Living in a big city like Toronto, taking public transportation is somewhat a daily routine for us. We spend a lot of time on subway platforms and yet we often don’t pay much attention to our surroundings. The truth is that from floral tiles to spaceship-like ceilings, Toronto is hiding many underground treasures. We’ve put together a collection of the most striking subway stations, so next time you find yourself standing in any of them, look around and you’ll be amazed to find that you're actually standing in unconventional art galleries.
Bessarion is a modern subway station on Toronto's newest and shortest subway line. Collecting only 180 fares on an average day, it is the least-used station on this Purple Line. Many people even called it a ghost station, which inspired Toronto comedian Jeremy Woodcock to go on a mission to find this mysterious subway station. You can watch this amusing short documentary here. Stating that "I feel like nobody ever needs to go there", even Woodcock is surprised by its beauty upon his arrival. Art in the Bessarion titled "Passing" is from Toronto artist Sylvie Bélanger and represents memory of people who used the station and the future of those who will.
Bright orange colour palette walls and the timeless floral mosaic "Spadina Summer Under All Seasons" designed by James Sutherland makes Dupont a breathtaking place. Add round wall corners, geometric shapes and glass bubble tiles, all designed in 1978, and you have your final destination.
Murals bearing the name "Our Nell" by the artist John Boyle feature depictions of social activist Nellie McClung and politician William Lyon Mackenzie, as well as the former Simpson's and Eaton's department stores. But rather than its colourful walls, Queen Station is more famous by what's underneath it. After deciding not to put Lower Queen Station into service, this abandoned platform now serves as a film set, for example in Nightmare on Elm Street.
Eglinton West Station
On Eglinton West you can find two murals facing each other called "Summertime Streetcar" by the artist Gerald Zeldin. They are both two storeys high and depict a streetcar from different distances and perspectives - interestingly, this streetcar model has never served this station! Completed with a glass curtain wall and 9,000 sq. ft. green roof, this is an one dazzling station.
Another not-so-busy station in Toronto is Sheppard-Yonge, sometimes even called a "subway to nowhere". However this doesn't reduce the beauty of its panoramic murals created from digital photos rendered onto single-colour mosaic tiles. The artwork called "Immersion Land" from artist Stacey Spiegel depicts rural scenery along Yonge Street. This art is dedicated to the memory of two workers who died during construction of the station.
St. Clair West Station
Vivid orange panels and an abstract tile pattern named "Tempo" by Gordon Rayner are welcoming commuters at St. Clair West station. Ceramic tiles, brick and sculptural concrete surfaces complimenting the spacious waiting area is what distinguish this station from others.
This station takes you back to the time when you were playing 8-bit video games with its pixelated art. Eduardo Aquino & Karen Shanski took photos of everyday life from the surrounding neighbourhood and made them into a colourful mosaics called "Something Happens Here". Tiling also creates a dazzling scene upon arrival, you can see it for yourself here.
Yorkdale is a spaceship-like station with portal windows and 600 ft. vaulted glass ceiling. Even though it is spectacular as it is now, some of the Torontonians might remember the joy of its colourful roof. First created in 1978 by artist Michael Hayden, the light installation consisted rainbow-painted tubes that lit up as trains pulled in and out. After being removed in 1990 due to water damage, this installation should be re-made in the near future and this time shining with LED lights!
Bayview makes you look twice with its 3D graphic images of everyday objects. A Ladder, an orange, a pocket watch or an umbrella, they are all part of artwork called "From Here Right Now" created by Panya Clark Espinal. Distorted from most angles, flowing over corners and floors, they only fit into their shape when observed from the right perspective - this optical effect is known as anamorphosis.
Back in the day, Downsview was used for religious services and even as a courthouse, with jail located in the cellar. The subway platform has high, curved, hangar-like ceiling, which makes this station open and airy. To create an even more soothing atmosphere, artist Arlene Stamp created the mosaic art called "Sliding Pi", with blue and green tiles visually representing mathematically generated digits of pi.
The Murals of College Station depict the old rivalry between two Canadian's clubs, Maple Leafs on the southbound side and the Montreal Canadiens on the northbound side. These "Hockey Knights", created by artist Charles Pachter in 1984, are setting an example of safety for the city's youth by wearing their helmets.
Museum Station got an update in 2008 to make it look more connected to the Royal Ontario Museum situated above. It features many artifacts one would expect to see in the museum: a First Nations' house post, a figure of Egyptian god Osiris, Forbidden City and Doric columns from ancient Greece. This subway gem even got voted as one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world, by The Guardian in 2014!
Union Station, due to its central position, is the busiest transportation facility in Canada, serving over 250,000 passengers a day. The station features an art piece called "Zones of Immersion" by Stuart Reid - composed from large, mostly transparent, glass panels, each containing images or words based on sketches that Reid drew while riding the subway.