TTC station heritage threatened

Accessibility activist and TTC signage guru Joe Clark has informed Spacing about a new TTC plan for the “diversification” of 63 of the 69 subway stations. “Diversification” would permit the renovation of existing stations incorporating “unique station designs” using “new building materials.” Already, we know that Pape Station, the first of the original 1966 Bloor-Danforth subway stations to be renovated, will see its tiles replaced with false stone wall treatment. The report (PDF) will be considered and possibly approved by the commission this Wednesday, March 26, at 1:00 PM at City Hall. Clark’s blog has more details.

All but six stations – High Park, Keele, Coxwell, Woodbine, Rosedale, and Wellesley — would be subject to any alteration the TTC (or in partnership with another agency, like the Toronto Community Foundation) feels fit. Worse yet, this flies in the face of the Toronto Preservation Board’s attempts to protect the original Yonge and Bloor-Danforth line stations.

There are some stations — either already wrecked by earlier renovations (such as Dundas or Union), or left neglected like Lawrence West, that could use renovations. But if the commission adopts this report as written on Wednesday, it would open up nearly every station to a remodelling — just look to the new Museum Station as an example, or the poor upgrades in the early 1980s of College, Queen, and King, St. Andrew, and Osgoode.

If you feel strongly about this issue, contact your councilor, the TTC Commissioners, and/or make a deputation at the commission meeting. You may request to make a deputation up to 12:00 noon on Tuesday, March 25, by emailing

photo by Christine Mullen


  1. Why preserve these ugly bathroom-like stations. They are all pretty ugly. Bring on the renovations!

  2. I’m still not convinced that Toronto’s subway station heritage is WORTHY of preserving. Maybe if they looked a little more like Moscow’s, I could be persuaded. But really. The fact that many of the TTC station “colours were chosen to discourage rowdy behaviour and loitering rather than for aesthetic reasons” is not something to be proud of (

    Take a look at what could be:

  3. I kind of have to agree with the commentors. I think a little variety would be nice.

    As long as there’s clear signage guidelines, like the size of the station lettering, and most importantly, the wayfinding signs are the same station-to-station.

    In fact, what I think needs an overhaul more than anything on the TTC is the wayfinding signs. I’ve used the subway almost every day for the past five years, and I still sometimes get confused about whether I’m waiting for an eastbound or westbound train, and which stairs lead to another train and which lead to exits.

  4. Other than leaving a few stations unchanged for historical perspective on the peasant-like beginnings of our subway stations, I say let the changes begin! The stations from around the world in Gabe’s link are inspiring. My only concern is that we take our time with the renovations to ensure high quality upgrades that span different design generations.

  5. We’ll set aside for the moment the tiresome catchphrase that subway tiles look like bathroom tiles (they don’t). Gabe and Joe should read what I wrote and note that the Bloor line in particular is not randomly designed. Start busting that up and the symmetry of wall colours is destroyed. There are any number of options short of that point, but the proposal as written gives TTC staff the right to do anything they want.

    Even if Gabe and Joe don’t think that’s important, do they seriously believe the TTC is capable of improving the appearance of 63 stations?

  6. Does anyone really think we’re going to get Moscow-like stations? Stop dreaming. You think they look bad when they’re filthy now, wait until they’re made over with hard-to-keep clean touchy-feely materials and public art that will be left to be covered with brake dust, grime and graffiti. That will look REALLY nice! The tile look was chosen for specific reasons: durable, easy to clean and the station names and signage would be easy to read and recongizable. The Spadina line stations were supposed to be a big improvement in diversity, look at how they have stood up to decades of dirt and neglect. They can’t clean the easiest materials to clean right now, it’s not going to get any better. And I don’t hold out any hope that the signage will be any better either.

  7. With this discussion going on, I’ve started to pay close attention to the stations during my ride across the city and you know what, they are gorgeous. I’ll admit many of them need a bit of a clean, and anywhere the ttc has recently replaced tiles with ones that don’t match looks crappy, but taken together there is sense to it. In North America we are always so quick to tear down our history and cover it up with something new and shiney. So play with the YUS line, and make it as kitchy as you like (ahem, Museum reno). But leave BD as it is.

  8. Too bad the High Park Station is not included in the list for alteration. The station replaced the High Park Mineral Baths (that had diving boards) at the site, in the 1960’s. To replace the baths, a mediocre wading pool in the north part of High Park itself was put up.
    A aqueduct theme would have been nice, if it incorporated the springs. Unfortunately, a condo develop is going on top of the station, so even that is out of the question.

  9. Yeah, how are you going to fit some Moscow-redesign into those low stations? You’ve got to build like that from the beginning.

    The TTC can’t clean their stations, and they can’t do basic repairs — I don’t, at all, trust they will do a good job on the redesign. Already look at Pape, Giambrone has said they’re going with the cheap material. New stations would be done on the cheap. Let’s preserve the well-done stations we have now. Minimal and elegant, with subtle designs. Some of the stations linked above are garish and trying way too hard.

    Clean the stations! Fix the leaks. Fix the broken tiles, already, TTC. Given your bad record on that, it’ll take you years just to do this! Once we see the stations as they were intended, then I bet opinions would come around.

    I’m emailing the commissioners now.

  10. The TTC isn’t capable of proper renovations. They’ll be cheap and in the end we won’t even have the icons/heritage left. The stations can be modernized while preserving and restoring what matters.

    People want change. The change will look good for a couple of years, but once the novelty factor wears off, it’ll be the same old song that the system is ugly. This is the kind of change people want right now, what some people in the TTC want, but not what I’m willing to accept at the price of losing heritage.

    If the ceramic tiles of the Bloor Danforth line are kept for example, designers will have to be a lot more creative and attentive to details to make the stations look good. Ultimately, it’ll be for the better. The ceramic tiles are the strength, not the weakness, and upon recognizing that, the new designs will actually be improvements, not degradations.

  11. I do not adore the current stations’ design, but must agree with the above posters that their replacements are unlikely to be better. Well executed station redesigns exist (the Louvre station in Paris, for example) but are rare. The materials that are usually used now are not as durable and do not tend to age well.

    Given the real *needs* of the TTC redesigning stations seems a strange use of funds. And at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy-theorist (which I am not) I am curious to know who is going to get the contracts… I love Toronto, but to deny that there is corruption in the awarding of contracts (in building and in repairs) is to be blind to reality.

    I’m sure that various proponents of this scheme just want a nicer subway — but there is a lot of money involved here. We’ve seen the effect that the real-estate lobby had upon members of the council last year when Miller tried to pass his new taxes. Who’s lobbying for the station redesign?

  12. I don’t see any fake stone in the latest renderings for Pape (1.3 MB PDF).

    The problem with subway stations is that adaptive reuse isn’t an option. The TTC can’t move a block over and let the original station become a cafe, gallery, or public washroom. If potential riders find the stations bleak and depressing (I admit maintenance is absolutely a huge factor in that), the TTC has a problem as it tries to attract more riders. Most riders would probably find Downsview and the Sheppard line stations far more appealing than the original Bloor line stations, even as they age.

    I’m not sure when the tile colour combinations became Toronto’s architectural innovation on par with the Corinthian column. It always struck me as a cheap but clever engineer’s trick: by using tile combinations you get more looks with fewer tile colours, saving money by buying in bulk.

  13. My point was not that Toronto should build a la Moscow. Nor is that it has the finances to do so.

    I am not against the idea of using the money to instead fully rehabilitate (i.e. clean), as opposed to renovate, stations across the city. That’s an argument of value for money.

