ONTARIO PLACE TO TRILLIUM PARK
by Richard Longley
Theme: Advocacy, Health & Wellness, Arts & Architecture, Getting Around, Indigenous Communities, Environment, Diversity & Inclusion
Accessibility: Family-friendly, Fun for Kids,
2021 Ontario Place is 50 years old. In 1970, Premier John Robarts, proclaimed: “We should let our imaginations soar.” Ontario Place would be: “A new focal point for our province, a new attitude to our lakefronts, a new showcase for our province and people.” Today that dream is frayed. How would you save Ontario Place, without destroying or disfiguring it? How would you keep it alive, year round? How would you integrate it with Exhibition Place, with the City and the Province, for all Ontarians?
YOURS TO DISCOVER OR RE-DISCOVER, YOURS TO RE-IMAGINE, YOURS TO RE-INVENT
(Connects from Exhibition Place Walk)
WALK START: West Entrance Lakeshore Boulevard/Martin Goodman Trail
South, over bridge from Exhibition Place and GO Station TTC loop,
509 Harbourfront streetcar (Union Station - Exhibition Place)
511 Bathurst streetcar (Bathurst Station - Exhibition Place)
29 Bus (Dufferin Station - Exhibition Place)
WALK END: East entrance Trillium Park, end of William G. Davis Trail.
southwest of Lakeshore Blvd./Strachan Ave., Exhibition Place, Princes’ Gates;
Fort York, the Bentway, 509, 511 Streetcars north on Strachan.
May 22, 2021 Ontario Place will be 50 years old. In 1970, its prime mover, Premier John Robarts, proclaimed: “We should let our imaginations soar.” Ontario Place would present: “A new focal point for our province.... a new attitude to our lakefronts.... a new showcase for our province and people.” Ontario Place delivered all of that and it still could but since all but the Cinesphere closed in 2012, except to joggers, walkers, cyclists and for outside events, Robart’s dream has languished. How would you save Ontario Place, revitalize it, without destroying or disfiguring it? How would you keep it alive, not only in summer but year round? How would you integrate it with Exhibition Place, with the City and the Province, all Ontarians, and First Nations? And how would you make it pay its way?
ONTARIO PLACE, EBERHARD ZEIDLER, ARCHITECT, 1971
The five great pods of Ontario Place have been empty since 2012. If Ontario Place were better connected to the communities around it and the City as a whole - it will be when the promised Ontario line is built - what uses might fill these structures that would keep Ontario Place alive year round?
WEST Around THE WEST ISLAND: Would you revive the silos or replace them – with what?
West Island Wilderness Adventure Ride - abandoned.
Would you revive it? Demolish it? Or replace it – again, with what?
RETURN, PAST THE WEST ISLAND BEACH TORONTO TO THE HEART OF ONTARIO PLACE.
The Cinesphere, Eb Zeidler borrows from Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome.
Renovated, re-opened in 2017. The only Ontario Place building that’s back in action.
At Ontario Place, as well as the five huge pods soar that soar over water like spaceships, there is a multitude of mysterious podlets. Two of them are washrooms, the rest are closed. They once had uses. Like the West Island silos, what might they be in a future Ontario Place?
ONTARIO PLACE AS IT WAS – WHEN THE BABY BOOM WAS YOUNG
on artificial islands shaped by landscape architect Michael Hough
(Eb Zeidler wrote of his work: It was “as if God had been the landscape genius”.
Since then terrible harm has been done to the magic they wrought.
The Wilderness Adventure Ride on the West Island (#42) is now a relic. Further east, where two of its greatest spaces are reduced to memories, Ontario Place is obliterated.
The Forum (#14) for open air concerts, with seats for early birds, reclining on the grass for latecomers, where Mikhail Baryshnikov danced with Veronia Tennant after he defected from the Soviet Union; where the Toronto Symphony competed with the cries of gulls and the roar of the crowd that wafted over from Exhibition Stadium. In 1995 the Forum was demolished and replaced with the emphatically non-Zeidler but presumably money-making Budweiser Stage.
The Children’s Village (#12) by Eric McMillan. Born during a World War II air raid, he grew up in England during the Blitz, where, “let out in the morning, let back in in the evening”, he played in the rubble of bombed out buildings. Like the Forum, the Children’s Village is long gone, replaced by the sheet of asphalt that’s called Echo Beach.
ONTARIO PLACE FORUM AND CHILDREN’S VILLAGE AS THEY WERE
WALK NORTHEAST OF THE LAKESIDE TRAIL THAT LEAVES ONTARIO PLACE
BUDWEISER STAGE AND ECHO BEACH (SET UP FOR OUTDOOR MOVIES) AS THEY ARE
North of the Budweiser Stage: a desert of parking lot. Too remote for commuters into the city. When there are no major events at Ontario Place or Exhibition Place it’s mostly empty
RETURN SOUTHEAST TO THE TRAIL EAST INTO TRILLIUM PARK
East of Echo Beach its access tower is all that remains of the Ontario Place Water Slide
2017: Trillium Park, a different vision of the future that gave us Ontario Place
LANDInc were commissioned green 7.5 acres of parking lot east of Ontario Place. The result? Trillium Park that won them the 2018 Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award for Landscape Design. A sheet of gravel transformed into wooded hills a children’s rock climbing wall, a beach where Lake Ontario water is the cleanest in Toronto, with fabulous views of the city and markers of the presence of First Nations who lived in Toronto for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers from away.
Trillium Park Climbing Wall, with a window in the rock for viewing the city
Sapling in Trillium Park, bent so it grows into a marker tree
Carolyn King, former elected Chief of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation:
the Mocassin Marker Project makes a mark in Trillium Park.
Mocassin markers engraved on the stone canyon walls of at the end of the William G. Davis Trail.
The saga of Ontario Place is long, complicated and contentious. Sustaining what is essentially an expo site, in perpetuity, is not easy. Typically such places are abandoned, demolished, rebuilt or left to ruin.
Ontario Place is a machine in a park. A park may be left to its own devices (Michael Hough designed a landscape wilder what was built) a machine cannot be so easily ignored.
If “business” is the solution, what kind of business to encourage – with visitor-enchanting activities of all kinds, money-making and not – that will enhance, not destroy Ontario Place?
Ontario Place is a park loved by people who love parks. It is also a machine that was designed to look towards the future. (50 years later, what kind of future?) During its first summers it was packed with visitors but, today, apart from the Cinesphere, its structures are as empty as a cemetery.I
If a year-round active Ontario Place is to be realized its “development” will have to be integrated with that of Exhibition Place, which shares many of the same problems. Access to both – so near yet so far – must be improved. That includes the Ontario Line, bookended by Ontario Place and the Ontario Science centre, with a terminal loop that circles Exhibition Place, close to the bridges of Ontario Place. Both places will depend on the Ontario line as much as the Ontario line will depend on them.
Time to sort out your own ideas? Here are some useful links:
Ontario Place Statement of Cultural Heritage Value deleted by the Provincial Government, replaced with:
Ontario Place: Creating a new world-class destination on Toronto’s waterfront at the Ontario Place site(opportunities to develop any part of Trillium Park apart from the Budweiser Stage have since been deleted.)
OPX proposal embraces Exhibition Place, moves the Science Centre - with a hotel - to Ontario Place
Therme Group creators of “the world’s most advanced wellbeing resorts by combining the traditions of global thermal bathing with an indoor biodiverse ecosystem.” Proposal rumoured to include a spa.
Ontario Place for All a forum for ideas that would revitalize Ontario Place, without destroying its character.
World Monuments Fund Watch List Ontario Place added in 2020