North Toronto Collegiate Institute was recently re-built alongside two new condo towers in the Yonge and Eglinton area thanks to a unique partnership between the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Tridel builders. With the high school, originally built in 1912, slowly crumbling and the TDSB not able to foot the bill for repairs, never mind a new building, another approach emerged. TDSB was prepared to sell two parcels of adjacent land that could be spared to a developer who would then build a new school along with condo towers. Tridel was chosen out of ten submissions and the deal resulted in The Republic, a twin-tower condo development built alongside a new school with underground parking, a state-of-the-art theatre, science labs and a green roof. The school and the condo buildings are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.
Happily, a large football-sized sports field and running track are also part of the development and available to the public when the school is not using them for athletic events.
The west side of the school includes several pieces of artwork that were commissioned especially for this space. When residents don’t have a child attending a local school they usually don’t think of the school as part of their community. By adding artwork, the TDSB and the builder have made a gesture to link the school to the community, to increase awareness of its presence, its purpose and history and to enhance the neighbourhood.
These pieces are a welcome addition to a public space and rare among public school properties in Toronto. The descriptions that accompany the photos are mostly what appear on plaques alongside the artwork.
Fibonacci Feedback by Panya Clark Espinal
“The structure and rhythm of this work is based on the Fibonacci series, a numerical integer sequence wherein each new number is the sum of the two before it (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 etc.) Expressed in glass panels as a pattern of alternating units of the NTCI school colours of red and grey, the sequence reflects, extends and compresses, mapping a rhythm of play.”
Mindshadows by Catherine Widgery
“Words are the building blocks for thought. They give shape to our ideas. These cubes embody the energy and power of words within a structure of reason and order. Yet thought is without physical substance so these words dissolve in the shifting light, personifying the effervescence of our intellectual journey.
This painted aluminum sculpture is 70% open space, a metaphor for an open, permeable mind. These words were selected by NTCI students to be evocative without any single interpretation.”
What’s Your Name? by Ilan Sandler
“What’s Your Name? identifies NTCI students, past and present, by reproducing their proper names and handwritten signatures on the sculpture’s stainless steel surfaces.”
These are the names are of the students who attended the original school from 1912 to 2010. Each first name appears only once, with 2053 names shown. These are contrasted with the signatures of alumni and current students.
“‘What’s Your Name?’ is often the first question we ask someone, and by answering we announce ourselves to each other and to the world. During adolescence our relationship to proper names tends to change; a name is no longer something given but something made, crafted and personalized through the deliberate art of the signature. Schools, and particularly high schools, are where the proper name and the signature intersect.”
– Miria Ioannou
Photos by Miria Ioannou
This article is part of our issue: Public Space/Public Art