    I just don’t buy the argument that we should keep the current station designs because of heritage reasons.

  14. I don’t buy that our current stations make it hard for the TTC to attract customers. Waiting forever for a vehicle to come along is what does it. Clean and well kept stations would be a bonus, but aren’t the factor. In fact, proper maintenance might be like the TTC saying “we respect you” to its current customers.

  15. Given all the challenges of the TTC, I don’t support the massive changes they’re trying to do. There is a huge amount of deferred maintenance that needs fixing, and we need to keep the level of service on streetcar lines not decrease it with newer larger streetcars if they want to spend multi-millions. (And for multi-mill of savings, the WWLRT EA says its not worth doing btw) The old tiles, while wearing a bit, have a higher glaze on the finish and seem to wear better than the new.
    In terms of spending, the Dupont Station tiles have a lot of irregular cracking through them – does that mean we’ve got some differential settling in behind them? from being at the base of the ‘escarpment’ with water table issues?
    If they want to spend money, what about spraypainting the tunnels white – seal up the asbestos/crud a bit and maybe cut electric bills.

  16. Leave well enough alone. The classic, 50s stations have a lot of integrity and were obviously built to last. The TTC should put the money toward expansion and new vehicles, etc. NOT cosmetic changes. As others have noted, they will just muck it up anyway.

    Check out New York’s or Chicago’s old stations if you want to see ugly. They’re over a hundred years old – bare concrete floors and bare steel girders but nobody’s trying to prettify them.

  17. I’d hate it if surface renos discouraged the kind of structural changes needed at many stations to improve traffic flow – St. Georges, Union, and Bloor/Yonge especially could use platforms on both sides of each train, allowing passengers to exit cars on one side of the train while other passengers enter from the alternate side. Such changes are desperately needed to reduce the time trains spend sitting in the station, improve safety and reduce crowding on platforms. Tarting up the stations seems so… final, “We can’t put in new and bigger platforms – it will wreck all the pretty new tiles we just put in!”

    The problem with TTC stations is not so much the tiles (even though they *are* quite ugly), but rather the low ceilings – the fix for that is far more expensive than it’s worth. But I certainly wouldn’t object to nicer tiles as part of a major reno that improves traffic flow and increases space on the platforms.

  18. What makes a simple coloured rectangular ugly:

    What’s wrong with these:

    We need restrictions so that it’s harder to destroy stuff like that. We could do a lot to change the stations and make them nicer, but if we keep and restore the tiles, the visual identity will be there. If there’s one thing I dislike about the original Yonge line is not so much the tiles themselves, though they aren’t prettiest. I dislike the fact that this was Canada’s first subway in a time when modern, simplified architecture was rising to prominence in the city and nationally (i.e. City Hall). The tiles from the 1980s and 1990s really disconnect this part of the subway from that subway. Do we have to go down that road with the Bloor Danforth line and the Spadina line.

    The stations can look beautiful with the original tiles intact (or reproductions for that matter), since there are so many other options to improve the look and atmosphere such as better lighting, flooring, higher ceilings, and dramatic public art (other photo prints).

  19. The very first thing that came to mind when I read this was just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s worth keeping. The tile choices were a joke to save money when purchasing in bulk. It was a cheap trick to make it look like they put effort tying the stations together.

    That’s not to say I don’t agree with improved signage and maintaining the one good thing that came out of the original design – the font.

    On a separate note, the reason that stations haven’t had additional platforms added is more likely yo be due to architectural diffuculties, i.e. the buildings on top of the stations, rather than a desire to maintain past/present/future station tilage.

  20. “If you feel strongly about this issue”…you have too much time on your hands.

    This post refers to the Museum Station renovations like they are a bad thing. Heaven forbid that our subway stations refer in some way to the neighbourhoods or cultural centres they serve. Leave it to Torontonians to take a “style” that is boring and (barely) utilitarian and call it “heritage”.

    Besides, if one stops and thinks rationally about this for five seconds, one realizes the TTC doesn’t have the money to drastically remake all of these stations while trying to find spare change to replace more than half of their vehicle fleet. The Museum re-furb is only happening because of a private donation.

  21. I’d rather see improvements to the subway’s functionality before so much as a paint brush is lifted to improve its aesthetics.

    At this point, an ugly, leaky, dirty subway that runs better (reach, frequency, reliability, extended hours, etc) would be divine.

  22. The TTC stations are a joke. Dirty, old and crumbling…re-do them all.
    They are not worth preserving

  23. I definitely agree that the majority of the tiling on the stations is question is perfectly fine and deserves preservation. If there are areas that need work, restore them; if a new look is so sorely needed, work it into other parts of the station and/or make it removable so the original tile can be restored later.

    This is one of those things that people do not realize is cherished until it’s gone; it gets very quiet appreciation on a regular basis, but it IS appreciated, and should be kept.

  24. If there is money to be spent on something, spend it on proper maintenance. Armies of janitors. Signage that is actually consistent and makes sense.

    In any case, old doesn’t mean bad if it’s well-maintained and still serviceable. Besides, I wouldn’t trust the TTC with decorating a cupcake, even though I am not all that crazy about the tiles — I understand that there is a system to the tile colouring but I suspect not many people will miss this feature, if they know about it at all.

  25. Gabe, give us your opinion on the following question: Is the Bloor line, with its intentional design symmetry, qualitatively different from the other lines and stations?

    If so, would it not be much worse to alter the Bloor line’s design than to alter another line’s design? (Keep in mind that the Yonge line, is the first thing most people think of, is a mishmash that is largely unrepresentative of the entire system.)

    Not that I am proposing or endorsing anything of the sort (far from it), *but*: Could you live with protecting the design of the Bloor line, while also upgrading and modernizing those stations, if other stations could be altered in any way TTC sees fit?

    This, as I see it, is the test of discrimination here: Do you recognize the Bloor line is different or not? Over to you, Gabe.

  26. Asher, the Museum “refurb” is costing the TTC real money. It wasn’t TTC’s idea, either, but the rule seems to be the krazier an idea is the faster the Commissioners sign on the dotted line.

  27. Joe, the Museum project is being funded by the Toronto Community Foundation with support from the province. The TTC money being spent is to add a second entrance and elevator to make it accessible.

    And I’m sorry, I can’t see any reasonable argument where the work being done there is a downgrade or ruining the station in any way. It’s attitudes like that that hold Toronto back from becoming a great city.

    Is the design of the Bloor line distinct? Only insomuch as its drab and cookie-cutter.

    Stations with designs that stand out are destinations. They give commuters a chance to contemplate its identity, and that of the area it serves, even if only subconsciously. They give you something to explore while you wait. They also serve the practical purpose of being easily identifiable for those who are less familiar with the city or tend to get lost easily. You can’t tell me that the design you’re clinging to so fiercely functions as anything but a featureless waiting room (variations in colour notwithstanding) that causes people to contemplate little else beyond why the train is taking so long to arrive.

  28. Love those links A.R.

    Those are excellent examples of many beautiful piece of the TTC that should be saved. If anyone would just take some time to go through each ttc station to see what a mess the TTC has made of them since the 80s, you would understand why preserving the character of these stations is important.

    Maybe we should just add some maple leafs and hockey sticks and I’m sure 90% of Torontonians would love it. It sickens me.

