AITKEN PLACE

The site of LIGHT KEEPER is a new public park space on the post-industrial shoreline of Toronto. According to Waterfront Toronto, “Aitken Place Park will be a multi-purpose space connecting Bayside to the broader East Bayfront community. The park will include places for children and pets to play, as well as quiet spots to relax and enjoy waterfront views.”

An early model for Aitken Place Park

The Call for Public Light Art specifically requested work on the more whimsical, slow, and tranquil side of installation art (more environmental, less narrative or action oriented). However, the possibilities for art-making are always contingent on interconnected variables like place, culture, history, geography, functionality, weather, and much more.

Close-up of the model for Aitken Place Park
Location of Aitken Place Park, as seen on a rendering of new Waterfront Developments.
Source: http://www.lwlp.com/portfolio_page/the-waterfront-toronto-bia/

Initially consisting of marshland on the shore of Lake Ontario, East Bayfront was “in-filled in the 1950s, during the last stage of the Toronto Harbour Commissioners’ 1912 plan for a waterfront industrial park […] Historically, the East Bayfront property was used primarily as a marine freight transfer facility […] The evolution of downtown Toronto and changes in the goods movement industry has meant that the area no longer functions as a busy industrial port,” (Waterfront website).

Inscription: “Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada, in the year 1893 by Barclay, Clark & Co. in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture.” Image Courtesy Toronto Public Library: 916-2-1 to 3 Cab III

Despite being North America’s 7th most populous city, Toronto is not without nature. Lake Ontario is the 14th largest lake in the world, providing drinking water to over 9-million people, and habitat to millions of non-human creatures. Interestingly, the Great Lakes are so large they actually haves tides, ie. “changes in water level caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and moon.”

Despite their subtlety, these tides are a twice daily reminder of the relationship between Toronto’s most impactful environmental feature and our closest celestial bodies. It’s the Lake that initial brought indigenous peoples to the region 7000+ years ago, and colonizers much later. It’s the Lake that drove the expansion of urban Toronto and fed (and watered) this booming metropolis. Even now, it’s the Lake that Torontonians aspire to be close to, to live near, to look at, to escape into, to feel.

In a city as vast, populated, and diverse as Toronto, any land development will arrive with some degree of tension. Industrial areas along the waterfront have historically housed everything from homeless encampments to artist studios. No space is clean, none without history. New developments come with complex feelings and implications, many of which we cannot possibly grasp without a personal relationship with the space over time.

As artists from elsewhere, we’re keenly aware of the things we do not know. With this in mind, we crafted our proposal with an emphasis on universal, optical phenomenon, wayfinding, and the relationship between cities + the natural world. Our hope is to contribute to a public space where all feel welcome to sit in a park on Lake Ontario, and escape into their imagination.

An abandoned industrial building near Aitken Place Park + a very subtle sunbow