Winding through the city like arteries, Toronto's ravines run beneath the urban landscape of streets and towers as a subtle yet defining topographical feature. However, despite the natural beauty at our feet, the city's ravines remain under-appreciated and overlooked spaces in the civic imagination. An ambitious public art installation could help change that. Designed by Mark Francis and Natalia Bakaeva, Inverted Valleys offers a new perspective, animating part of the Evergreen Brick Works' brick kiln passageway through a proposed series of laneway canopies.

Phase one of Inverted Valleys, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia BakaevPhase one of Inverted Valleys, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia Bakaeva

Originally a 100in1Day initiative, the installation's first 'concept phase' has already been built out as part of the Evergreen and United Way campaign. Now, the artists are hoping to raise money to continue their work. Another four phases—and over 55,000 dowels—are planned, filling out more of the 148-foot laneway with a richly detailed and thought-provoking representation of the surrounding Don River Valley.

The artists, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia BakaevaThe artists, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia Bakaeva

Composed of an intricately crafted series of wooden dowels—and a light display representing the river—Inverted Valleys transposes the ravine landscape that's usually below us to a space above our heads. According to Francis and Bakaeva, the goal is to foster greater "awareness and appreciation of Toronto's ravines," bringing attention to the city's unique topography while animating an urban laneway space. 

A map of ravine topography, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia BakaevaA map of ravine topography, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia Bakaeva

In enlivening a laneway, the installation also brings attention to another defining feature of the city's geography. While the natural richness of Toronto's ravines is under-appreciated, the human-made geographies of laneways, alleys, and corridors, are often similarly ignored. To Francis and Bakaeva, both of whom are also trained architects, "the use of interstitial urban spaces for installation works such as this will allow people rethink what is possible in terms of how we engage with the built environment."

An axonometric diagram of the installation, image courtesy of Mark Francis and NAn axonometric diagram of the installation, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia Bakaeva

In the Don River Valley, however, there is no condo budget to fund public art. As an independent project, Francis and Bakaeva are funding Inverted Valleys through a recently launched Indiegogo campaign, which will be collecting donations until September 11. Through grassroots fundraising, the artists hope to expand the installation's presence, bringing more of the thoughtful presence to the valley, and—perhaps—a slightly more inviting geography to parts of the city. 

Another view of the phase one art, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia BaAnother view of the phase one art, image courtesy of Mark Francis and Natalia Bakaeva

Eventually, the goal is to bring similar installations to other parts of the city. For this year's Nuit Blanche, Francis and Bakaeva will introduce a temporary art piece to Kensington Market, so make sure to keep an eye out for an artwork for cardboard tubes.

Want to help fund the project? Check out the Indiegogo campaign, linked here. To learn more about Inverted Valleys, check out the project's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Want to share your thoughts about the project? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below this page.