  29. Joe,

    I’m sorry. I don’t see the connection between the Bloor line’s qualitative difference (in answer to you question, yes, it’s different) and your following claim that it is therefore “worse” to “diversify” Bloor stations.

    As I see it, uniformity/consistency alone does not equate to good design. From a usage/user-friendliness perspective, various elements of the TTC experience, such as signage, of course require a certain level of uniformity. But in terms of general aesthetics, I happen to welcome “diversity”. Is this so wrong?

    Now, as I mentioned in a followup post, I agree with many of the comments above that the prospect of allocating scarce resources to massive renovations might not be the best use of TTC money. But the argument you’re putting forward doesn’t really seem to rest on the question of money; for you, and correct me if I’m wrong, what we’re debating here is heritage preservation and good design.

    So in answer to your main question, no, I do not think it would be “worse” to alter the Bloor line, simply because I don’t buy the argument that the design heritage you describe is worthy of protection/preservation. And from what I see expressed in other comments above, I’m not alone.

  30. Asher, that’s incorrect. TTC is putting up (if memory serves – yes, I could go look it up) 25% of the money just for the à¦sthetic reno. Neither wheelchair access nor a second exit is part of the project.

    Also, Asher, since Dundas is a design that stands out, is it a destination, in your view?

  31. Of course you’re “not alone,” Gabe. Giambrone agrees with you. That’s enough, surely?

  32. Bring on the changes, and fast please.

    Each and everyone of Montreal’s metro stations is distinctive. With the exception of a couple in Toronto, the others are either cramped looking bathrooms, or has the class of something equally unappealing.

    On a different note, if they’re going to renovate these stations, the TTC might as well start preparing now for the crowd density they will be serving in 10 years at the same time. There’s no point throwing money away on a project that will only serve the now, when the future is where it’s all going to be happening.

  33. People seem to want hockey sticks and balloons, or something. Make it look like a ride at Wonderland?

    The TTC can’t ever look like Montreal because it wasn’t built like it. Nor would I want it to be. Our “bathroom” stations are usually only 2 flights of stairs underneath the street, rather than the deep deep stations in MTL that take forever to get down too. Pretty, sure, but from a usability point of view, I’d take our stations.

    Bathrooms! Geez, people, come on.

  34. I am all for saving a few but most really should be updated.

    But first, please clean them.

  35. It’s taken a while for me to come around to this but I think I’ve been suitably convinced that:
    a) While somewhat uninspiring and, moreover, in poor shape, the stations on the B-D line are the product of a deliberately minimalist and symmetrical design theme whose clean modernism at least ensures that they are not architecturally offensive
    b) Admittedly, having interesting, artistic, and inspiring public architecture is both important and desirable (a recent trip to Montreal convinced me of this)
    c) It’s not worth renovating something for the sake of renewal unless it is done right (i.e. in a way such that it won’t require overhaul in another 10-20 years) and I’m not sure that we can count on that
    d) The number one goal, especially for something as vital as an existing subway, has to remain functionality

    There’s no doubt that many/most of the stations along Bloor-Danforth are in need of repair and deep cleaning; however, to go beyond restoration and actually pour money into total redesign of the stations’ characters may be a bit of a misappropriation of funding. Instead, why don’t we fix the leaks, rehabilitate the structures, replace the missing tiles (with suitable reproductions), paint the ceilings, and generally restore the stations to their original state, and redirect the funding for purely aesthetic upgrades to new projects where there is no history to erase (i.e. the Spadina extension to York, the underground LRT line on Eglinton, etc.). That way, we get clean, refreshed stations on Bloor just as they’ve served us for over 40 years, and we can instead spend our arts budget on truly unique, interesting architecture for the new lines where we have the opportunity to get things right from day one.

  36. I believe many commenters here are equating “heritage preservation” with “never altering so much as a tile at any station.” Every station that isn’t accessible now is going to be renovated. Even some of today’s accessible stations will be renovated again, as second fire exits are required.

    To use two current examples and to reiterate one of my usual points, Pape station is a dump and Vic Park really needs a front door. Go ahead, renovate them. But does that require knocking out every aspect of TTC type and tile heritage at platform level?

    Is that the solution to all the complaints articulated on this page?

  37. While I generally support heritage projects, I do not necessarily think the entire system must be preserved as a heritage piece. Another person commented that perhaps the Bloor-Danforth line should be preserved. I think this is an excellent compromise and should be pursued. I remember seeing the Spacing article about how the colours are distributed across the stations and I thought that was really cool. So let’s preserve that.

    While finishing a section on the psychology of place in Richard Florida’s “Who’s Your City?”, it occurred to me that the TTC subway stations currently do not correlate with the psychology of Toronto. Toronto is messy urbanism. While the subways may be labelled as messy, their design of two colour tiles do not match how the rest of the city feels and looks. Why can’t our stations be as diverse as our population?

  38. Maybe because we in Toronto have this terrible habit in destroying our architectural heritage, people are against any change for the better. And I still don’t understand why we always cry every time there are any attempts to improve our city aesthetically.

    The present tiles in the TTC’s subway stations remind me of the tiles that used to exist in Lisbon’s subway stations. The subways in Toronto and Lisbon were both built around the 50’s, but in Lisbon they didn’t care about the original ugly utilitarian tiles, they went ahead and renovated the stations. You want an example of how it can be done correctly? Here it is:

    I could simply go on and never end the quantity of links.

    Sometimes change is good. I don’t really care about the current TTC tiles, they are bland and only help dull the senses of people on their way to work.

  39. If the tiling was intended to be easy to repair and easy to clean, the TTC should actually repair them and clean them. For example, the leaking ceiling on the northbound platform of St.Andrew station has been that way for 4 YEARS. Does the TTC even know about it?

    I’m all for preserving the distinct yet unified design of the stations, but I’d like the TTC and the city to stop taking what we have for granted and actually maintain it. We in Toronto wonder where our city’s heritage is, yet we constantly throw out the heritage that exists right beneath our nose, mostly because it doesn’t look like “New York” or “Chicago” heritage. Fix AND preserve the damn stations. If this is what it takes for Joe Clark to stop blogging about it, I’ll gladly pay more taxes to get it done.

  40. Some of the stations are not bad, some are horrible, for example York Mills, it’s dark, it’s dingy, it looks like it hasn’t seen a cleaner since being built.

    Consistency doesn’t mean there can’t be variety, in fact every station looking different, can be a good thing, in that a quick look at a station can easily tell you what station your at. Consistency does mean that signs would be found in the same places, for example from the platform level you would find a sign outside the train door that denotes where to go for exits and transfer points. There should be a consistent way of doing temporary signs, and there should be frames in various places that temporary signs are placed in, that normally would just have a TTC logo in them.

  41. Tyler> I also love Toronto’s messy urbanism but should note this city also has a really strong tradition of Modernism (Clean lines, concrete) as part of that mix — some of the best in North American even.

  42. I’m wondering how some of these people (Gabe et al) who’re questioning the “heritage” argument re the B-D line feel about the concept of “modern” heritage in general, or what their ideal scope of said modern heritage might encompass–somehow, I’m left recalling a lot of the overzealous-amateur critiques of Nathan Phillips Square, or maybe the kind of mentality that’d keep a T-D Centre while dismissing something like Peter Dickinson’s 790 Bay office building as an eyesore…

  43. Good things about the Museum renovations:
    1. More light fixtures.

    Bad things about the Museum renovations:
    1. Giant ugly orange letters that don’t match anything.
    2. Twenty different column designs that clash where one would have been wonderful.

