RAILROAD AS PATRIARCH
An appreciation of the Brad Golden and Norman Richards Proposal
for the Spadina Dupont Railroad Underpass Competition
- Michael Kirkland
Unlike other propositions for the Dupont Underpass, this scheme endeavours to heighten the presence of the railroad by situating it within an intelligible context rather than operating on the stucture itself. Partially, no doubt, this results from the authors' sense that the decoration of the bridge itself is futile given its proximity to the overly rhetorical Casa Loma.
Instead, the scheme suggests that the underpass (and bridge) might form part of an emerging civic armature comprised of the elegant gate and stairs at Davenport, the Metropolitan Toronto Archives Building and the artwork.
The pieces are a series of finely crafted metal stanchions supporting lighting elements. These objects are disposed at station points arranged in archaeological and chronological order. The stanchions equivocate between " monument " and instrument in their stature. They are assuredly 1990 in their aspect - the ephemerality of which honours us that ours was the time that remembered to remember.
As simple instruments, they mark and illumninate a single word: IROQUOIS, FURROW, SURVEY, AVENUE, POWER, DAIRY, ARCHIVE. In the enigma of a single word resides the power of the idea - a displaced, superimposed, illegible but commemorated past.
The procession of metal objects and events, proceeding from north to south, arrives at the metallic structure of the bridge itself, placing the railroad in a suitably ascendant position as a seminal event in the history of the development of the country. Within the renovated underpass are deposited elaborations of the railroad in the form of additional " cue " words: COAL, CHESTNUT, SCHEDULE, WHISTLE, STEAM. A clock, whose mechanical precision is closeley related with the romantic idea of the railroad, completes the proposition.
Michael Kirkland is principal of the Kirkland Partnership Inc., architects. Mr. Kirkland has written for many design publications and has taught and lectured at many architectural and planning schools throughout North America.