Earlier today, TTC CEO Andy Byford addressed a crowd of onlookers on the new Yonge Line platform at Union Subway Station to officially mark the completion of renovations in what is being considered a milestone project for the TTC. As subway trains rumbled by in the background, speeches were heard from Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport Michael Coteau, TTC Chair Josh Colle, and artist Stuart Reid. Work began in May 2011, and construction is now finally complete on the expanded Union Subway Station, which saw a second platform added to the existing over-capacity station, complete with a new art wall, ceramic tiling, improvements to circulation and pedestrian flow, and improved signage.

Andy Byford thanks Stuart Reid as Josh Colle, Joe Oliver, MPP Han Dong, and Michael Coteau look on, image by Craig White

Coteau stressed the importance of the newly expanded station for the economy and tourism of the city, as it opens just in time for the Pan Am Games. The new station will greatly increase capacity for the more than 100,000 daily subway passengers at Union, which featured one of the narrowest platforms in the TTC that had changed little since its construction in 1954. "The new concourse and second platform at Union Station will provide TTC customers with a modern, convenient, and less-crowded subway station for their commute," stated TTC Chair Josh Colle. "Our customers deserve modern and convenient facilities and we are working hard to deliver that."

The new upper concourse, designed for better circulation and pedestrian flow, image by Craig White

In an enthusiastic speech, Byford praised the project as an important step in the modernization of the new-look TTC, and a major milestone for public transit in Toronto. Calling the project a "feat of engineering", Byford stressed the difficulties of carrying out construction while maintaining regular service and safety, and proudly stated that the project was on time and on budget. He further extended thanks to the TTC passengers for their patience and loyalty during the commotion caused by the construction.

A train enters the south platform of Union Station, with Stuart Reid's artwork seen to the left, image by Craig White

The centrepiece of the newly renovated station is Stuart Reid's 500-foot long artwork entitled Zones of Immersion, which he has developed over the past six years in conjunction with the glass manufacturer, Peters Studio in Germany, and the project architects, Stevens Group Architects / IBI Group Architects. Composed of 7-foot tall glass panels, the striking installation is a compilation of Reid's sketches, notes, and observations taken while riding the subway. Black and white images alternating with splashes of colour are overlaid with snippets of text and poetry in a collage meant to evoke the experience of riding the subway. The aim, Reid explained, is to engage passengers to become more aware of their surroundings, and to point out the beauty of what he calls Toronto's most used public space.

Stuart Reid's Zones of Immersion, with its collage of sketches, texts, and splashes of colour, image by Craig White

The images portray both the unpleasant and light-hearted in an effort to capture the essence of riding the subway where, as Reid points out, our private lives become public, and contribute to the urban life of the city. Reid explained that one challenge of conceptualizing the artwork was the fact that parts of it are visible from both sides, where one has to reconcile between the full length piece seen from the south platform and the 'tableaus' seen from the north platform. This leads to different considerations in the treatment of the glass and the composition of the images, as one has to manage the difference between light passing through and light being reflected. Another notable aspect, explains Reid, is that given the length of the piece, there is always something new to notice and discover, much like riding the subway itself. "It is phenomenal to finally see it done", he exclaimed.

The north University-Spadina line platform, showing the tableaus of the artwork visible from both sides, image by Craig White

The new Union Subway Station platform is one of many big changes happening at the Toronto landmark, which is still undergoing major work with the Union Station Revitalization Project. Nevertheless, TTC commuters and visitors to the city can now enjoy the shiny new subway station with its dramatic art piece, and are finally free of the congestion that plagued the undersized platform over the past few decades.

For more information about the renovation project or the artwork, visit the dataBase file linked below, or visit the artist's website. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum threads or leave a comment at the bottom of this page. Similarly, you'll find the dataBase file and the associated thread for the Union Station Revitalization linked below as well.

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