    The TTC should keep the classic designs while cleaning them, adding signage, and adding more light. Grandiose new designs won’t end well.

  44. The TTC stations are not exactly nice. Who cares about “saving” sixty odd 1950’s bathroom themed stations? Rip ’em down!

  45. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I can’t believe the amount of Spacing readers who are saying “Rip ’em down!”

    This is the attitude that plagued Toronto in the 50s who saw Victorian and Georgian houses as past their best before date. Same goes for some of majestic buildings torn down for horrendous glass blocks.

    The stations can be modernized and adapted, but keeping the theme of wall colours and bands on the Bloor-Danforth line is something that we’re still lucky to have. Cleaning up and restoring the stations, which are considered some of the finest examples of Modernist design in North America, would be an outstanding thing for the TTC and Toronto to do.

    Install excellent lighting, play with the fare box areas, but learn from our mistakes of the past — don’t destroy important elements of our built environment becuz the current team of TTC management has no clue about the cultural value the transit system occupies in the psyche of this city.

  46. Of course the old stations should be ripped down. This is completely different than the whole victorian and georgian house issue. I can see plenty of beauty in the round of 60s-70s buildings that are getting torn down. The subway stations are plain ugly. Give me exciting, non-matching subway stations! something for me to look at. The most exciting stops right now are the ones on the sheppard line, college, eg west and downsview…..I want way better than that….but even if all the stations were only are good as those I’d be happy and I’m sure most Torontonians would too. Toronto needs uplifting, inspiring stations…not bathroom stations!

  47. I think it’s the same thing Sam. “Victorians are ugly, full of doo-dads and frilly trim that does nothing, looks like a cake.” That’s what they said. Useless trim. Small windows. Messy design.

    Looks like bathroom.
    Looks like a cake.
    Wedding Cake.
    Architectural doilies. Useless.
    Nothing to look at.
    Too much to look at.
    Entertain me, inspire me.
    Leave me alone, let me think, respect me.

    I don’t know which I want to tear down more, minimal, modern subway stations or all of Cabbagetown. It’s all ugly.

  48. Using Shawn’s arguments there is nothing than can be torn down ever; because any argument in favour of something’s replacement may be ‘of a time’ or a matter of taste.

    Shawn, I respect your opinions, but really SOMETHINGS are UGLY and the B-D stations are THEM.


    Matt, most of us can’t believe you want to save this car-wreck of design.

    Its banal in the extreme! The B-D line lacks any coherent thoughts except cheap and mundane.

    I have had the good fortune to be able to do some travelling and there are only a handful of subway systems with worse stations that the older TTC design.

    Now, I have full sympathy for the argument that some renos like Museum appear to be done on the cheap.

    But that is not an argument in favour of preserving what is; it is an argument in favour of doing better in replacing what is.

    Renovated stations should cost at least half as much as building new – $50,000,000 +

    That’s what the MTA in New York budgets for most of its renovated stations (some are as much as $100,000,000)

    Trying to do a reno on $5,000,000 can’t lead to anything good.

    That’s why the original B-D stations look so appalling; they illustrate what a tight budget and no imagination can accomplish.

    NOTHING worth preserving

  49. Besides, why can’t said “bathroom stations” uplift and inspire in their own subtle way? It certainly explains why there’s a will out there to celebrate, mythologise, and even preserve them.

    Unfortunately, to all too many amateur aesthetes, uplift and inspiration requires a mandatory ooh! aah! factor…

  50. In my opinion it’s largely a question of priorities: do we spend our limited money on dressing these stations up because they are (admittedly) not extremely interesting, or do we instead do a class-A job of repairing and restoring what we already have, add a few goodies like better lighting, new entrances, landscaping, etc., and save the big bucks for new projects where we have the chance to make an intentional design statement from the get-go. Those who are dreaming of station renos resembling Montreal, Paris, or Moscow need to understand that a lot of the proposed improvements will be very superficial, and are not going to be overly expensive or elaborate anyway.
    Check out the plans for Pape ( and you’ll see what I mean: some parts are warranted (i.e. the exterior building, landscaping, better lighting) but others are good examples of money that would be best spent elsewhere.

  51. I don’t see where the money’s supposed to come from to make any systematic changes to the aesthetics of the subway stations when they’re barely even maintained at all. Somewhere, a TTC manager is probably bristling at my “uninformed attitude,” but that’d be a person who’s not been down the eastern arm of the system and seen stations with holes in the ceilings where the slats have been removed and the filthy, corroded utility space revealed. Honestly, take a stroll into Woodbine: tell me that the poor thing doesn’t look abandoned.

    Fix what’s there.

  52. There’s lots of junk around I think should go, or could go, without even a whisper. Apart from the word “Ugly” thrown around and the tired “bathroom” phrase, nobody has said why they are so awful. They weren’t built on the cheap — but the TTC has treated them that way for 40 years though. If only they could shine like they did when they opened (check the 1960s b/w archival photos to see how great the stations look — stark and clean).

    I’m for some renovation of the stations, but throwing out B-D design for some “new design” and the idea that we’ll “never be world class if we don’t do this” is just so much monorail talk.

    Neutral and functional and quietly beautiful, like the TD Centre, exactly what Toronto needed and needs because in this city there is ultimate freedom because it’s so easily tabula rasa at times, people can be whoever they want and imagine their lives and the lives of others without much interference. Subway stations are different than buildings, they are extensions of our living rooms — intimate spaces. Start layering on somebody’s idea of a place, and it stops being somebody else’s place.

    Make them clean and shiny as on opening day, and keep it that way, and they will make Toronto proud.

  53. I happen to like the TD Centre and feel strongly about protecting Nathan Phillips Square, walkway and all. (Since Shawn seems to care, I’ll mention I like Cabbagetown too.) But I just have a hard time believing that the Bloor line subway stations are, by experts in such things, “considered some of the finest examples of Modernist design in North America”. I understand that some feel strongly about preserving them, but I think they’re overstating the case.

    I wish I had a few modern architecture survey books handy so I could see if the Bloor line was mentioned. I don’t think it’s a good sign that no Bloor line station is found on the TSA Guide Map (which lists Yorkdale subway station) or pictured in John de Visser’s 1975 book Toronto (which is a mix of old and new, including City Hall, TD Centre, Ontario Science Centre, Robarts Library, Scarborough Civic Centre, and Scarborough College). There is great modern architecture in this city — but what if the Bloor line stations are modern yet not particularly great?

  54. How about upgrading the Scarborough RT so it can actually run during harsher winter conditions?

    Or installing a washroom or two so one doesn’t have to try to hold it for 17 stations (Kipling to Yonge with no washrooms in between – are you kidding me?!)?

    Shouldn’t we be making the transit system actually work before we get into a debate about whether or not tiles are the right shade of orange and fonts are outdated, inconsistent, or worth retaining for the sake of heritage?

  55. Historically the subway, particularly Bloor-Danforth, has always had a reputation — it may look like a bathroom, whatever that means, but it’s clean and functional and has good service. I would certainly pick the last three over “looks like a bathroom” anyday.

    If this is about maintenance, then to my mind it makes sense to get a crapload of matching tiles — they only have four colours to choose from!! — rather than to come up with a unique design that will be impossible to update in the future. (What will the TTC do in 2040 when the tiles in Leslie station are cracked and need replacing?)

    It would be nice to be able to trust the TTC, but we could just as easily come up with another Yonge, when a bland but innocuous unifying design element was destroyed for some hideous tile patterns or for some art that is going to look equally dated in 20 years.

