Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 47 - 13 Public Works of Art in Downtown Toronto

1 - Freedom Arches at reflecting pond and ice rink at Nathan Phillips Square by Finnish architect Viljo Revell - 1965

Photo by Ahmed F.

Toronto's signature icon after the CN Tower, this public space is in constant use by the city's residents. Installed in 1965, the arches in the pond were dubbed Freedom Arches in 1989:

"The Citizens of Toronto dedicate these arches to the millions who struggled including Canadians, to gain and defend freedom and to the tens of millions who suffered and died for the lack of it. May all that we do be worthy of them." (

"The design is based on the idea that Nathan Phillips Square acts as an agora, the ancient Athenian place of public and political exchange. The theme clearly defines the inner open space of theatre and square – a theatre for the city, and a square surrounded by a forested perimeter." (

2 - The Endless Bench at the Hospital for Sick Kids by Lea Vivot - 1984

'The Endless Bench was donated by Kleinburg artist Lea Vivot in remembrance of her son Morris who died in 1979, and installed by the hospital in honour of the sesquicentennial of the City of Toronto and the bicentennial of the Province of Ontario.' - Helen Simeon,

3 - Pas de Trois (1), corner of University and Wellington, by Russel K. Jacques - 1984

Constructed of stainless steel and granite.

4 - Warrior With Shield, currently installed at the top of the Grand Staircase in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, by Henry Moore - 1953/54

Warrior With Shield is on loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario as it undergoes renovations during this 18-month period. Keeping the statue on public display, this loan is a marvellous example of art's role within the community. It bridges the city's history with the AGO as it establishes a new relationship with the new opera house.

5 - Per ardua ad astra
"Through adversity to the stars",
corner of University and Queen, by Oscar Nemon - 1984

Referred to by detractors as 'Gumby Goes to Heaven',
it honors Canadian pilots who were awarded the Victoria Cross.


William Avery Bishop
Alan Arnett McLeod
William George Barkek


Andrew Charles Minarski
David Ernest Hornell
Ian Willoughby Bazalgette
Robert Hampton Gray

6 - Sharp Centre For Design, Ontario College of Art and Design, at McCaul and Dundas, by English architect Will Alsop - 2004

The new Faculty of Design building has "received numerous awards, including the first-ever Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award, the award of excellence in the 'Building in Context' category at the Toronto Architecture and Urban Design Awards, and was deemed the most outstanding technical project overall in the 2005 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards." (Wikipedia)

7 - Lake Devo (Devonian Square) Ryerson University, at Gould and Victoria, by Richard Strong and Steven Moorhead, Landscape Architects - 1978

This is the pond behind what used to be the Film and Photography building at my university (the yellow brick building shown below.) This is definitely one of my favorite spots in Toronto.

"In the late 1970's, financing from a group of charitable organizations, especially the Devonian Foundation (started by the son of Western petroleum entrepreneur and lawyer Eric Lafferty Harvie), and from the City of Toronto, turned the northern block of Victoria Street into a pedestrian mall. To the south of this, trees, rocks, fountains and an ornamental pool/skating rink were added to encourage use of the campus by non-students." - Ronald Stagg

Recently, the re-opening of Lake Devo after extensive renovations ensured that "people who live in the neighbourhood, people who work, people who study there: we all together share this part of the city," said City Councillor Kyle Rae. The new addition to the business building with frontage on Lake Devo was done by Rounthwaite Dick & Hadley (RDH) Architects, Inc.

"The building design reflects the major themes of Ryerson's Master Plan: intensification, making efficient use of small and valuable urban properties; 'people first,' with a focus on creating a pedestrian friendly campus including open green spaces and informal meeting places; and design excellence, a commitment to new and inspirational academic and student spaces." (Heather Kearney, Public Affairs, Ryerson University)

8 - Larry Sefton Memorial between Trinity Square and Bay St., by Jerome Markson - 1977

Larry Sefton Park was built and donated to the City of Toronto by members of the United Steelworkers of America.

Constructed of bronze and steel.

