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Creating a Place for Performance Under the Gardiner: Strachan Gate

Apr 26, 2016

Looking east under the Gardiner Expressway from Strachan Avenue.

Where the Gardiner Expressway passes over Strachan Avenue, there is an opportunity to create a unique space for music, theatre and other kinds of performance. Image courtesy of PUBLIC WORK.

By Jake Tobin Garrett

This is the first in a series of four blog posts that explore different places that are part of Project: Under Gardiner.

One of the exciting things about Project: Under Gardiner is that we’re not simply talking about the design of a new public space, but the types of programming and activity that we want to see there. And the fact that this new space is underneath the Gardiner provides a bunch of cool opportunities to think about how the structure itself can be used.

In fact, one of the project ideas would take advantage of the Gardiner’s structure above to attach things that could be used for programming below, such as lights, screens, and hooks to display things – an idea the designers are calling "Metropolitan Rigging." So when we think about what we want to see under the Gardiner, we should think in 3D – not just on the ground level, but vertically as well. 

Steps down from Strachan Avenue and performance space, viewed from above.

The proposed performance space under the Gardiner by Strachan Avenue. Image courtesy of PUBLIC WORK.

One of the key hubs for this activity is proposed at where the Under Gardiner meets with Strachan Avenue in the west. Envisioned as one of the iconic gateways into the Under Gardiner, the Strachan Gate could be a place for more active, performance-related programming.

There are a few reasons why this particular place is suited to this type of programming, one of which is that this part of the Gardiner is the farthest away from residential buildings. But the shape of the Gardiner in this section and its supporting columns, or bents, also creates an interesting and unique space for performance.

Looking east, down from Strachan towards the triangular performance space formed by the expressway columns.

Looking east from Strachan Avenue out onto the performance space. Image courtesy of PUBLIC WORK.

If you stand on Strachan and look east, you will notice that the bents are positioned a little more irregularly than other parts of the Gardiner. This was to accommodate the Grand Trunk Railway, which ran underneath this section of the Gardiner. You can still see the tunnel underneath Strachan where the train travelled. This positioning of the bents to avoid the railway has created a triangular view that provides an interesting opportunity to create a stage for community gathering and performance.

The idea would be that Strachan would open up underneath the Gardiner. A new set of wooden “bleachers” would step down from Strachan, allowing you to easily get into the Under Gardiner space. Ramps and pathways will ensure the space is universally accessible. The bleachers could be places to simply sit and hang out, but they could also be used as viewing space for a performance taking place on the stage.

Want to learn more about Project: Under Gardiner? Head over to www.undergardiner.com/participate.html to find more information and short videos explaining the project.


You can also join us for a walking tour of the project coming up on Sunday, May 8, 2016 (Mother’s Day). Bring your mom! Click here to register for the tour on Eventbrite.

post contributor

  • Jake Tobin Garrett

    Jake Tobin Garrett is a writer and public space advocate in Toronto. He works as Manager of Policy and Research for Park People.