Toronto’s Winter Stations Exhibition Turns Lifeguard Stations into Whimsical Sculptures

For the second year in a row, Toronto’s Winter Stations design competition and exhibition will attempt to lure Canadians out of hibernation and back to the beach this February. Founded by RAW Design, Ferris + Associates, and Curio, the competition’s four winning teams and three student teams were selected from a pool of 380 submissions to transform seven lifeguard towers along Lake Ontario into immersive art installations. In 2015, thousands of people braved minus 4-degree temperatures to wander through the first edition of the waterfront exhibition.


“People are interested in experiencing art that’s not in a museum or an institution,” says Lisa Rochon, Winter Stations Design jury chair and senior fellow at the Global Cities Institute. “To me, the great success from last year is that adults were playing with the installations as much as children were... This year, we have a whole variety of textures, materials, and ideas that are cerebral and will also really heat up the body.”


Although the installations must be fastened to the lifeguard stations, they are by no means constrained by them. The winning designs blossom out and around the steel pipe frames, obscuring the utilitarian structures beneath. “We wanted pavilions that would truly function as warming shelters, but that would be beguiling and poetic and even a little bit radical,” says Rochon.


Putting a literal spin on this year’s freeze/thaw theme, FFLO, a UK-based landscape architecture firm, plans to build a sauna with tiered seating for three. The project's transparent exterior will allow passersby to spy the steaming bathers inside.


In more of a warm and fuzzy vein, “In the Belly of a Bear,” the proposal from three Calgary-based artists, will invite visitors to snuggle up in a wooden sphere lined with thick fake fur.


The design from OCAD University, one of the three participating schools, resembles a massive overturned canoe. Evacuated solar tubes near the rear of the wooden structure will convert snow into steam, creating a halo of fog.


“We like the idea of taking conventional Canadian motifs, like the canoe, extending their meaning, and ‘re-presenting’ them to the public,” says Rochon.


The other two winning designs include “Floating Ropes,” a matrix of sailing ropes suspended inside a cube by Montreal-based architecture collective MUDO, and “Flow,” by Ryerson University graduate students Calvin Fung and Victor Huynh, which uses a mass of interconnected plywood stars to evoke a magnified ice crystal.


The completed projects will debut on February 15 and will stay open to the public until March 20, 2016.

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