Under the Grid 2

Looking at Toronto from above reveals a relatively unspectacular view. Thousands of streets stretch laterally over a seemingly undifferentiated landscape, criss-crossing at the expected 90 degrees, forming a seemingly unexciting street grid that eventually fizzles out into the cul-de-sacs of suburbia.

But a closer look — and a bit of exploring — reveals a much different situation: Toronto is crisscrossed with ravines that dramatically plunge from the concrete and into ecological wonderlands. These forested nether-regions are hidden in plain site under the city’s streets as hundreds of straight-shooting concrete bridges pass over them. This way the grid’s integrity is not compromised by a bunch of flood-prone, free flowing river valleys that resist right angles.

Last weekend, I was delighted to plan UNDER THE GRID, an acoustic concert that took advantage of a particularly special unplanned space that was created when Bathurst was carried over the Cedervale ravine via concrete bridge.

The Bathurst Bridge is a behemoth: a low-profile concrete-marvel that just happened to make a perfect amphitheater under its northern section where the sloping ravine, tamed by concrete and caged rocks, meets a supporting pillar at such an angle that ideal acoustics practically beg for a concert to take place.

Seb snap

On Saturday evening I gathered with friends and strangers under the bridge by candlelight to enjoy the beautiful acoustic music of Toronto-based CRHYMESKevin Kralik, Stan Simon and OMHOUSE as they animated the space and we collectively reinterpreted and imbued life into this architectural leftover. We served sweet and spicy pay-what-you-can mulled wine, and got cozy under blankets to stave off the cold night.

Of course, we weren’t the first to activate this unplanned space. Recent graffiti, a fire pit and blankets suggest many people take advantage of the privacy of the bridge for street art and shelter, using the space as needed.

UNDER THE GRID was a fantastic opportunity to invite others to explore a beautiful ravine that is important to my personal geography. I explored it as a child and continue to do so regularly. And as always, I took advantage of the opportunity to make a map so visitors straying far from their downtown haunts could easily negotiate the messy tangle of ravines that exists so beautifully beneath Toronto’s straight-laced streets.

UTG_Map

Thank you to all who came to make UNDER THE GRID such a special evening. Another will certainly be planned next summer, and, I look forward to planning more events in Toronto’s ravines and in the city’s special spaces beyond!

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