A New Bicycle Station Facility Sparks a Collaboration with Our Special Collections
In 2015, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the new Toronto City Hall, Toronto Public Library's (TPL) Special Collections and Preservation & Digitization departments created a website to explore the many architectural contributions to this international design competition.
The goal was to digitize and make available to the public photographs of the many models and drawings from the competition, which drew over 500 entrants. This physical archive is housed in Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre at the Toronto Reference Library. The digitized surrogates are available in the online Digital Archive.
The collaboration included deep research and cataloguing assistance from Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian, Kathy Vice and George Kapelos, Associate Professor at the Ryerson University School of Architecture, who was also writing a book on the same subject at the time.
In 2017, TPL was contacted by architect Vis Sankrithi, UOAI architects, who was working on a new bicycle station at new Toronto City Hall. The bike station is a key component in the overall Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization project by PLANT and Perkins + Will architects (2007), on which Sankrithi acted as a project architect prior to establishing his own practice. The bike station is located just below City Hall’s public square. The new facility provides approximately 200 secure bicycle parking spaces, and new change facilities for the city’s cycling community.
Exploring the intersections between contemporary urban infrastructure and a pivotal moment in Toronto’s modernist architectural history, Sankrithi integrated archival content from the 1958 new City Hall International Design Competition into the new bike station design. Using images and text provided by the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre (Toronto Reference Library) and the Panda Collection (Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary), the original transcribed lists of names of each of the 513 new City Hall competitors is etched on the central vestibule glass wall.
The corresponding photographs of original architectural competition models are featured on gold-coloured, digitally-printed ceramic wall slabs, which clad the outer walls of the change facilities, creating a striking visual and informational array.
Despite its subterranean nature, the bike station facility is situated in a highly prominent location with public exposure throughout the year. Separated from the surrounding 24-hour parking garage, and the adjacent pedestrian P-A-T-H network, by a thin semi-transparent veil of decorative steel mesh, the facility will allow for glimpses of the archive from all sides from passers-by.
Ultimately, the integration of this unique, photographic archive will hopefully spark new discussions not only about the 1958 new City Hall competition, but also about the open architectural competition process more generally, and its ability to create new visions and possibilities in architecture.
With special thanks to Vis Sankrithi for the written content around the bicycle facility project and his proactive approach to collaboration.