Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Luminato Link: The best laid plans

Read more articles by

Last night, coming back into the city around 6 pm after a weekend away, I knew that I was short on time and the weather was against me, but I decided to check out what was remaining of the Luminato Festival. I was particularly interested in taking a trip on the Luminato Link, a free shuttle boat from the foot of Parliament Street across to the Harbourfront Centre, presented by Waterfront Toronto.

The boat was meant to be a link between two of the festival’s major hubs (the Distillery District and The Harbourfront Centre), but was also meant to promote the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront. I was interested in taking the boat to learn more about the revitalization of the East Bayfront area in particular. Although I have seen pictures of that area (most vividly from news reports about Toronto’s Tent City that was shut down in 2002 at the foot of Cherry Street), I have never explored the space in person.

The Luminato Link stop near the Distillery District was at the Parliament Street Slip, at the western edge of the Portlands, and Waterfront Toronto set-up a temporary urban beach to show a taste of what the revitalized area could be. There were apparently television screens setup by the beach that looped renderings of proposed revitalization plans, but by the time I got there those televisions were gone. The link was supposed to run until 11 pm on Sunday, but due to yesterday’s storm front, the last boat ride was at 8 pm and many of the other outdoor activities in the area had been folded up. I was just in time to get on the last boat — I was determined to to get down there and see what was happening despite the rain and thunder.

In the 25 or so minutes I was waiting for the boat to arrive I wandered around the area. I find it ironic that the most beautiful part of the city is also the city’s most derelict — looking over the water to the Leslie Street Spit is so refreshing, but being surrounded by decaying industrial infrastructure is disquieting to say the least (especially when you look west into the distance and see the skyline of the city, which speaks of energy and motion, but all around you is so cold and still). Yet that is why I think the Luminato boat shuttle (though I didn’t experience it on a sunny day, or in the full swing of the events that were meant to be taking place around it) was such an awesome idea — because it tried to draw people down to see a underutilized area as it is, with both its challenges and potentials, then take them across the harbour for some breath-taking views of the islands on one side and the city on the other. It then deposited riders at a part of the waterfront that has already been successfully developed, the Harbourfront Centre, where the naturally beauty of the lake meets the excitement and activity of Toronto head on. The trip made me think about how great the whole stretch of waterfront could be one day, maybe it did the same for others.

One of the features of the Luminato Link was that passengers would view art installations in the city that could only be seen from the water. When I was on the boat, dark tinted plastic was covering the openings on the observation deck because the rain was coming down pretty hard, so I really couldn’t make out any art pieces (although I did see a long and colourful banner reading “Luminato Streetscape 2008”, which sat in front of some construction cranes). Not seeing the art really didn’t matter — the city itself grabbed and held my thoughts — more than just an art piece, a living, changing, work in progress.

When I got back to the Parliament Street Slip by cab, because the boats weren’t running anymore and I didn’t want to get drenched waiting for a bus, the rain letup, and over the lake was a giant rainbow — maybe the Portlands is Toronto’s pot of gold?

Photos by Matthew Hague



  1. Thanks for posting–the east waterfront is so broken, and so so cool.

  2. Thanks for the great pictures and sharing your experience.

  3. My partner and I took the Luminato boat both last year and this year and it was interesting to see that in the intervening year the pier at the bottom of Parliament Street had been tidied up a bit more. But, the pier is still about 30% covered in piles of gravel and sand and it would seem easy to remove all of this and actually open up this pier all the time – maybe if the Luminato boat runs for the next decade all the sand/gravel will go? Of course the area to the east of this pier (below the Soya Mills silos) is still a complete mess of construction debris and garbage – but I think this (fenced off) area is not public property. The former home of Tent City – which belongs to Home Depot – is the next block going east – it is looking quite rural.

  4. It was a great tour when it wasn’t raining. The Luminato mural seen from the water was in front of two cranes in the East Bayfront. Apparently these are the only cranes on the entire waterfront and are those belonging to the Corus Entertainment building by Tedco.

  5. Wow…way to miss the point about our entire installation…

    Below is a sample and here is a link to some images of the process and final works from our transient memorial, ‘Housepaint’ on the site of the former tent city: These shots are just from my personal camera and completely miss ‘the orgy of greed’ at the end when the 560 canvases memorial was being pulled off the fencing by the masses – the professional shots and footage should be coming through shortly.