    For those that are advocating for “improved signage”, be careful what you wish for. We will instead wind up with the new “standard” where you can’t have enough pictograms (not only is there an exit, but there are stairs! and the street! and buses! and an escalator! and telephones! and ticket sales! and a newspaper kiosk! etc.), and with a too-small font that is difficult to read. (I had some major vision problems for a few months about a year ago, which really made me appreciate how legible the original signs are and how illegible the new ones are.) I would suggest the original signs mirror the general design aesthetic: clear, functional, generally economical in presentation… they do the job well without having to be flashy.

  56. kevin >

    I hardly call this a “car wreck of design”: the map of the Bloor-Danforth line and why each station has its specific colours (from Spacing winter-spring 2008).

    Click on the image to see a larger version.

    Like I said, clean ’em up, improve lighting, “enhance” the stations in ways that are consistent with the original design aesthetic. We do not have slave labour like Moscow did to build their stations. We don’t have 5 pence a day workers to build stations like the Tube. We have a unique design that is worth saving.

    And I think the 100,000 subway buttons we’ve sold might suggest people do have some affection for the design qualities.

  57. By the way, one aspect that I believe does warrant improvement is the ceiling treatments, and particularly finding a way to hide all of the new electrical conduits and wires that have been added over the years (Paris does this well with their restored stations by creating a single channel for all wiring that also serves as a light fixture, station identifier, PA speaker, etc.)
    Honestly I think the winning compromise would be to commit to preserving and restoring the original tile schemes (and a few other unique features) and instead focus on improvements to exteriors, signage, fare areas, and electrical, and possibly even add pieces of artwork to the stations without erasing what’s already there (there’s plenty of room in some stations for pieces of sculpture, for example).

  58. So, let’s see. Instead of renovating a station for $5,000,000 and maintaining a design that, while not flashy, has served Toronto well for 40 years, we could spend an extra $50,000,000 to put in all sorts of bells and whistles that will end up covered in the same layers of grime that are on today’s bathroom tiles.

    Or, we could take that $50,000,000 and buy, say, 100 new buses that could actually improve service and to benefit existing riders and attract new ones.

    I would like to see the study that has documented that people will suddenly start riding the subway to the ROM in droves because of the Museum station tarting-up. And if there isn’t one, then at least let’s see how much (or if) ridership increases at Museum station relative to the rest of the system.

    (Or, we could take that $50,000,000 and fix ten stations instead of just one (the Downsview effect)…)

  59. Joe.

    “Money spent on aesthetics isn’t stalling Museum’s part in the TTC’s promise to make the station fully accessible by 2014, including a second exit along the platform.”

    Fair play to you on the question of the TTC putting up money for the renovation, but you conveniently ducked my point about the Museum renovation by diverting attention to the Dundas station renovation. Do all renovations add to a station’s identity? No. I never said that was the case. But it goes without saying (except apparently to you) that the Museum station reno will significantly enhance the customer experience at the station, and enhance the identity of the area it serves as a cultural destination.

    Additionally, there’s no evidence that the “style” along B-D is in danger of disappearing completely. I just don’t understand the virulent need to have it preserved at every station on the line. I actually agree with you that it’s a piece of heritage in this city and that it shouldn’t be wiped away completely. But it’s ludicrous to suggest the whole line needs to be preserved and that there isn’t room for (serious) improvements.

    Matt, I think it’s REALLY far-fetched to associate this process with what went on in the 50’s and 60’s. That process was about wiping away the features that made neighbourhoods unique. This process here seems to be about finding ways to enhance the identity of each station, and perhaps associate it more closely with the neighbourhood it serves. And I repeat, there’s no evidence suggest the current style on B-D is in danger of being completely erased from memory (since several stations that display the design aren’t included in the proposal). There’s just no reason why the whole line has to be held back as a monument to blandness.

  60. Matt, that is a fabulous graphic.

    I do have to quibble with the letterspacing (too tight) and with the weight of the font (too light), though.

    Don’t bring up the subway buttons with the TTC … they will be bitter.

  61. Asher> I think you make fair points, but I don’t think my comment is far-fetched at all (though, I am probably over-stating its Modernist value).

    What I don’t think is far-fetched is the attitude. I don’t deny that there is a big difference between tearing down ‘hoods and buildings, but commenters (above) saying “rip em up!” is the same destructive attitude that plagued many cities in the name of Progress. Just becuz things get dirty and need repair does not mean they need to ripped out, thus ruining a unique Toronto period piece.

  62. “Make them clean and shiny as on opening day, and keep it that way, and they will make Toronto proud.”

    I doubt that. They’re incredibly boring. That’s probably why people say they’re ugly. You might consider the utilitarian aspect of the inspiring, I guess.

    I would much rather see stations on the Yonge line redone. They have no sense of unity anyway, and can use a serious make over. I just hope that they learn from some of the mistakes with the Museum redesign.

  63. Repair them, clean them, respect them. Odds are that any replacement won’t have the same durability as there seems to have been a pretty good glazing finish on the blocks that new ones don’t have and they suck in oily dirt etc.
    Other systemic needs for maintenance are far more pressing than new cosmetics, including stopping leaks.
    As for the costs, we need to save our millions for some extra new streetcars to have the same degree of “service” that now exists, even before bigger ticket wa$tage on the Waterfront Transport Follies ie WWLRT though something is needed.
    Interesting to see how the smash em crowd doesn’t see that they’ve got the same attitudes towards the old buildings that we now extol as “charming” etc. that brought so many of them down.

  64. Matt L: it’s a bit much (or a bit premature) to expect a slew of “modern architecture survey books” for Toronto at this point–and it’s dangerous to use something like the TSA Guide Map as an end rather than as a means, which even its own creators would acknowledge. (After all, Yorkdale’s hardly the only noteworthy “heritage” station out there.)

    And de Visser’s 1975 book is a coffee table book, hardly the thing to use as an authority.

    “There is great modern architecture in this city — but what if the Bloor line stations are modern yet not particularly great?”

    These days, heritage is about more than just “great architecture”–social and cultural values play a part, too. Otherwise, our heritage inventories would be reduced by 3/4 or more.

    And Asher, re “what went on in the 50’s and 60’s”, look at it this way: nobody would propose demolishing New City Hall or the T-D Centre to spite what they replaced. Heck, even one of the Regent Park South towers is on the Inventory of Heritage Properties now. Sure, it may paradoxically contradict the spirit in which such stuff was conceived and constructed, but nothing wrong with a little paradox, right?

  65. Mike Haddad> What is not “incredibly boring”? I’ve never found myself bored in a Toronto subway station, but I am interested in knowing.

    As Matt mentioned, the subway button sales are an indication people think otherwise (than your assumption) – but there are many reasons why people have bought them. I would suggest though that if stations were not so subtly designed, they would not be as attractive. Simple is iconic.

  66. “I doubt that. They’re incredibly boring. That’s probably why people say they’re ugly. You might consider the utilitarian aspect of the inspiring, I guess.”
    Yeah, and once upon a time, “people” said that old industrial buildings were ugly, scary, hostile affairs, while others of more creative disposition considered their utilitarian aspects to be genuinely inspiring.

    Sometimes, it’s better to bow to creativity than to arbitrarily acquiesce to a hack-amateur tyranny of the majority…

  67. > Fix AND preserve the damn stations.
    > If this is what it takes for Joe Clark
    > to stop blogging about it,
    > I’ll gladly pay more taxes to get it done.

