WATERTABLE: art commission under the Gardiner unveiled

Last night, in the darkness under the Gardiner Expressway, Toronto’s first permanent multimedia art commission was unveiled. WATERTABLE, the 500 m2 light and sound installation, by Toronto artists Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak, gives us an idea of when the shores of Lake Ontario used to reach this far inland. The piece, which shimmers with long strings of LED lights, includes audio of lapping water and waves, recorded on the far side of the Toronto Islands.

Artist Lisa Steele says, “we think of WATERTABLE as a piece of public art that will help to humanise the environment for residents and visitors alike.” Situated between the lake and the Historic Fort York, the installation helps to visually connect the waterfront to the city. Adjacent to the new pedestrian entrance at Fort York, the piece will be a beacon for the upcoming Visitors Centre and the revitalisation of the 43-acre site.

WATERTABLE responds to the prevailing wind patterns using an anemometer, which measures wind velocity. This results in a sensory experience of visual and auditory layers, shifting from south to north like the waves against the shore. With over a hundred people at the unveiling, including a few passer-bys, this ‘dead’ area under the Gardiner is already experiencing a change in attitude. WATERTABLE is the beginning of this change in, as Steele calls it, “this vibrant and growing neighbourhood.”

Photos by Nicole Bruun-Meyer


  1. How will this look like during the day? Will it bring something new to look at aswell?

    Also, why not just one area? There’s alot of intersections under the Gardiner, will they be beutified also?

  2. The area was chosen because of the location to the Fort and this spot has the highest and “lightest” feel of under the Gardiner. I believe its location allows for lights, etc that do not distract drivers, as in other parts where the highway deck is lower, it could cause some distraction (though I’d argue that during a rainstorm the billboards on the north side of the Gardiner near Liberty Village are the most hazardous things on the highway).

  3. This is so gorgeous. I wanna hop on my bike and go check it out right now…

  4. Does anybody have a contact where I can initiate a discussion on a new possibility for Gardiner based art installations? I have been sitting on a concept for a number of months that I need to get out!

    Thanks for any help!!!

  5. Apparently this cost $115,000 according to the Star:

    I am all for beautifying the passages under the Gardiner, but it doesn’t help in the daytime, and doesn’t really help pedestrians. Cars will survive the drive, but cyclists and pedestrians need all the help they can get getting past the Gardiner.

  6. Freeway underpas beautification is something the Province should look into. Freeways split many Ontario cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor) and if they aren’t going to be torn-down, we should try to find ways to make them less ugly. Plants? bricks? paint? art? Music?

    Has Spacing heard of any such program?

  7. I can’t help thinking about Michael Hayden’s “Arc-En-Ciel.” Have they carefully thought through the upkeep of WATERTABLE?

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