Yonge-Dundas Square: Public vs. Private
Posted Mon, Apr 19, 2004 at 12:02 PM
Table of Contents (of original proposal):
2) Hello (Virtual/Physical) World
3) Yonge-Dundas Square: Public vs. Private
4) Detailed Project Description
5) Technical Considerations and Feasibility
6) Conclusions and Next Steps
Concrete park, Times Square wannabe, glorified parking lot roof or simply a waste of money � these are a few sentiments that Toronto citizens have of Yonge-Dundas Square. An in-depth historical and critical analysis of Yonge-Dundas Square is best left to other sources (footnote 1) however this project proposal will touch upon the variables relevant to Hello World.
Much of the criticism towards Yonge-Dundas Square is based on a move by City Council to operate the space as a business venture governed by a Board of Management rather than a completely open public space.
As you can see from the image, Yonge-Dundas Square was designed as an almost empty space to be used for varying events. �A space available for programming - not a programmed space,� is what the official Yonge-Dundas Square website proposes. The open area of the square could become a lunchroom when umbrella-covered tables have been set up, a market when merchant kiosks are set up, and a space for concert attendees to stand when the stage is utilized.
However, the use of the square is not free for large public events; you are required to apply for a permit and pay a fee to the Board of Management. Even certain forms of loitering are not permitted as there is always a security guard monitoring the space.
Although the square was proposed as a solution to reinvigorate one of Toronto�s busiest intersections, the vast emptiness of the square makes it psychologically hard for pedestrians to want to linger there; cloudy cold days make the square even more forbidding. As Lisa Rochon points out in an article about placelessness, Yonge-Dundas Square appears to privilege the car over the person and does not meet the needs of the public on a human-sized scale.
Those that pushed for the urban plaza heralded the intersection of Yonge and Dundas as the next Times Square however, unlike New York city, this area is currently filled with cranes and scaffolding.
On the southwest corner, the Eaton Centre has embarked on a facelift to its entrance by constructing a huge media tower to be completed by November 2004. According to the Outdoor Broadcast Network (OBN) website, �the Tower features the country�s largest TriVision panels, an ensemble of 50 choreographed scrollers and a 1,200 square foot LED video screen. The Tower is crowned by an LED information ticker that broadcasts live feeds and instant updates 24 hours a day to the audience below.�
On the northeast corner, the seemingly permanent scaffolding filled with billboard-sized advertising have formed, in my mind, its own a city landmark. But alas, construction has finally begun on the mega-sized AMC theatre called the Metropolis to be completed in the summer of 2005. In addition, a �media torch� above the soon-to-be Olympic Spirit Toronto building is currently being built on the southeast corner of Dundas and Victoria, just east of Yonge-Dundas Square. It can be seen below as the building with the three spotlights (footnote 2).
Interestingly enough, with these renditions of the future surroundings of Yonge-Dundas Square, the vast granite sea of the plaza has been completely dwarfed. Perhaps when all the construction is finished, more people will stay in the square for a longer periods of time however it�s still more-or-less �standing room only�.
According to PenEquity, the company managing the AMC theatre and the Olympic Spirit building, 54.8 million people pass through the area on a yearly basis including TTC commuters, pedestrians, and vehicular traffic (footnote 3). As the media companies jostle for advertising space, it is hard to shake off the feeling that Yonge-Dundas Square is simply a glorified open spot to allow companies to bombard us with of large-scale commercial messages from all 360 degrees.
Surfaces (such as the large billboards) in Yonge-Dundas Square are always changing without much indication to its past incarnations. Without a sense of history, a very temporal and fragmented feeling to the space is created which makes it very hard for the general public to feel a psychological attachment to the plaza.
With Hello World, I would like to take this idea of a public space that remains privately operated for profit and create a multimedia event that, although adding to the constant changing of surfaces, will help create a history of the square that it is not commercial.
1. For more detailed critiques of Yonge-Dundas Square, I recommend reading:
a) There�s No There There by Lisa Rochon for The Globe & Mail
b) Dundas Square: Full of Promises But No People by unknown author for Now Weekly
2. Additional 3D fly throughs of the Metropolis and Torch on the Square are downloadable from the Sc�no Plus website.
3. From PenEquity: Metropolis.pdf and 53Dundas.pdf