Before I knew the context for this sculpture, it appealed to me as a choir member. It reminded me of my alto section.

9 - Pillars of Justice at The McMurtry Gardens of Justice, at the Courthouse on University Ave., by Edwina Sandys - 2007

"The sculpture will be prominently displayed on the east side of University Avenue in front of the courthouse to which jurors report." (Emma Jowett -

The sculptor left one of the pillars open for the observer to insert himself or herself. This was the first piece of art that made me stop and get my camera out, with the idea of showcasing Toronto's public art. That missing juror really engaged me.

Second photo from

10 - The Pasture at the courtyard of the Toronto-Dominion Centre, King and Bay, by Joe Fafard - 1985

Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard created this majestic and restful bronze sculpture installation which has become an important haven to Torontonians. In the heart of the financial district, the sounds of the hustle and bustle are kept away by the four towers of the Toronto-Dominion Centre. The reference to a bull market nestled serenely on Bay St. (Canada's money trading center) is finely portrayed. "Bull markets are characterized by optimism, investor confidence and expectations that strong results will continue." (

I'll always remember how I felt when I first discovered this piece, turning the corner in the highrise labyrinth of the Big City. It always makes me feel so happy to see how many other people are drawn to The Pasture, for a few moments of respite, even if the Big City is what makes our heartbeats sing.

Photo by Paul2001 from VirtualTourist

11 - Princes' Gate designed by architects Chapman & Oxley
Goddess of Winged Victory by Charles McKechnie - 1927

This magnificent structure is located at the main entrance to the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition. As a newcomer to Toronto, I was struck by the intense emotion felt for the CNE by residents of all ages. And when I first began my new romantic relationship with Brad after being friends for a few years, one of our first dates was my first trip to the CNE. As you can imagine, the CNE now holds an irreversibly special place in my heart. The Princes' Gates and the Goddess of Winged Victory symbolize everything about that magical summer for me.

"The Princes' Gate was completed in 1927. It was constructed and designed by an architectural firm called Chapman & Oxley. Edward, Prince of Wales, and his brother Prince Albert opened the Gate in 1927. Since that time, it has been called the Princes' Gate and it has become a symbol of the C.N.E. The Goddess of Winged Victory was designed by Charles McKechnie, and it is on the top of the gate. At the left and the right site of the Gate you can see nine pillars. It represents the participating provinces of Confederation." (

"Charles McKechnie modelled the statue on the Winged Victory of Samothrace. This famous statue, found on the island of Samothrace in 1863 by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, is now in the Musee du Louvre, Paris.

McKechnie's Goddess of Winged Victory holds high the traditional laurel crown of heroism in her right hand and a maple leaf in her left. The maple leaf was representative of a new spirit of independence in Canada following the First World War. The statue has a wingspan of 10 feet and is 17 feet high with the laurel crown being 85 feet above ground level. The gates consist of additional sculpture including the Ontario and Canadian Coats of Arms." (

12 - Seasonal light display of 3-dimensional polar bears at the Yonge and College median, by Brian Gluckstein and his design team, for the Cavalcade of Lights Festival - 2007

While doing a little roaming of the downtown area with my friend Lisa, I came across this incredible light display while waiting to cross the street at College. After some digging I discovered the person responsible for the polar bears - as well as the entire Cavalcade of Lights Festival - was designer Brian Gluckstein, a graduate from Ryerson University’s Interior Design program. I also came across several mentions of this temporary installation as a highlight of last year's holiday city cheer.

For me, the trees filled with LED light sticks were also delightfully different and seasonally frosty, all at the same time. Displays like this often become very dear traditions to a city for decades. Let's hope these polar bears of light are cherished into a long future.

13 - The Portico in the De Gasperis Conservatory, Toronto General Hospital, by architect John G. Howard - 1913 / 2004

This relocated portico stood in the beautiful conservatory which my father-in-law's hospital room faced. We sometimes went down there for a much-needed time-out when he was being attended to by nurses. The symbolism of the old doorway bridging two versions of the same hospital was very welcome to me, to say the least.

