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FOCUS: Marked with granite (Jan. 2020)

January 31st, 2020 · 1 Comment

Creating a spot to gather

Artist Robert Cram spots as Sanscon Construction employees carefully place the first granite bench at the Robert Street Parkette. NEILAND BRISSENDEN/BLOOR ANNEX BIA

Originally published in October of 2016 in anticipation of the granite installations in the Bloor Street Parkettes.

By Geremy Bordonaro

Humans have been moving stones to create monuments since at least prehistoric times, an act that is taking on a very local incarnation, thanks to the Bloor Annex Business Improvement Area, which is installing four parkettes along Bloor Street between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street.

Placed at the rights-of-way at Howland Avenue, Brunswick Avenue, Major Street, and Robert Street respectively, the parkettes will provide many user-friendly amenities like a water bottle refilling station and stone seating made of granite sourced from Quebec quarries.

Part art installation, part seating structure, the granite is meant to bring a more human aspect to the landscape, explained Robert Cram of DTAH, the Toronto-based architecture firm responsible for the design of the parkettes.

“This concept was based on something that we, as humans, have been doing for a long time,” Cram said. “We’ve been taking stones from places and carrying them to other places to create these communal, interesting spots where people can gather.”

A Quebec quarry worker marks granite destined to become part seating, part art installation in four parkettes set to launch on Bloor Street in 2018. COURTESY ROBERT CRAM

The granite stones, reclaimed off-cuts, weigh upwards of 10,000 pounds and are 2 to 4 feet tall. Cuts to the rocks for seating are specifically being carved with care by Cram.

“The concept for sculpting the stone came from [Isamu] Noguchi, the Group of Seven, and other people who have done these simple techniques into stone,” said the designer, whose design will give each stone “a beautiful modern look that will complement the history of the layers the stone already has”.

Brian Burchell, chair of the BIA (who also publishes this paper), is spearheading the $1.8-million street revitalization plan that includes the parkettes project, said he believes “they will soften the area, creating spaces that are relaxing and non-commercial; an oasis in a very busy landscape.

“You might think it’s unusual that the chair of the business association is advocating for non-commercial spaces but it’s exactly what we need to make the space more human.”

“From a park point of view, [the goal is] to have an integrated public art landscape, not something plunked down in the site, [but] something that becomes part of the site, [and] something that will work at all different times of the year,” said James Roche, a partner at DTAH, which has worked with other BIAs on similar projects.

“Increasingly, Bloor Street is becoming a destination and we want to make that experience as enjoyable as possible,” said Burchell. 

“I fully imagine seeing people meeting at these parkettes and them being a place where people can have respite from the completely commercial nature of the street.”

“What’s interesting is the scale of the project,” added Roche. “It’s almost like it’s going to be one of those things where someday someone wakes up and says ‘Wow, this is quite the transformation.’”

In the end, Cram believes that these parkettes will give a sense of connectivity unlike anywhere else in the city.

“When you walk down Bloor [Street], there will be this continual language to it. When you go through, the Annex will have this kind of personal aesthetic that will feed into [its] image.”

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Tags: Annex · Life

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 ON THE COVER (Jan. 2020) // Jan 31, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    […] James Roche of DTAH?looks on. For more on the parkettes and their granite benches, please click here. NEILAND BRISSENDEN/BLOOR ANNEX […]