Typically thought of as an obstructive hunk of infrastructure in Toronto, a stretch of land under the Gardiner Expressway has been a place of renewed activation since it was revamped in 2018 into the Bentway—a 2.5-acre linear park named for the steel-reinforced concrete column-and-beam structures or “bents” supporting the roadway. Construction equipment is an expected sight along the length of the urban promenade due to regular inspections and maintenance work. What is unexpected, however, is the public arts project Boom Town: a display of construction equipment dressed up as silly creatures, donning googly eyes and brightly colored vinyl wrappings.
Waterfront ReConnect—a collaboration between the Bentway, the City of Toronto, the Waterfront Business Improvement Area, and the Toronto Downtown West Business Improvement Area (BIA)—worked with Winnipeg-based 5468796 Architecture and Office In Search Of (OISO) to stage the three boom lifts at the Lakeshore Boulevard and York Street intersection. The installation was the winning proposal in a competition hosted by Waterfront ReConnect.
As previously reported by AN, The Bentway has become a new destination for recreation since its revamp started, with regular art activations, seasonal programming, and a renewed focus on the buildings and structures adjacent to the Gardiner. When it was constructed in 1950s, the Gardiner Expressway separated most of Toronto from the shores of and areas immediately connecting to Lake Ontario—a connection the Bentway strives to retrieve.
The trio of “Bent Buddies” named Trekker, Tinker, and Trouper already resided on the site and were given a fresh coat of paint, vinyl wrapping, and seasonal costumes. For the installation, the gray concrete bents providing structural support for the Gardiner Expressway have been painted with a blue metallic pattern and wayfinding signage to further activate the space. Trekker, Tinker, and Trouper stand guard with their lift mechanisms stretching out into the roadway as their large eyes peer at the cars zipping by and the bikers and pedestrians strolling through the roadways and sidewalks along this portion of the Bentway.
“We appreciate this kind of quick, collaborative and creative project that is serious in its objectives to demonstrate how humble design, drawn from the realities of the place, can have transformative civic impact,” 5468796 cofounder Sasa Radulovic said in a project description.
Boom Town will be on display at the York Street and Lake Shore Boulevard intersection until 2025, when the overhead section of the Gardiner Expressway is slated to undergo repair work.