Little by little, public artworks are, for the better, taking some space in our city's streets. This week, Concert Properties officially unveiled new public artwork at The Berczy, a 13-storey high condominium standing at the corner Front and Church Streets. Below, Lara Tarlo, in Urban Design at the City of Toronto, Jane Perdue the City's Public Art Coordinator, internationally recognized artist and architect Paul Raff, Berczy condo board member Julio DiGirolamo, and Concert's Vice President of Development Kelly Wilson gathered to cut the ribbon in front of Raff's Shoreline Commemorative, now ornamenting a niche on the Church Street side of the building.

Many of the actors involved in The Berczy Project attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, picture by Craig White

The new piece of art is here to remind Torontonians about the history of this place that was our the location of Toronto's waterfront for more than 10,000 years before the shoreline gradually moved south as the port was extended and filled in with ever larger wharfs, eventually reaching its current location. Shoreline Commemorative is a conceptualized and scaled map of the North shore of Lake Ontario, coming up from below the water level. The colouration of the limestone used for this work is the same as what the shoreline would have been before the area was heavily transformed over the past century.

Paul Raff and Kelly Wilson getting ready for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, picture by Craig White

The bronze tripod here represents the surveyor's instrument used for city building since the Roman times, a fundamental element in Toronto's history. The sphere on top of it is made of glass, tinted in two different tones to represent the sky above and the lake below, as a memory of the former vista from the foot of Church Street. On the south wall inside the niche, a sand-blasted sentence reads: "For 10,000 years this was the location of Lake Ontario's shoreline. This brick wall stands where water and land met, with a visa of horizon". In a city that has a relatively young history, Paul Raff aims to develop a sense of history by re-embodying a shoreline that was a major element of the city's identity.

Shoreline Commemorative, by Paul Raff, image by Craig White

The dedication ceremony was also the occasion the learn more about the conception of The Berczy, designed by Young + Wright / IBI Group Architects with ERA Architects, and the complexity of its integration within the neighbouring heritage buildings. To achieve such, Kelly Wilson explained how the streetwall was broken-down into three smaller components, each of them being a reference to other historic buildings in the area. The Front Street part is probably the most formal and vertical of all, faced with high quality limestone and black granite, as retail faces Front in recognition of the original commercial buildings along the street.

Shoreline Commemorative, by Paul Raff, image by Craig White

The second component was built along Church Street in a warehouse style, using bricks on a facade pierced by large windows in an attempt to transcribe the idea of the former warehousing activity, as goods were unloaded from boats on the shore. Finally, the far south end of the development, known as 6 Church, is composed of a heritage structure that was recreated as closely as possible, reusing salvaged bricks as well as new ones imported from England in order to match the shape, size, colour and texture of the old material. The architectural niche in which stands Shoreline Commemorative was part of the original plans, when the lobby was supposed to be located on the side of the building, before being moved opposite to Berczy Park, an important element in the community.

For additional information on the Berczy, please visit our dataBase file, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum threads, or leave a comment in the space provided at the bottom of this page.

Related Companies:  Bird Construction Company, Concert Properties, DTAH, ERA Architects, IBI Group, Paul Raff Studio, U31