Thoughts on the architecture of the TTC

Is the TTC architecture bad? It’s something I have been thinking about after the critical comments from “A.R.” in which he pointed  out that: “Toronto has some interesting subway architecture, as well. you know. Maybe you should appreciate some of the creativity in the system” in response to my comment that “Toronto subway stations…look like washrooms without the necessary plumbing”.

I think alof of Toronto subway architecture is, if not bad, then boring. In this blog post I found, David Ahm from the TTC agreed, saying, “The Yonge-line stations are from the ’50s and ’60s and are functional but kind of boring.”

This blog post with Ahm’s comments were interesting, because you see the challenge of designing a subway station, budget being one serious consideration. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be interesting design work done on a subway, and in fact, lots of Toronto subway stations are well designed. And despite limited budgets, the TTC is looking to have better and better stations in the future, which is a good thing indeed.

Of my favourite stations, the ones I most like are Old Mill, Rosedale, Yorkdale and Dupont. I like the openness of Old Mill and Rosedale. They belong to the neighborhood, somehow. I feel like I am in a different city when I am waiting for a train (or a bus) at the Rosedale station. And I love the windows of Old Mill. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are both above ground subway stations.

I also admire the design of Yorkdale and Dupont. Yorkdale makes the subway system itself seem dynamic, while Dupont is like an experiment in subway station design.

I like other stations too, like Queen’s Quay, Museum and St. Andrew and St Patrick. Of the latter two, I like the “tube” like design of the tunnels. It reminds me of a European subway station.

One thing I really like about the TTC is their choice of artwork. It is a collection of some of the best Canadian artists, from Charles Pachter to Joyce Wieland to Micah Lexier. And the scale of the work is striking, whether it is the 1.5 million one-inch tiles, used by Toronto artist Stacey Spiegel to create Immersion Land or 3000 handwritten samples that Lexier collected over 5 years to create “Ampersand”.  Anyone visiting Toronto should stop at various stations just to see it. (You can get a sample of it all by going to

3 responses to “Thoughts on the architecture of the TTC

  1. Old Mill is “my” stop. It’s a fave, too. Thought you might like this vid – more TTC love.

  2. Exactly, the system does have a lot of interesting art and some great architectural moments. It’s a shame that so many of the Bloor Danforth line stations are so basic and generally have no art. Even on that line there are things like the modest dome at Castle Frank, or Old Mill which have some minor modernist variations on the basic design.

    I occasionally take the long way home just to see Dupont or Yorkdale. Downsview is also impressive with its abstract tile patterns, soaring ceilings and skylights. Eglinton West and Yorkdale were actually designed by one of the most celebrated Canadian architects in recent times, Arthur Erickson. Glencairn has some great architectural elements to it too:

    I wish we had more unique architecture in our subway, but too often I hear people complain that there is none at all, which is far from true.

  3. smartpeopleiknow

    I didn’t realize that Arthur Erickson did some of the subway stations: that IS impressive.

    I also wish the TTC would make more of an effort at times. They had a great opportunity when the Yonge/Bloor station was recently redone to do something dramatic. In fact, I used to love waiting for the north bound train and looking up through the hole in the “ceiling” to see the open sky. They could have done something really striking there, like leaving that in some sense.

    At the very least, I am sure there are alot of artists who would love the opportunity to have installations in busy stations like Yonge, Eglinton or Union. I think it is great that the AGO and the ROM are being redone, but alot more people would see art if it were in the subway (just like alot of people read the poetry that the TTC posts in the art sections on buses and subways).

    And yes, I like the Castle Frank entrance, and the St. George entrance: they are both grand in their own ways. There should be more of that, too. The subway has to have utility, but it can be artistic and designed well, too.