We're standing outside in the blistering full-sun heat, touring what's now called Pioneer Village Station, and squinting up at the weathered steel that embraces the main entrance in a rusty patina. Above, the words Pioneer Village follow the building's curve, facing south onto Steeles Avenue west—and Toronto—from just beyond the City's northern limit in Vaughan.
On the Toronto side of Steeles, the south entrance and bus bay are also clad in Will Alsop's distinctive weathered steel design. From the street, the station's twin entrances combine to assert a striking presence, creating a gracefully lopsided gateway to the city.
Also currently under construction, a 12-bay bus terminal joins the secondary entrance south of Steeles, while a TTC substation and a new York Region Transit bus terminal (a separate contract) will be situated slightly beyond the main entrance north of Steeles. Past the transit facilities north of Steeles, a massive 1,850-space parking lot will cater to commuters from surrounding areas.
Located at the northwest end of the York University campus, the station is about a kilometre away from Black Creek Pioneer Village. Initially set to be called Steeles West, the station was then set to be renamed Black Creek Pioneer Village, grounding the new facility with a familiar a sense of place. Located between Keele and Jane streets, with the new subway tunnel running northwest to Vaughan, Pioneer Village will be the fourth of the new line's six stations, with Highway 407 to the north and York University station to the south.
However, since the words Black Creek Pioneer Village risked disrupting aesthetic cohesion, the station is now called Pioneer Village. Those two words fit. Designed by Alsop's aLL Design— with IBI Group serving as architects of record—the station will also feature a public art piece called 'LightSpell,' which will consist of 62 interactive light elements animating the platform area through what's being referred to as a "democratic installation."
Above ground, the facilities are quickly taking shape, with the last of the weathered steel being installed on the new TTC bus terminal, and bird-friendly fritted glass now fully applied to surround the waiting area. Heading inside north of Steeles, the fully accessible main entrance remains in a relatively raw state, with interior finishes set to become the focus in the closing months of construction.
Underground, the air quickly turns cooler as we descend to the concourse. "The TTC doesn't thermoregulate its stations," Joanna Kervin—TTC's Director for TYSSE Third-Party Planning and Property—explains. While the thermometer reads 34º Celsius above ground, a more comfortable temperature meets us below grade.
Just below the main entrance, the north concourse level will feature both manned and automated ticketing facilities, along with back of house space for TTC employees and station equipment. Over the coming months, a suspended ceiling will be installed, reducing the height of the space while creating a flat surface.
Moving down to track level, the platform is given subtle architectural character by lines of weathered steel and a row of curved, load-bearing concrete columns. Running beneath Steeles, the station's reinforced roof is designed to undergird an LRT on the street above, with regard given to long-term transit goals as the city continues to grow. Along the platform, meanwhile, Tim and Jan Edler's 'LightSpell' (not yet installed), will allow users to spell out messages for others to see.
Past the south side of the platform (seen below), a series of mechanical rooms are now being outfitted with electrical installations and a variety of station operations equipment.
Unlike many of the TTC's older stations—where mechanical/electrical installations are often clustered together in one central space—the facility is designed to minimize hazards and prevent potential errors by sequestering the sensitive components into individual rooms.
Seen below, a massive ventilation fan is capable of venting air through the tunnels, moving potential hazards—such as smoke—away from the station. (Since the six TYSSE stations are located relatively far apart, these fans need to be exceptionally strong).
Past the platform, the tracks already await next year's trains, with rail installation along the 8.6-kilometre subway extension having been completed in June. Now slick with natural condensation, the movement of trains—and the presence of passengers—will reduce the moisture content to normal levels.
Moving up to the south concourse, more intricate architectural details are becoming apparent below the secondary entrance. Throughout much of the space, an intricate terrazzo floor has been installed. The multi-toned floor is accented by notes of rust, which subtly reference the weathered steel cladding that characterizes the station.
Alongside the rust-coloured steel, exposed concrete is a prominent component of Alsop's design. South of the platform, a concrete art installation covers a wall in a diamond pattern of extrusions. In its sharp lines and unpolished surface, the raw concrete is declaratively human-made and industrial. In its topographic form—hinting at the face of a mountain or the wall of a cave—it also evokes nature.
Back above ground, Toronto's south entrance is located just southeast of its York Region counterpart. From the outside, the kidney-shaped building closely mirrors its twin to the north. In the coming months, brighter red cladding—already in place at the TTC substation north of Steeles—will be revealed along the lower levels.
Outside, service roads—providing automobile and bus access—are also now being completed, with landscaping and greenery yet to come.
Just east of the south entrance, the TTC bus terminal is also now a conspicuous presence. Like the station's other facilities, the design makes prominent use of weathered steel, which envelops the building's canopy.
Alongside the bird-friendly fritted glass, the bus terminal's expansive green roof is an environmentally friendly feature for the station, which targets Tier 1 of the Toronto Green Standard.
Compared to many of the TTC's existing facilities, Pioneer Village Station seems grand—and perhaps even grandiose. However, while the architectural quality of the station is obviously a priority, the facility's size and features are merely "designed to meet modern standards," Kervin tells us. In order to meet current accessibility, safety, and operational needs, stations have become—as our video shows—more intricate and complex.
Diagonally straddling the City limits, the landscape surrounding Pioneer Village Station is a far cry from the dense, transit-dependant neighbourhoods that surround many of Toronto's stations. However, the station itself is quickly shaping up to be a small icon for the area. When the subway extension comes online in late 2017, the hope is that a notion of place—of there—will come to what remains a drive-by corner of the GTA.
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