"The spacious, light-filled DeGasperis Conservatory provides comfort for patients and their families and showcases the stone portico of the Bell Wing, the original entrance to Toronto General Hospital from University Avenue." (

"The four-storey glass Patient Court is an inviting area for patients, staff, and visitors to relax in and enjoy the natural light, greenery and open, airy spaces. The stone entrance to the original Toronto General Hospital, has been preserved and reconstructed inside the Patient Court." (


Sniz said...

How long did it take you to round up all these pictures? Thanks so much for a beautiful, fun tour of the many beauties of Toronto.

Julia Smith said...

Sniz - I took all of these while my husband and I were in Toronto over New Year's, spending time with my father-in-law at Toronto General Hospital as he passed away. Most of these pieces of art can be found along the University Ave. corridor, where many hospitals are located. I went out for walks by myself to recharge, and immediately noticed how much public artwork there is in Toronto. Basically, it's everywhere you look. It was all appreciated by me at a time when my heart was heavy and I needed a lift.

pussreboots said...

I loved your photo tour. Thank you for sharing. Happy TT.

Brenda ND said...

I've never been to Toronto, but now I feel I know something about it. Thanks. Happy TT!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

This is why I like functional art so much -- maybe functional isn't the right word. But art that's out and about in the public, not in a museum. Stuff you stumble upon and pause, taking it all in and considering...

It's a neat way to get busy people to pause.

And besides, art SHOULD be part of our daily life!

Gabriella Hewitt said...

The pasture looks lovely. I can imagine sitting next to the cows.
Freedom arches are wonderous. The kids would dig the ice skating.

Karina said...

Wow, those are some really great pieces of art! That "Gumby Goes to Heaven" moniker cracked me up! But seriously, some beautiful pieces. Thanks for sharing them with us!

Akelamalu said...

I particularly like the 'Endless Bench' :)

Anonymous said...

Those are get pictures! I want visit Toronto eventually so this was quite lovely.

Thanks for coming by :)

Happy TT


Jennifer McKenzie said...

Very cool pictures!!!! I've never seen any of those. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Julia! Fantastic T13 -- I feel as though I've toured Toronto now. Such fascinating works of art -- thank you for sharing them, and Toronto looks like such a lovely and energetic city!

Dara Edmondson said...

Beautiful, Julia. What an interesting city!

Shelley Munro said...

I loved The Pastures - they made me smile because I guess I'm a country girl at heart. I also liked the Pillars of Justice.
Thanks for the tour of Toronto, Julia.

Anonymous said...

Public art is so important in giving a city a life, a character. I'm a huge fan of Henry Moore and those cows are so cool, I think that is my favourite piece, in the middle of a bustling city, so serene and composed and relaxed those cows in pasture. I wouldn't be able to pass by without patting them. We have many pieces of public art like this in Brisbane too, I love sculpture and the kind of out-of-the-gallery and into the world nature of it. Great post, beautiful city.

Ann said...

great pictures, Julia, they make me want to visit Toronto (more than I already did- which was a lot). :)

Toni said...

Great tour, Julia. I love the Pasture and the Princes' Gate. The Pasture is just so very unique. TFS.

Wylie Kinson said...

Julia - I've seen quite a few of these but had no idea what they were or the stories behind them. I might just make it a mission to see all of these this summer.


Amy Ruttan said...

That courthouse one is the only one I haven't seen. I used to cut through there on my way to court when I worked in Toronto. LOL!

Damn now there blocking my way. ;)

Robin said...

I really love the endless bench, and I especially love the beautiful and very natural portrayal of breastfeeding.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Wonderful selection of public art works! Thanks for sharing these photos. Also thanks for stopping by my blog earlier...

Maureen McGowan said...

Wow. Lovely, Julia. I live in the city and haven't seen a few of these, nor really taken the time to look at a few others.

Anonymous said...

Liked all of your pictures of Toronto, especially the ones of the Toronto General Hospital Bell Wing portico. This doorway arch was located in the original private patients pavilion which is no longer around. See