    D.P., hush money is generally paid directly to the party you’re trying to hush up.

  68. In some particular order: (don’t ask which)

    1) Matt

  69. I find it stunning Adam Giambrone can talk like this, when the system is so dysfunctional. Crush loading, but I will worry about tiles that work just fine. And at the same time, admitting they don’t know how to clean the stations properly. Giambrone has gone weird.

  70. Ok, for some reason my last post was cut off ..

    In some particular order: (don’t ask which)

    1) Matt

  71. Well, I’m just tired of trying to find a seat on a subway train that’s not filthy. It boggles my mind that the TTC can find money to “modernize” 60 subway stations, but there’s no money in the budget to keep subway cars and stations clean. The bottom line is that a “modern” station will not attract more riders if they still have to board filthy trains.

  72. Adam, my comment was a direct reply to Matthew Blackett’s “some of the finest examples of Modernist design” claim. To me, that claim would apply to City Hall or the TD Centre, but doesn’t fit the Bloor line stations. I’m not claiming those two sources are ideal authorities — they’re just what I had on my bookshelf. But I do think it’s interesting that City Hall and TD Centre (same age) are well covered in both, while the stations are ignored entirely. “Finest examples” are photographed and discussed by architectual folk over a long period of time, not just when it comes time for preservation efforts.

    As for the cultural history, absolutely. And I think a few lovingly-restored original-design stations would be wonderful to have. But we’re not keeping all of Regent Park, and I don’t think the city is best served by keeping all of the Bloor line as it was first designed.

  73. What is so disheartening about replacing the existing station designs is that the tiles and signature font are starting to become Toronto icons. While the TTC is considering trashing its modernsit heritage for some fly-by-night paper-machier cheese (Museum station), I’ve seen a whole slew of commercials, advertisements and billboards that make use of the stations as a prop. “This is Toronto!” they seem to say. It also speaks volumes about the TTC as a brand. With their distinctive font and creamy tiles they couldn’t have a better symbol if they tried. But I’m not surprised. The TTC, as an organization, is anathema to good design, effective marketing or professionalism.

  74. > Apart from the word “Ugly” thrown around and the
    > tired “bathroom” phrase, nobody has said why they
    > are so awful.

    OK, I’ll bite.

    I live near Ossington station, and work near St. Patrick.

    I have wracked my brain to come up with an accent colour that could liven up the green tiles at St. Patrick, to no avail. Watered down light green, with dark green accents and industrial grey floor is the reason I think this station is so awful.

    Ossington at least doesn’t suffer from an offensive colour combination, or even an offensive colour. Its problem is lack of colour altogether.

    I acknowledge that there are plenty of nice stations – I just happen to live and work near some of the less stellar ones. I admit it’s even possible that with a different ceiling and floor, and with some large wall sections devoted to art, even the Ossington station could look attractive without changing the tiles. I hold out no hope for the stations with green tiles.

  75. Without question I welcome a ‘refreshing’ of the stations. Regardless of style—Modernist, utilitarian or Victorian–anything that is left to deteriorate as our stations have will not stand the test of time. It’s hard to ignore the current state of disrepair and grunginess. They feel dank, uninspired and neglected. Visual identity and wayfinding, whatever the style and typography is, should be consistent, rigorous and reinforce to those who don’t know the system as intimately as everyday users. Set guidelines for placing temporary signs to forbid taped up hand-printed notices—as Joe has pointed out countless times. Hire a qualified architect who specializes in sensitive heritage-related projects. This would be the smallest amount of the total project budget and would result in the most cost effective solution. Don’t let TTC engineers figure out the design for themselves. Add some elegance to the system while building off the best qualities of the existing. The relatively recent restoration of the Ferry Building in SF is a great example of a long-ignored structure getting a facelift without destroying its character There is no reason we can’t apply this same sensitivity to subway stations or the entire transit network.

  76. Shawn, I find it really hard to believe you’ve never been bored in a subway station. All my transit fandom, my over active imagination, and even those new tvs with the news on them don’t keep me from looking around and seeing plain stations (I only ever use Y-U south of Bloor) that had little effort put into their designs, and even less effort put into maintaining them.

    But if you’re willing the explain to us all what you do to entertain yourself, I’m sure there are tons of us here who are willing to listen.

  77. Mike> In general, I can’t remember the last time I was bored (in the subway or elsewhere). I’m not sure what else there is to say on that. Life is not boring.

    But you made a huge statement in saying stations are “incredibly boring.” What does it take to be not-boring? “Incredible” is a strong word used on something I don’t think is boring at all — so to be “not-boring,” logically, a station would have to have an incredible amount of…..stuff? This sentiment (expressed by you, others) has me wondering what you want?

    What I take away from all these statements is that people want to be entertained, and that MTV should get into the subway station business. But when you’ve seen the entertainment once, (you’ve seen a mummy king tut thing at Museum and now it’s getting dirty because it’s the TTC, and it’s the 40th time you’ve seen it) won’t you revert to being bored? Subway station design can’t compete with the MTV generation’s predisposition to boredom.

  78. What’s with all this sentiment of “no effort went into the design” of the stations? The stations had take into account geology, local topography, nearby building foundations, underground streams, the street grid above relative to platform placement etc. These comments are disparaging to the engineers and architects who designed these stations. Unfortunately most of them are either dead or extremely elderly by now, and can’t speak up on this forum to defend their work. This sort of uninformed slagging merely based on being “bored” by a tile pattern while waiting for a few minutes for a train is pretty thoughtless. The stations of the Yonge line (1954 and 1973-74) and the pre-1980 BD were designed pretty consistently and gave a unified look to their respective segments. Neglect and age (and apparently lack of entertainment value) should not be the reasons to throw this away.

  79. Shawn, I’m not saying I completely agreed with all of the things in the Museum redesign. They made mistakes that they shouldn’t have. But at least it gives you a something to think about while you’re in there. I’m not saying that columns and recreations of ancient warriors is going to inspire me to do great things, but it will least get me going a lot more than the yellow at Dundas. A quick search on Flickr will return dozens of pictures of stations that are visually stimulating.

  80. First off, thanks to A.R. for using my photos in this thread. It’s a shame I’m gonna have to clamber back to Museum at some point to retake the photo.

    Getting back on topic, you want to talk about bland stations? Go to the platforms on the Sheppard line, and tell me that all that concrete doesn’t get depressing.
    If the TTC has discovered cash floating around to renovate stations, shouldn’t it be better spent finishing the ones we left incomplete?

    It also seems that sides have gotten extremely polarized on this issue – either everything stays, or it’s a complete and total redesign with no consideration of what was there before. As improbable as it sounds, MAYBE the TTC can create a refreshed concept for stations that pays homage to the original designs, or incorporates them into the new look. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – the fact that the TTC is using their original font again (albeit a badly-kerned recreation) is proof that they are slowly starting to get the hang of it.

    I’d love to see how the new Museum looks after one year of subway soot coats all those nice sarcophagi and hieroglyphs.

  81. Am I the only person here who *hasn’t* seent he sarcophogi and hieroglyphs at Museum??? Every time I pass through, the posts are covered up – did I miss the field trip? Does anyone have any photos?

  82. Special to Matt Galloway of CBC Hear and Now: If you’re trolling blogs for segments for your radio show, consider contacting the source for a comment.

