WinterStation_InTheBellyofTheBear1 Photos: James Bombales

Now in its second year, the annual Winter Stations Design Competition has returned to Toronto’s east end Beaches with an eclectic mix of interactive public art installations. The competition, which was launched in 2015 by Raw Design, Ferris + Associates and Curio in partnership with the City of Toronto, invites international artists, designers and architects to reimagine several lifeguard stands along the shores of Lake Ontario.

“Moving in to year two, we could not be more impressed with the calibre of design and dedication from each team,” said Roland Rom Colthoff, founder of RAW Design. “Each installation brings its own unique story to the beach, demonstrating that, no matter what the temperature, design draws the crowds.”

This year’s judging panel consisted of Jane Hutton, landscape architect and assistant professor at Harvard University, Alex Josephson, architect at Partisans Architecture, Catherine Osborne, editor-in-chief at Azure Magazine, Lisa Rochon, Senior Fellow at the Global Cities Institute of the University of Toronto, and Lily Jeon and Diana Koncan, the winners of last year’s competition.


After receiving over 350 entries from 45 countries around the world, seven winning designs were announced in January followed by a special event at the Gladstone Hotel last week where project teams described their concepts in a Pecha Kucha format presenting 20 slides, each for 20 seconds. An official unveiling was held last Monday attended by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, architect Douglas Cardinal and Christopher Wein, President of Great Gulf, one of Winter Stations’ platinum sponsors.

“It was great to see so many people at the launch of Winter Stations. The power of public engagement and how art and design are able to capture the public’s imagination inspired all those that ventured down to the Beaches on one of the coldest days of the year,” said Wein. “Art enthusiasts and the art installations brought Toronto’s winter waterfront landscape to life.”

The theme of “Freeze/Thaw is a reflection of Toronto’s winters which are often long, unpredictable, and varying in temperature and precipitation. Participants were challenged to respond to these changing climatic conditions and transitions into their designs. The result is four interactive pieces by teams from Toronto, Calgary, Sudbury and the UK, alongside three student-led installations from Laurentian University, OCADU and Ryerson University.

“Visitors will discover a feast of textures in the schemes — from vessels clad in charred wood to sailing rope to vintage furs,” said Lisa Rochon, the jury chair. “Inventive, playful and irreverent, all of the installations can be read like pieces of poetry on the beach.“


In addition to the seven winter stations, a fire pit art installation by renowned Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal has also been unveiled on the west end of Woodbine Beach. Sponsored by Diamante Development, the fire pit uses Western Red Cedar charred in an ancient Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban, to provide a source of warmth for visitors and a protective shield from the winds.

BuzzBuzzHome News headed to the Beaches this week to get a closeup look and snap some photos of the winning installations. Check them out below along with project descriptions from the artists.

In the Belly of a Bear
Caitlind Brown, Wayne Garrett and Lane Shordee
Calgary, Canada


Artist Description: In the Belly of a Bear is a 15 foot diameter, dark and charred wooden sphere with an opening at the bottom and a glass window at the top. A ladder, which viewers can climb, leads to a domed sitting space lined with densely thick warm fur. Within this cozy, warm space, viewers will thaw slowly, and perhaps stay a while to gaze out the window across the frozen lake and the cold winter

Floating Ropes
MUDO (Elodie Doukhan and Nicolas Mussche)
Montreal, Canada



Artist Description: Floating Ropes intends to pay tribute to the physical characteristics of natural rope, and its symbolic association with waterfronts context. Depending on the climatic conditions, ropes offer a very changing and responsive materiality, that may turn from a flexible string to a frozen mass. The installation is thus meant to embody the freeze/thaw periods of Toronto’s winters, and to propose a highly sensory experience to the visitors.

FFLO (Claire Fernley and James Fox)
Kent, UK



Artist Description: First they freeze in the snowy icy landscape, then they thaw in the hot sauna. The freeze/thaw process that we have in mind is one for people. Members of the community can take part in this exhilarating process or observe in awe. The sauna is a simple timber construction with tiered seating for three, the higher the hotter. The twin wall insulating polycarbonate outer skin of the sauna will give chilly winter walkers a steamy glimpse of the thawing bathers within. At night solar powered lights illuminate the scene – a hot steaming beacon on the beach.

Sandbox (Calvin Fung and Victor Huynh)
Toronto, Canada


Artist Description: Flow attempts to capture the transitionary moment between freeze and thaw. It begins with the reinterpretation of a single ice crystal. The elementary particle is reinterpreted as a 3D star-shaped module digitally fabricated through slot-fitting wood connections. Flow serves as a reminder of the snow structures that once speckled the landscape. The dynamic process of freezing and thawing, like water transforming from solid to liquid, is expressed in an equally charged form capturing the flow of energy.

Toronto, Canada



Artist Description: Lithoform aims to create an interlude in the windy winter conditions outside. Recreating the natural formations of our lithosphere formed as a product of frost wedging, it provides a space to thaw during frigid temperatures. Lithoform’s fissures guide you through a polychromatic cavern of filtered light around the centrally located lifeguard station. A contoured mass adorns the lifeguard station with sheltered seating, allowing users to experience the outdoors without being subject to the icy winds. Users passing by the installation are enticed to enter by the soft shadows of those moving through the interior.

The Steam Canoe
Toronto, Canada



Artist Description: Composed of wood panels, OCADU’s design resembles that of an upside down canoe, creating an interior dome for the public to take shelter. Evacuated solar tubes placed at the rear of the structure are designed to turn snow to steam, creating a halo of fog emerging from within this ‘steam canoe’.

Aurora Borealis
Laurentian University
Sudbury, Canada


Artist Description: Made from sewn fabric, LED lights and a welded aluminium frame, Aurora is an kinetic sculpture that hovers above the lifeguard station like a spinning chandelier. As the visitor approaches and touches the illuminated tubes, they respond to body heat by changing colour.

The Winter Stations will be displayed along Kew, Scarborough and Balmy Beaches located south of Queen Street East between Woodbine Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue until March 20. To learn more about the competition, visit the official site.

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