    Stay tuned for the follow-up fundraiser in September…

  6. Devon — I don’t think he missed your point about the installation — he just missed seeing it. There was no description of it other than it was raining out and he couldn’t get to see it. Simply enough and not deserving of such a glob comment (though, I’m happy to see you provide more context to the work).

  7. “Not seeing the art really didn’t matter — the city itself grabbed and held my thoughts — more than just an art piece, a living, changing, work in progress.”

    Above is a glob comment made by a lazy viewer…if he took the time to check it out we actually made a microcosm-gated-Toronto — all the houses were scaled by Torontp’s income ratios… More frustrated with Spacing in general actually…I sent so many emails and junk…

    They even completely ignored this at the other site:

  8. huh. Devon seems to ignore the writer said it was pouring outside. And complaining that Spacing didn’t write about your work is not going to get you any pity. Its not the Toronto Star with 100s of writers. Last time I heard, Spacing has one full time staff.

    And, since I saw the installation, I will tell Spacing readers about it: it wasn’t that good. Nice, but not worth staying out in the rain to check out. Good idea though…

    The Fauxreel work is great, but he’s shown that he doesn’t care much about income or class wars since he took money from the auto-industry, probably of the worst predators on low-income families (maybe not as much in Canada, but certainly in the US).

    If ya gonna bitch, be prepared to be bitched at back.

  9. Actually when most of those shots were taken it was not raining outsite. I was there when the rainbow hit.

  10. (Also — see the lack of drops in any of the puddles.)

    Interesting — you are the first person who has said it was not good? I am interested to know why?

    I love Spacing and we have supported eachother’s work for years…I am just tired, cranky and wish that the article was more focused.

  11. Actually, we have only one staff member who works full time but he gets paid only as a part timer.

    The world of small mags is one of volunteerism and poverty line salaries.

  12. (Also — also, Vespa seems pretty aligned to the needs of low income families around the world actually?)

  13. Devon: it was raining pretty hard, albeit it on again off again (I took the pictures when it wasn’t raining so that the pictures would actually turn out). I was standing on the pier (where Housepaint was) for a few short minutes, not enough time to pay your piece enough attention to write a proper review for it. I was trying to make the best post I could out an unfortunate situation – rain, not enough time, and a partially cancelled event (the link was supposed to go until 11 pm).

  14. Devon — Matthew is clearly not insulting your work, he is saying the rain didn’t matter because the day was salvaged by the view, the city, etc. This post clearly is not about your fence city, it’s about the east bayfront area in general. That’s the focus.

    As for being disappointed in Spacing, that’s fine. This blog is all volunteer, there are no resources other than sweat-equity for online stuff. You sent your “emails and junk” the week of the event, and they included links to other sites which take time to go through. Between the 60-90 emails each of us get a day, on average, if items can’t be ingested quickly and are sent way in advance, we can’t get to them. We also don’t email our mom’s enough, and they get upset too.

    It is simply unfortunate the one time we were able to get somebody out to the area, it was pouring. As for not covering the paste ups…lack of time and resources again. We have no Luminato style budget to pay rent, if we did we could cover things much more deeply.

  15. Re:
    “Matthew is clearly not insulting your work, he is saying the rain didn’t matter”

    Herm? From the article: “Not seeing the art really didn’t matter — the city itself grabbed and held my thoughts — more than just an art piece, a living, changing, work in progress.”

    Strangely fitting, but it clearly says that art viewing was superfluous and visually states that parking lots are more interesting. (tehe) If the ‘true interpretation’ is what you are proposing it would have been more clear and fashioned in different language — with perhaps a hint of disappointment — as clearly the weather op was there to experience the work.

    Re: Spacing workload
    We work really hard too and I would not call our budget grand. Alot of that piece was done by volunteers. I sent in info, calls etc wayyy before the event, I don’t want discussion to go in this direction, bad for both of us.

  16. I can appreciate Devon’s desire to have his event covered, but telling the mag what to write/how to write it, while pulling stuff out of the air ( “parking lots are more interesting” ) , he seems to digging himself a nice, big hole to climb into.

    Who knows what Spacing has planned editorially. Maybe Devon’s events were gonna get more coverage at some point. Shooting the messenger is a bad tactic, my friend.

    (PS: having no budget and a budget are different, so don’t compare the two either).

  17. I did not shoot the messenger, I expressed hurt, crankiness and disappointment…

    My post-partum hole is quite comfortable thanks. Spacing has covered lots of my stuff.

  18. (+ got lots of press elsewhere — just that Spacing is my favourite media source.)