present or periodically appear in Toronto and surrounding areas, we become aware of issues of co-existence. The project will inspire critical discourse and encourage a public of diverse cultural backgrounds and ages to meet, interact, talk and have fun.”

FRIENDSWITHYOU – The Sound of Time
Artist’s description: “The Sound of Time is a narrative figurative sonic garden that builds on the sonic past of the industrious area where it’s located, and delivers a whimsical, uplifting, and relaxing experience to future visitors. As people engage with the art works, each piece will vibrate low sound tones that act as a healing device for the purpose of spiritual consciousness. Following each pathway and banging each bell-like object prompts playful imagination and thought provoking entertainment via a nontraditional play environment. FWY has created a multi-sensory and multi-feature environment, which allows for child-like exploration within a fine art, public space, accessible to both kids and adults alike.”

Young and Giroux Project Inc. – untitled
Artist’s description: “This sculpture is made of standard playground components and materials and is a CSA certified playground. It is modeled on the generic two-tower + podium residential developments that are ubiquitous in the city. In some areas, the surfaces of the sculpture will have illustrations of scenes from nature, industry and urbanization engraved into them. This multi-coloured and abstracted paneling will simultaneously invoke both contemporary high-rise cladding systems, as well as the varied panels on the page of a comic book. Children will be able to play inside the podium of ‘the building’, which will be a custom-designed rope climber.”

Atelier Daily Tous Les Jours Inc. and Implosion Post Media Ltd. also contributed proposals for the Children's Art Zone site, but declined to have their work posted here.

Front Street Landmark

The western-most site, one block east of Cherry Street, will feature artwork that acts as a landmark or gateway for people travelling from the downtown core to what is anticipated to be an intensely animated stretch of Front Street East. Proposals include (in alphabetical order by artist name):

Havel Ruck Projects – Tkaronto
Artist’s description: “HRP proposes a sculpture composed from 100% repurposed aluminum / steel boat hulls, strategically ‘sliced’ and assembled to create public space that is both monumental and intimate. Angled hulls jutting upward will form “narrows” in relationship with each other, the surrounding plaza, and visitors. The sculpture would be fully integrated into the established paving plan of the pedestrian plaza, and would include dramatic up-lighting in the evening. Small perforations in a gradient pattern suggest the starry sky at night, and the dappled light of trees during the day. Among these perforations, the public will be engaged by views through larger telescoping portals through the boats, creating light and visual connections across the sculpture and the surrounding context.”

Tadashi Kawamata – untitled
Artist’s description: “Tadashi Kawamata’s proposal for Block15 is a twelve meter high tower, a sculpture of lampposts, which will contrast with the orthogonal geometry of buildings and street lines, and the efficiently organized public space. The sculpture’s nature is made of lampposts, accumulated to create a tower structure, holding themselves together, like the mikado sticks do right before they fall. At night, lampposts will glow creating an internal volume which will be brightly lit and the lampposts will be visible in contrast. They will cast their mikado-like shadows on the adjacent pavement.”


Rodney LaTourelle – City Units
Artist description: “The artwork consists of four twisted columns that provide a Front Street ‘gateway’ to the West Don Lands and function as modest markers for the history and transformation of this neighborhood through a sustainable, material-based approach. Constructed from reclaimed brick, cast concrete, polycarbonate illuminated with solar power, and coloured steel sheets with a smog-eating coating; each column has a specific material and scale that gauges the urban surroundings through direct expression. The artwork subverts the typically autonomous nature of public art by reconciling a formal approach with the everyday experience of the city, while maintaining connections to past and future.”

Paul Raff Studios – Waking Hours
Artist’s description: “Waking Hours embodies the beautiful, intangible geometry of the path of the sun. It traces the angle of the sun between the solstice extremes of winter to summer, December 21st to June 21st. The sculpture’s fourteen sweeping, faceted planes each represent a specific time of day: 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock… and so on. And, each of the planes has laser-cut lines which precisely show the angle of the sun in a day-by-day vertical sequence: December 21, 22, 23… and so on. All 2660 hours of daylight, or “waking hours,” are rendered tangible and legible. The result is an iconic landmark. Its unique and complex three-dimensional form inspires intrigue and exploration.”

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