Winter Stations: the beauty of Toronto’s beaches

North by Montreal studio PERCH

The comfortable temperatures have been pampering Torontonians this winter, and even if some of us got the winter blues, there was no need to travel too far. A winter walk along Toronto’s eastern beaches has never been so entertaining. Visitors can get lost in a forest of upside-down trees and leave “a message from the sea” in plastic bottles.

Those are some of the five winning installations of the third annual Winter Stations, the international design competition to transform lifeguard stations across Balmy, Kew and Ashbridges Bay beaches into an open-air gallery with fantastic and interactive exhibits.

The jury of professional designers and architects of the Winter Stations, which is growing every year in its partners, organizers, and participants, received more than 350 ideas from around the world. Five were selected to be built on the beach along with three designs from the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and Humber College.

“Sometimes it was their [students’] first construction project,” said organizer Aaron Hendershott of RAW Design. “They should feel quite rewarded for their success.”

Catalyst, the theme of the 2017 Winter Stations asked the participants to envision a new waterfront landscape and to reinvent the way Torontonians interact with the beaches during winter. As it is only a five-week event, the other requirement included thinkining about how the installation can be reproduced, recycled, or used in other way.  

Flotsam and Jetsam by students from University of Waterloo

The 20-foot high sculpture Flotsam and Jetsam by a team of architecture students from the University of Waterloo resembles a huge Tetris-like horse from afar. But a closer look reveals many plastic bottles in wire cages. The installation is a close-up on the abundance of disposable packaging and its harmful impact on our planet.

North by Montreal-based Studio PERCH is a forest of forty-one fir trees hung from lifeguard stands. Hendershott explained that it was made from trees that didn’t found their homes over Christmas. The green installation stands out in the middle of the sandy beach covered with light-blue crusts of ice.

Collective Memory by Mario García from Barcelona and Andrea Govi from Milan

One of the most interactive designs is Collective Memory by participants from Barcelona and Milan — two walls constructed out of clear plastic bottles in which people can write messages about their experiences as Canadian citizens or immigrants in Canada.

“Over the period of the installation, hundreds of messages are making the piece more dynamic and interesting,” said Hendershott.

The Beacon by Joao Araujo Sousa and Joanna Correia Silva From Portugal

The creators of Collective Memory, North and the winners from Portugal, who designed The Beacon, the wooden lighthouse, were paid for their trips to Toronto to see how their pieces were constructed.

“They were quite satisfied that we were able to maintain their vision,” said Hendershott. “Being able to see it for the first time is little bit magical and emotional.”

Midwinter Fire by students from the University of Toronto

He added that it is always difficult for the jury to pick only a few designs from hundreds submitted, but that they focus on presenting something entirely new each year.

“There are a lot of repeated ideas, and [we have to] make sure that we keep the event fresh for the public,” said Hendershott.

BuoyBuoyBuoy by Dionisios Vriniotis, Rob Shostak, Dakota Wares-Tani, Julie Forand from Toronto

The Winter Stations event was founded by RAW Design, Ferris + Associates, and Curio in 2015 to inspire people to explore the beauty of the North.

The eight installations will remain open for public viewing until March 27.

All photos by Sveta Soloveva

Continue following our arts & culture coverage on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.