Public Space/Public Art


Approaching Red public art.Facing the wall of condos that separates the city from the lake we encounter astonishing new public art. Toronto’s Percent for Public Art program is meant to enhance the public realm in areas of new development such as the rail lands, where just one developer is constructing an entire neighbourhood of 27 new buildings and is incorporating art throughout.

As opposed to established communities making art that reflects them (see the Community Totem story), the strategy behind these new art installations is to provide focal points for fostering community in a brand-new neighbourhood and drawing visitors (and potential real estate customers) through it. On the ground, encounters of the artistic kind can make the walk intriguing. The most engaging are large scale installations in which you can immerse yourself. They draw you in to explore and experience them physically.

The exuberant Fence on the Loose wraps around a building that takes up the entire block, urging you to follow as it seems to race into crannies and around doors in wild abandon. Ribbons of steel become a canopy, flatten along the sidewalk to become benches, chase up between verandas to provide privacy and dangle down to become swing seats. When you sit, your weight affects the whole structure and your sense of stability is shaken as the shudder ripples out across the piece. Bouncing lightly, you are made conscious of the effect your physical presence has on the environment around you.
Click on any image to enlarge.

The form and length of Puente de Luz, the Bridge of Light, are appropriately reminiscent of the shape a train. Crossing, the yellow tubes are playful yet substantial enough visually to give an illusion of structural mass and make you feel secure as you are suspended above the wide expanse of train tracks. A playful pointer directs your eyes westward to the contrast of the old Bathurst Bridge, with its steel and rivets, a serious, no-nonsense heavy-duty bridge.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Enter Approaching Red and the scale of your world shifts within the high narrow passageway, the glossy reflective surface curving so you are compelled forward but can’t see too far ahead. It’s disorienting, yet unlike those sombre, rusted Richard Serra pieces, the lipstick red makes it exciting.
Click on any image to enlarge.

And in the underpass at Spadina, blue lights stuck on the concrete walls like jewels draw you in and through. Are they eyes, are they fish? Light Canoes. Something about the blue exaggerates the sensation of being underneath. Under water? Someplace mysterious, dim but not dark.

Art installations in an area where everything is new and seems indistinguishable can make a location distinctive as it orients you. These works signify the value of public space and express a desire for community. Here you are encouraged to linger, not hunch into your coat, turn up your collar and scuttle quickly into your unit.

The immediate sensory experience of entering, walking through, touching or sitting on these art pieces brings an awareness of our physical selves to the fore. We are in the moment, our mind and our body engaged.

Helping us find our way and find ourselves – both easy to lose in the condo canyons – art can do that.

– Schuster Gindin
Photos by Schuster Gindin

See details of the above work and a complete catalogue of public art at this development here.
See a searchable list of all public sculpture in Toronto here.
Here’s an Akimbo-recommended walking tour with map.

This article is part of our issuePublic Space/Public Art


Great photos and the narrative really draws me in. While the art enriches a sterile condo ghetto I still think the developers get away with murder in not providing green space. Thanks for another thought provoking blog!
Carol Phillips, Richmond Hill

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