Building a new, beautified subway line

Art will blend with architecture in the six new subway stations now taking shape along the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Spadina Extension subway line, set to open in the fall of 2016.

The architecture and aesthetics of six new TTC stations

Construction at Keele Street marks the beginning of the TTC's expansion. (Reprinted with permission of the Toronto Transit Commission)

Art will blend with architecture in the six new subway stations now taking shape along the TTC's Spadina Extension subway line, set to open in the fall of 2016.

Over the next week, CBC Toronto will feature a profile on each of the new stations plans, examining both the art and architecture of the stops on the new line.

The TTC has a history of integrating art with station architecture. Art work can be integrated right into the station finishes such as wall or floor tile, or it can be applied to a dominant architectural feature. When art and architecture work together in this way, the final impact is often enhanced.

In a city already inadequately served by transit, the idea of sinking money into station aesthetics might raise eyebrows. But a recent Italian study showed that appealing design can influence transit riders to pay more for a ticket, wait longer for a train and walk further to reach more beautiful stations than they would to reach utilitarian ones.

Each of the new station designs is dramatically different from the rest, a principle established with the original Spadina line in the 1970s.

The TTC wanted designers to express their own aspirations and reflect the local community in the stations, said Ian Trites, the TTC’s facility architectural supervisor. TTC design guidelines called for bright, open spaces with deep daylight penetration, high ceilings, simple spatial flows and as few interior columns as possible.

The teams of international architects – each paired with a Canadian firm – include Will Alsop, AEDAS, Foster Partnerships and Grimshaw Architects. They are collaborating with artists Panya Clark Espinal, Bruce McLean, Jason Bruges Studio, Tim and Jan Edler, David Pearl and Paul Raff Studio.

The City of Toronto requires that all public buildings in the city include art. Subway stations are no exception. The art budget is pegged at $500,000 in each station, but integration of art and architecture ends up boosting the art’s value. “We have to put finishes on the floors, walls and ceilings. There is an opportunity for the artists to use these same finishes to make an artistic statement,” said Trites.

Art adds practical value as well, said Trites. When high-quality art and architecture is installed in a building, people identify with it. When they take ownership of the building, there is usually less vandalism and graffiti.

“When you do higher quality architecture … when you have higher spaces and better sightlines, people feel safer, they feel more secure,” said Trites.

Read about the rest of the Spadina Extension subway line:

Michelle Adelman is a fellow in global journalism at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.