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‘I want passengers to feel a little bit of joy’: Will Alsop’s aLL Design completes two Toronto stations

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Sculptural concrete, vibrant colour and art installations all feature in the new Pioneer Village and Finch West stations in Toronto 

Both form part of the new Toronto York Spandia Subway Extension, which expands the existing transport system across the boundary between the City of Toronto and the Regional Municipality of York.

Pioneer Village Station straddles the border of York Region, beneath the intersection of Steeles Avenue West and Northwest Gate, anchoring a corner of York University Campus. The station will serve up to 20,000 passengers daily, with 1,881 commuter parking spaces and two separate regional bus terminals. The location is otherwise under-developed and it is intended that the station entrances and bus terminals will create a focal point that will serve the future development of the surrounding area, beginning with Steeles Avenue West.

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Wa ibi pvt 171028 171015 18 3396

Source: Wade Zimmerman

Pioneer Village Station

Pioneer Village’s entrances were designed as a pair of sculptural structures, higher than necessary in order to increase their visibility – ‘We learn a lot from cathedrals’, says Alsop. Rendered in weathering steel, these two structures mirror each other in shape and scale. The canopy – also made with Cor-ten steel – has a huge cantilevered roof, the surface of which is planted with meadow grasses. 

Finch West Station is located at the intersection of Keele Street and Finch Avenue West. The hydro corridor to the north accommodates commuter parking for 347 vehicles, passenger pick-up and drop-off with associated access roads from Keele Street. Bruce McLean, Alsop’s long-term collaborator, was appointed as artist for this station, and in this particular case the art has been integrated into the architecture.

McLean was inspired by ancient architecture, and the external columns at Finch West refer to Greek caryatids while those supporting the underground roof were influenced by 6,000-year-old Minorcan pillars that would have supported underground houses. The sculptural concrete forms are integrated with the supporting columns of the substation and entrance buildings, the bus canopy and double-height columns below grade. Every visible aspect of the public space of this project aims to blend the boundaries between art and architecture.

Wa ibi fwt 171028 171015 18 3489

Wa ibi fwt 171028 171015 18 3489

Source: Wade Zimmerman

Finch West station

This sculptural use of concrete has also been employed at Pioneer Village, where the interior walls are faceted, highly-polished concrete and the supporting columns along the length of the platforms are angled and ovoid in section.   

Also key is Alsop’s characteristic use of colour. At Pioneer Village, a vibrant red contrasts the Cor-ten on the exterior and interior at ground level, and LightSpell, a public art installation by Berlin-based architecture and art studio realities:united, consists of 40 interactive light elements that run along the ceiling throughout the station. Each element can display the alphabet, special characters and numerals, allowing passengers to send messages that will appear on the displays.

At Finch West, coloured glass sections and tiles feature at ground and platform levels, with the exterior’s black and white striped form recalling Alsop’s OCAD building, also in Toronto.

Architect’s view

I have to assume that on one of those really cold, miserable January mornings… there will be people down there travelling to a job that they’d probably rather not do. What I want them to feel is a little bit of cheer, a little bit of joy.

Will Alsop

Project data

Pioneer Village

Client Toronto Transit Commission 
Size 16,200m² 
Start on site 2011 
Completion December 2017 
Cost $165M CAD 

Finch West

Client Toronto Transit Commission 
Size 11,200m² 
Start on site 2011 
Completion December 2017 
Cost $130M CAD 

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