More often than not, our Throwback Thursday features chronicle a city transformed by new built form, with photographs charting the relentless pace of Toronto's ongoing development boom. Change and evolution can also be more subtle, of course, which is the case at Union Station, where an exhaustive revitalization process is re-imagining Canada's premier rail hub for the 21st century.
While the new GO York Concourse and the under-construction Bay Concourse are both dramatic departures from the spaces that preceded them, many of Union Station's older elements are being restored rather than re-invented. Beyond the refreshed limestone façade that looks out onto Front Street, the station's iconic Great Hall is also now in the midst of being renewed. Seen in 2006, the 1927 interior's north wall is still lined by ticketing windows, with rather tired-looking floor beneath the stone walls, which appear darkened after decades of traffic.
Over a decade later, protective tarpaulins and scaffolds cover most of the interior's intricately crafted Zumbro stone walls, while hidden workers clean decades of grime from the surfaces. 27 metres high, the Great Hall is gradually retaking its rightful status of an architectural centrepiece, with specialists FGMDA (now renamed EVOQ Architecture) overseeing heritage restoration aspects of the NORR Architects-led project. With retail appointed by PARTISANS, and signage and wayfinding by entro, the Great Hall's north wall will feature a two-level restaurant set to overlook the urban commotion below.
Meanwhile, a closer look at the restored interior walls highlights the station's original 1920s stonework.
Looking up, the ceiling's brick patterns now draw the eye much more than the rather weather-beaten 2006 interior, with the restored brickwork once again prominent. New lighting for the Great Hall is still to come.
As the restoration continues, a major piece of Toronto's heritage is being reinvigorated on Front Street. Of course, the 1927 station itself is actually the city's third Union Station, following long-gone buildings that dated to 1858 and 1873—some years beyond the scope of our Throwback Thursday...
We will return next week with another look at the changing face of Toronto!