When I passed University Avenue on the Dundas 505 streetcar west yesterday evening, I looked north, and for the first time appreciated Queen’s Park’s night-time illumination.
The building is lit subtly, four points of light highlighting the edges of its geometric roof. It accentuates Queen’s Park’s architectural features, and quietly announces its commanding presence over the street.
The lighting of Queen’s Park solidifies University Avenue’s status as Toronto’s grand boulevard, a street deserved of such a beautiful anchor point. It brings a cohesiveness to the night time street scene, as University Avenue’s traffic islands, adorned with dignified statues and grand parades, lead gracefully toward the nobly lit structure.
A city needs symbolic design features such as these. As a complex and dissonant place, there needs to be grand, simple landscapes that all Torontonians can identify with (read Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City for more on this). University Avenue is a rare moment of Canadian confidence and exuberance expressed in its urban design. It reminds me of the grand boulevards of South American cities, like Buenos Aires’ 9 de Julio Avenue, which, with its remarkable 16 lanes, is similarly anchored by grand structures, in Buenos Aires’ case, obelisks.
Back in Toronto, the Dundas streetcar passed University Avenue and continued west, past the AGO, and through Chinatown, crossing Spadina Avenue.
Spadina, like University Avenue, is a grand boulevard. The street’s width is enormous, and its traffic boulevards, this time supporting the transit right-of-ways adorn Spadina with an impressive prestige.
But as the streetcar crossed Spadina, I looked north, and noticed that the beautiful University of Toronto building at 1 Spadina Crescent was left unlit, invisible in the darkness of the night.
It would be so simple to light it like Queen’s Park. If the University of Toronto were to light 1 Spadina Crescent to showcase its beauty at night, it would transform the feel of Spadina; it would make the street feel regal, and raise its status as the city’s other grand boulevard.
A simple urban design move would catapult Spadina Avenue into Toronto’s collective mind, establishing it as a strong anchor point of orientation and an undeniable image of our city.