Walk Leader: Ben Watt-Meyer
Photographs by: Wendy Tao
The Leslie Street Spit is built from the earth that once filled the city’s voids. Material comes from what once was Toronto’s basements, parking garages and subways tunnels. The spit is also built out of rubble from the demolished walls of lost architectural heritage. To see this place as a burial ground provides a moment to mourn our losses. Yet, to celebrate it as the material evidence of Toronto’s dramatic post-war urban reconstruction is an opportunity to rediscover this transformation from lake into rocky landscape.
Landscape architect and artist Ben Watt-Meyer led an enthusiastic crowd of over 40 participants on an epically long, 3.5 hour and 9 kilometer journey out to the end of the Leslie Street Spit and back. During the walk, Ben proposed an alternate narrative for the spit- one that encouraged participants to search for traces of Toronto’s vibrant architectural history within the rubble.
Using maps that precisely document the chronological sequence of the lake filling, we walked across decades of material history. Beginning in the late 1950’s at the base of the spit, the rubble we walked on was likely a resting place for material that used to be part of important buildings like the Toronto Board of Trade and the University Armories. We crossed over landforms built from the excavated fill from major 1960’s infrastructure projects such as the University Subway line and the Gardiner Expressway. We picked our way over beaches created in the 1970’s and 80’s, littered with the brick, stone and broken concrete of former roads, houses, and factories. We walked over lost architectural gems. Finally, we finished our trek at the end of the eastern endikement where fill from the construction of the Skydome lies and where brick and concrete continues to be dumped into the lake.