There is over a billion dollars being spent in and around Union Station at the moment. And by moment, we mean "over the course of half a dozen years", which we are around half way through now. The train shed is being restored and opened up with an atrium, a new York Street concourse will add new ticketing and access points for GO trains, a new mall is going in, the subway station is doubling in size, a new platform and terminal for the new Union Pearson Express train is being constructed, a new PATH connection to the station is being built under York Street, and the exterior walls and roof is being restored. It's an immense amount of work, all going on while around 200,000 people pour through parts of the site and scores of trains arrive on an any given weekday. When it's all done, Toronto will have a restored and improved Beaux Arts transportation hub that will be far more functional, and maybe even more beautiful than when the station first opened.

All that said, even though the daily experience these days is compromised by all the construction, and the results still seem somewhere off in a distant, hazy future, Union Station can still be a place to celebrate for those who pass through. To recognize that, Che Yan, a recent MFA graduate from OCADU who also holds a BEng from Nanjing University of Science and Technology and an MDes from Monash University in Melbourne, has created an interactive art exhibit that seeks your thoughts feelings on the station.

Memory Capsule by Che Yan at Union Station, TorontoChe Yan gestures for the scanner, while earlier imprints already display on the screen, image by Craig White

Memory Capsule, created in conjunction with OCAD University and the City of Toronto, debuts today in the Great Hall, and will be onsite for 8 weeks. During this time the work will mesh your thoughts with your shadowy imprint onto a 12 foot by 8 foot screen. The work takes the text from your tweet and places the words into your silhouette within a few seconds. Your input will become part of the collective expression of this very Toronto experience. 

In the meantime, work continues all over the site.

One spot which seems to be changing daily at the moment is the subway station, where a new south side platform has been built deep below the surface of Front Street, and where a newly enlarged concourse is now under construction above it.

Orange tarps cover new columns for the Union Subway Station concourse, TorontoOrange tarps cover new columns for the Union Subway Station concourse, image by Craig White

Once all the concrete has been formed for this level, restoring under-street services can take place, and then work to create a new Front Street forecourt for Union Station can get under way. The City wants (and needs!) all of this to be fully functional and looking great in advance of the Pan Am Games opening in July 2015.

While that work is taking place under Front Street at the Bay Street end of the station, another construction job is going on at the York Street end.

With the expected increase in GO Transit usage at Union in coming years, improved access to the station is of paramount importance. As our surface space is all spoken for, going underground is the only way to create more space for pedestrians to move between the Downtown office towers and the transport hub.

Construction staging area for the new PATH pedestrian tunnel under York StreetConstruction staging area for the new PATH pedestrian tunnel under York Street, image by Craig White

The York Street PATH tunnel will be a new climate controlled northwestern access between the extensive pedestrian network and Union Station. PATH currently accesses Union to the north from Royal Bank Plaza, to the northeast from Brookfield Place, to the south from the Air Canada Centre and the new Southcore area, and to the west from the Skywalk. A future access to the east will connect to the Esplanade area via Backstage Condominiums. This extension will cut the time and congestion for many thousands of people who work, live and play in this part of Downtown with the station, and with all other points on the PATH system beyond it.

Steel posts and beams frame the new PATH pedestrian tunnel under York StreetSteel posts and beams frame the new PATH pedestrian tunnel under York Street, image by Craig White

There's much more to come here, and we will be back every few weeks to keep you updated. In the meantime, visit Union Station's Great Hall to make your contribution to the Memory Capsule. Want to know more about what all is going on here? Check out our dataBase files, linked below. Want to talk about it? Click one of the associated Forum thread links to join the conversation, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.