  83. Annie: The hieroglyphs are embedded in the big orange letters of MUSEUM. The sarcophagi are indeed still covered.

  84. Chester station is a bit of a revelation. It is not used that much, and so remains in better shape than other Bloor-Danforth stations.

    If you visit Chester, and don’t like it anyway, then you won’t like any other Bloor-Danforth stations even if they’re fixed up.

    Also, someting that gets forgotten in the discussions of tile colours is that a lot of the old Art Moderne fixtures have been replaced over time by much blander items. Turnstiles and transfer machines done up in solid nickel-plated streamlining have long since vanished from the Yonge line stations. The fixtures were a bit simpler on the Bloor line, but a lot of them are gone as well. The current transfer machines and Metropass turnstiles are just stamped metal boxes.

  85. ^ So, it’s true, the TTC didn’t built cheap, they’ve just treated it that way over the years. That’s the main problem. They can reno all the way, if they treat it cheaply, as they do, we’ll have the same problem. I suppose Giambrone is too young to remember this stuff — the archeologist who doesn’t keep history at his elbow.

  86. I vote to keep the tiles – invest in good lighting and perhaps some ceilings! I live in London now and some of the nicest stations are the one’s where they’ve kept the historic tiling jobs.. though not quite the same as Toronto’s – I think TO can make vast improvements simply by eliminating all of those floresent light fixtures. Spotlights can make anything look 100% better – people use subway tiles all the time now in home decoration – though they are usually bounded by nice floors and ceilings – which the ttc does lack… so leave the walls – replace the bread that sandwiches it!

  87. “Shawn, I find it really hard to believe you’ve never been bored in a subway station. All my transit fandom, my over active imagination, and even those new tvs with the news on them don’t keep me from looking around and seeing plain stations (I only ever use Y-U south of Bloor) that had little effort put into their designs, and even less effort put into maintaining them.”

    Mike Haddad, if that’s the way you want to put it, look at it this way. If you can be bored in a subway station, you can be bored anyplace. You can even be bored in the Montreal subway–or anything else that happens to be an architectural masterwork. Just as people can be bored at the opera, or at the theatre, regardless of the quality of the fare offered (or of the venue at which it’s being offered).

    In fact, if you’re so utterly vacant and vapid an individual that you absolutely need bam! bam! a cacaphony of built-in visual stimulii to stimulate a little thought into you, well, don’t blame the station for your so-called boredom, blame yourself.

    And re your parenthetical “(I only ever use Y-U south of Bloor)”: those aren’t “plain stations”, those are in large part latter-day garish disfigurements. So, for “all your transit fandom”, you’re terribly ill-informed…

  88. Sorry to post once more, but I’d just like to say that I agree 100% with Jordan: the best solution here is a compromise between functional history and much-needed modernisation. I think that if the TTC can restore the present tiling to a like-new state and use the funds to re-do the floors, ceilings, landscaping, and the lighting, then you will please the vast majority of riders and preservationists alike.
    There’s no reason why preserving the present tile colours and patterns need get in the way of adding some distinctive, modern touches to the stations (take the large, empty mezzanine at Main for example: the perfect location for some tasteful sculpture). As someone with experience in theatrical lighting, I can also not understate the ability of a well-designed lighting scheme to completely transform mundane spaces and objects without having to physically alter them.
    I sure hope that some sort of a compromise can be worked out; this argument has become way too polarised and I fear that the trenches have already been dug.

  89. “Adam, my comment was a direct reply to Matthew Blackett’s “some of the finest examples of Modernist design” claim. To me, that claim would apply to City Hall or the TD Centre, but doesn’t fit the Bloor line stations. I’m not claiming those two sources are ideal authorities — they’re just what I had on my bookshelf. But I do think it’s interesting that City Hall and TD Centre (same age) are well covered in both, while the stations are ignored entirely. “Finest examples” are photographed and discussed by architectual folk over a long period of time, not just when it comes time for preservation efforts.”

    But just because those sources-at-hand on your bookshelf don’t include such stuff, it doesn’t mean it *hasn’t* been photographed or discussed or taken seriously by architectural folk over a long period of time. In fact, I can scarcely imagine any sensitive modern-sympathetic “architectural folk” within Toronto whose latent scope of what’s worth taking seriously begins and ends with well-worn potboilers like City Hall and TD. (Maybe the ultimate example is U of T A+LD dean George Baird’s renowned long-ago soundbite about Toronto’s so-called first-rate second-rate architecture–and he didn’t mean that as a slur, either.)

    It doesn’t mean the subway’s been unanimously praised–far from it–but it certainly hasn’t been ignored or treated as simply a non-designed non sequitur and potential tabula rasa, either…

  90. I’m not necessarily against makeovers — providing they are not done with materials which will lead to upkeep/maintenance problems. But I con also understand the position of the preservationists.

    What astounds me, however, is that that with all the problems the TTC is facing, and with a subway system that is filthy and poorly maintained, that the TTC Commissioners are even considering makeovers…as if these are the kind of changes that will lead to improved service. The comments by TTC Chair Councillor Giambrone in today’s National Post about Toronto needing a “modern” subway system and his suggestion that these station makeovers are somehow the path to that are simply mind-boggling. But then it is a perfectly typical comment from a politician who seems to be all surface and little else. Does this guy have enough gumption to be the chair in a sofa set, let alone of an organization so vital to the City.

    Then again, he isn’t necessarily any worse than his predecessor, Moscoe.

  91. Sam et al.

    While you may have valid reasons to not like Giambrone, this is a staff reccomendation, not an initiative of Commissioners.

  92. Molly, this may be a staff recommendation (I will grant you that leaving aside the issue of whether there was any influence on staff to focus on such an initiative given the myriad of other problems the TTC is facing)… But one thing is clear… the comments in today’s Post were by the Chair… not by staff.

  93. I hesitate to step in at this point in the conversation, when opinions are getting a little overheated — but it’s difficult to stay away, even though I may simply be rehashing other thoughts already stated.

    Despite my disagreement with many of the opinions so far, I have to say it is gratifying to see such an involved debate on the subject of our modest little subway. It looks like people actually do care about it.

    What we are talking about is a significant part of the built heritage of Toronto. To me, that alone indicates that it needs to be preserved and protected. I left Edmonton partly because the city had no interest in preserving any sense of its own history (and, boy, that city has continued to prove me right). Toronto has enough self-inflicted historical amnesia and we do not need to visit more of it on ourselves.

    No, the design of our subway stations is not the most glorious in the world. The stations are not inspirational waystations in the daily journeys of our lives. What they are is is ours, and honestly ours. They are part of the history and the character of this city. They were not done thoughtlessly or on the cheap (though I know we all thoroughly expect that of the TTC). A trip on the Bloor-Danforth line is a trip through history. Our own history, not the history of ancient Egypt. (And the preservation of some of Toronto’s own design history would have been a nice thing, actually, to keep at a museum.)

    Nothing could be more wrong-headed than some ill-conceived tarting-up under the guise of “modernisation.” The TTC has already wrecked most of stations on the Yonge/Spadina line under the same premises. Does anybody think the Queen station is beautiful? Dundas? Wellesley? How about the elevator retrofits at many of the stations? Are those examples of thoughful design and integration?

    The Bloor-Danforth line at least substantially retains its original design integrity. To have the TTC thinking of destroying it just because it has let the stations fall into neglect simply adds insult to injury. What the stations need is care and refurbishment, not early-21st century gimmickry thoughtlessly plastered on them. They do not need “modernising” because they are already “Modern” by virtue of the time and style in which they were built. The TTC will have a whole whack of new stations on the Vaughn extension to experiment with if it chooses.

