When you think of winter activities in Toronto the last thing that probably comes to mind is taking a long walk on Woodbine Beach in negative temperatures. That’s how I felt at least, until I found out about Winter Stations.
Winter Stations is a design competition in its second year here in Toronto. It’s been heavily supported by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, and I can see why.
The competition brings life to an otherwise deserted and empty beach. It keeps people coming to explore the beaches area even in the off season, and allows them to experience it in a new and different way. The installations have also been widely embraced by local residents, helping to create a sense of community, and getting people out of their homes and active during the winter months.
I started my trip on the Victoria Park end of the beaches, and the first installation I checked out was actually my most anticipated one – SAUNA.
At first I was nervous to enter because there was a couple and their dog inside and I thought it might be awkward, but after snapping some pictures I decided to go ahead and open the door. Turns out this was probably the best decision I had made all day. The couple were local residents, and they absolutely loved this installation. When I got in they were carefully stoking the fire, and had been bringing their own firewood, water, and kindling. Apparently they visited SAUNA nearly every day!
When I told them it was so kind of them to go out of their way to contribute like that, the wife replied, “It’s not being kind, I’m the one who gets to enjoy using this all the time!”
We were soon joined by more neighbours, and the discussion of Winter Stations continued. Another big hit was the large firepit on the other side of the beach (near Woodbine). Residents said the fire pits from this year and last really allowed for people to meet one another and gather as a community. They loved last year’s firepits so much that this year’s work done by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal is actually a permanent installation on the beach!
Before visiting I came across mixed reviews, some people enjoying it, some people criticizing the structures as not being “warming stations” at all. This was true for a few installations, but I think that they were still good contributions (in fact they added to the variety). For example Aurora Borealis doesn’t really have any warmth factor to it, but it has a lot of visible and tactile appeal, especially for children.
The Steam Canoe as well is slightly lacking in the warmth aspect (it would protect you from the wind, but I don’t think it would keep you very warm otherwise). The project itself was very interesting and high-tech, involving solar power and melting snow to produce the steam which would shoot out of those ridges. I would have loved to see it in action, but the steam function only works at -22C, not so perfect for our above seasonal weather.
Overall, I feel like I got to experience The Beaches community in a very different way, which is great because it’s actually close to my own area, and a place I haven’t explored often. Winter Stations is over for the year, but I look forward to next year’s submissions and would definitely make this visit a tradition!
What’s your take on Winter Stations?
Leave your comments below and check out my gallery for more pictures!