[URBAN NOTE] Matthew Hague on the Winter Stations of Toronto
The Globe and Mail‘s Matthew Hague describes the various installations planned for this year’s iteration of Winter Stations, at the Beaches. I can’t wait.
During the year’s grimmest month – February, when our shoes can handle the salt stains no more – Toronto’s annual Winter Stations event, now in its third and most creatively ambitious year, is a revelation. The public art event in the city’s Beach neighbourhood involves eight teams of artist and designers from Canada and around the world erecting thoughtful, provocative and fantastical structures that draw people out of their hibernation.
The theme of this year’s iteration is Catalyst, and the most exciting installations challenge viewers to change their perceptions on an important issue and even instigate change themselves. One called Flotsam and Jetsam, designed by a team of architecture students from the University of Waterloo, looks like a beautiful, 20-foot high sculpture of a fish. On closer inspection, its torso, filled with plastics, is a commentary about how our reliance on disposable packaging is polluting the environment.
Another, Collective Memory, by a Spanish and Italian team, is composed of bottle-lined walls. Visitors are encouraged to take and leave messages about their experiences immigrating to Canada, using the bottles as the means of exchange. The concept was inspired by the statistic that by 2031 nearly half of Canadians over 15 will be foreign born or born to foreign parents, and through public interaction it should tell a compelling, complex and dynamic narrative about what it’s like to land on new shores.
Inspired by Winnipeg’s Warming Huts: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice, an annual public art event that has been running since 2009, the Winter Stations competition started in 2015 and interest in it has grown steadily since. This year, the most submissions yet (over 350) came in for the eight pavilions. There are few formal requirements to enter a proposal. The entrant doesn’t have to be a registered architect, professional artist or have a portfolio of projects (“We’ve had children submit ideas,” says architect Aaron Hendershott, one of the event’s organizers). The proposal simply has to incorporate one of the lifeguard stands that are spaced along the shore and be realistically buildable within a $10,000 budget (the funding comes from a variety of sponsors, including Hendershott’s firm, RAW Design).
To stand out, it also helps to take risks, as many of the best Winter Stations have in the past. “The proposals that excite me the most are maybe the most difficult to pull off,” Hendershott says. “Some, on paper, I just don’t know if they are going to pan out. But then they work in the most wonderful and awesome ways.” Last year, for example, there was a public (clothing-mandatory) sauna and a wood-burning fire pit, both of which Hendershott believes became “community assets” for the winter.