Lonely Planet Writer

Winter art installations are turning Toronto’s chilly beaches into an outdoor gallery

Wintertime in Canada may not be the best time to hit the beach, but Toronto’s Winter Stations design competition has transformed the shores of Lake Ontario into an outdoor gallery, giving visitors a reason to flock to the chilly coast.

The design competition showcases eight temporary art installations: five winning designs, chosen from hundreds of submissions, as well as three student pieces from nearby universities. The theme this year is Catalyst, with the goal to reinvent the waterfront landscape while considering how the materials used could be re-purposed in the future. Artists from Canada and beyond construct their installations over lifeguard stands across Lake Ontario’s Kew, Scarborough and Balmy Beaches, creating a multi-sensory escape from dreary winter weather.

Beacon Image by Khristel Stecher

Visitors can walk through North, a forest of 41 firs suspended upside down, drop off clothing and canned good donations at Beacon, the simple, cylindrical lighthouse made by wrapping a lifeguard stand in aged wood, and add a note to Collective Memory, the work constructed out of recycled bottles, inspired by immigration and the message in a bottle motif. To defrost after taking in the art, frigid beachgoers can take off their shoes and dip toes in the warm water of I See You Ashiyu, the installation modeled after a Japanese hot spring footbath.

Collective Memory
Collective Memory Image by Khristel Stecher

In its third year, the competition was established by three local architecture and design firms, including RAW Design, Ferris + Associates, and Curio. “We founded Winter Stations as an annual event to reinvigorate Toronto’s beaches in the wintertime through inspiring design and it is thrilling for the founders to see the city really embrace the competition year after year,”  Winter Stations co-founder Ted Merrick told Lonely Planet. “There is a real sense of excitement and pride in the installations amongst visitors and local residents which continues to grow and inspire others.”

Winter Stations will be on display until 27 March, after which the beaches will hopefully draw crowds for the warm weather.

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