    The TTC seems to finally be recognizing that it has something of value in its subway lettering. I think it needs to expand that recognition to the rest of its heritage. I think Adam Vaughn is on the right track, and we need to stop the TTC for its and our own good before the TTC wrecks its own house even further. And before we all forget that there actually is some history, and worthwhile, if humble, history, in this city.

  94. Look, if you want something “stirring” and “inspirational” and, in Adam G.’s phraseology, something that seems of recent times, don’t think in terms of drastic station makeovers. Think in terms of the grassroots that’s come to embrace and celebrate the subway and the TTC and its history over the past decade: Spacing, Transit Toronto, et al. And that’s something that even thoughtful visitors to this city can appreciate. If *I* were an out-of-towner visiting Toronto, I’d dig.

    And, to speak of this particular moment, those bucks earmarked for station makeovers can instead be earmarked for warding off transit strikes…

  95. David’s thoughtful comments above are absolutely spot-on.

  96. I also would have to agree with David V., and also with Dave above in terms of perhaps just improving some of the lighting, fixtures, and landscaping (these are mostly not original anyway), and maybe adding a bit of non-destructive art here and there.
    Is it too late for the TTC to consider such a compromise (they meet today, no?)

  97. I hope David Vereschagin wrote an email or letter to the TTC because those comments were fantastic.

  98. Adam, although somewhere along the way the discussion changed to being bored IN a subway station – which I think was my fault – the original discussion was in regards to the boring design of the subway stations themselves. Plain, utilitarian, uninspired, with a colour scheme meant to save money through bulk purchases. That said, I have no problem maintaining B-D’s design. There are many other stations that are in much greater need of a redesign.

  99. Another amen for Dave.

    One more point (going for record thread length here): station makeovers would not only be financially wasteful but also environmentally irresponsible – think of all the tile and whatnot that would have to be ripped out and trucked away to a landfill and think of all the energy and natural resources that would be expended in producing, transporting and installing the new materials.

  100. “That said, I have no problem maintaining B-D’s design. There are many other stations that are in much greater need of a redesign.”


    And the funny thing is, when you state it thusly…what’s your beef, anyway? Perhaps the thoughtful consensus now is that if anything might need “redesign” (or, heck, restoration), it’s the retiled corpses of the original 1954 Yonge line stations–so perhaps we’ve come full circle to a sort of agreement.

    And to revisit Matt L.’s reference point of John De Visser’s 1975 book on Toronto and how it doesn’t illustrate the Bloor line, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking, because dates of publication can be telling…what if the book were several years older? Perhaps, a 1967 Centennial publication? Using the evidence of whatever other boosterish publications of that time I’ve encountered, I’d make a good bet that the Bloor line *would* have been illustrated, being shiny, new, an object of pride together with its subway cars (no longer the old red Gloucester cars). As much an icon of 60s Toronto modernity as City Hall, TD, the Gardiner and the DVP and Yorkdale et al. Compared to the dankness of other such systems in North America, we truly *were* the utmost in functional and visual modernity.

    Unfortunately, what happened in the interim is that we Torontonians caught on to how Montreal’s spanking new Metro one-upped us (and practically everyone else, for that matter) on the high-style modern subway design front. Fairly or unfairly, that’s when Toronto started feeling pangs of guilt; all that virtuous functionalism henceforth became stigmatized as Kafkaesque bathroom-tile sterility, nothing more.

    It’s such guilt that explains the B-D’s non-appearance in 1975’s coffee-table literature. Those virtues were no longer deemed virtues worth celebrating; we’d only be spotlighting how Toronto The Good was a laughing stock next to Montreal The Exciting.

    Things come full circle…and then, full circle back again. Judging from the present thread, we’re evidently on the road to outgrowing those old pangs of guilt…

  101. Adam, I think that’s an interesting theory. Unfortunately, that does leave a pretty narrow window for guiltless pride: the Bloor line opened in February and the Montreal Metro in October of the same year.

    I was actually hoping that someone would chime in with a pointer to an article or book to show that the Bloor line made an architectural splash. Those claims are far harder to disprove than to prove — it’d just take a couple of good references to back up some of the assertions that have been made, and might help with those of us who are still skeptical.

  102. I’m certain I’ve seen one, but it referred to the original Yonge line (I remember it made reference to the endangered-species Vitrolite tiles).

  103. If you’re insist upon chronological literalism, yes, it is a narrow window; but I’m also allowing time for the reality to sink in–starting, perhaps, with Expo-going Torontonians getting a gander at the Metro, et al. And then, allowing the reality to trickle up to Toronto’s preferred coffee-table image of itself. (And if we’re thinking of a late-60s timeframe, perhaps there’s also a generation-gap undercurrent, i.e. Toronto’s subway system–and the chamber-of-commerce culture that upheld it as a source of urban pride–came to appear totally crew-cut square, the Paul Martin Sr. to Montreal’s PET.)

    As far as articles and books go; well, in all honesty, speaking strictly of architectural literature, there wasn’t any such proof of an “architectural splash” thing AFAIK. Basically, it was likely agreed that the B-D line consolidated on what was started in 1954; but relative to what was fashionable in the architectural press at the time, it was conservative old hat. (And even now, I’d agree with you that “are considered some of the finest examples of Modernist design in North America” is an overstatement, given the heady competition out there.)

    But, in the end, does that disprove a heritage(esque) argument on B-D’s behalf? All it proves is that it takes more than the smoke and mirrors of “making an architectural splash” to make a piece of familiar urban form or infrastructure admired and cherishable for its mode of expression. (And don’t think there aren’t other cases of buildings which the architectural-press attitude might have deemed at the time as either stodgily reactionary–say, the Bank Of Canada at 250 University–or garish and cheesy–say, Uno Prii’s apartment oeuvre–but which are now accepted as “heritage”.)

    Such is today’s heritage and urban-appreciation state of the art–so, when it comes to “those of [you] who are still skeptical”, may I offer this simple solution: get with the programme, and broaden your heritage scope. You may find yourself richer for it.

    And as an appendix, this discussion’s inspired me to do a little casual research on the Chicago system, whose State Street line (opened 1943) was something of a Yonge-line aesthetic precursor…
    Now, in a city as architecturally rich as Chicago, why on earth would anyone engage to something as, uh, architecturally “marginal” and nether-regional as its 40s subway infrastructure? Why? Why not? Try it, you’ll like it…

  104. Don’t touch them, you never know what it’s like to live away from Toronto for over twenty years and come back to see the stations as they were from the 60’s and 70’s. All they need is some really good cleaning. You cannot start changing and destroying the history of this beautiful city.
    As for boring…it’s public transit. Stop making everything so horribly trendy.
    In Vancouver they spent $80,000 per bus stop, with plexi glass waves and birds and within a few weeks they were full of scratched on graffiti. And they didn’t keep the rain off the users either.

  105. Why, with nearly every Montreal Metro station a unique work of art, would we not want to replace these Grandmas’ bathrooms we call subway stations?

  106. I am trying to find out the name of the outdoor pool that was (I think) near the corner of Bloor St. and High Park Road just across the street the High Park itself. I have very limited recollections of what it looked like. I remember it had many levels where people gathered and it was not too far from the main road of Bloor St. This would have been back in the late 50’s – 60’s.

    Would you have any information or especially pictures of this?

Comments are closed.