Developed in the 1950s, the St. Lawrence Seaway connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and cities like Toronto to global markets. Sitting prominently on Lake Ontario, Harbourfront Centre was once a trucking warehouse that processed goods arriving by rail or ship. In 1972, the federal government expropriated 100 acres of Toronto’s waterfront for revitalization. The port was transformed into a public space, born from a mandate to bring culture, education, recreation, and ultimately visitors to the lake.
The population around the harbour has since boomed, with the majority made up of first-generation immigrants. Today, with more than half of Toronto’s population born outside of Canada, the city is widely recognized for its cultural pluralism. But immigrant histories run deep in this city. Alongside French and British settler-colonialists, Toronto was also settled by freedom seekers from the southern United States; slaves from Africa and the Caribbean; and labourers from China, India, and Eastern Europe. These communities and their diverse stories are important cornerstones of the city’s histories, and current and future identities.
Occupying a central place in what is best described as formerly derelict industrial buildings, Harbourfront Centre partners with more than 450 organizations each year. Commencing in 1974, early programming included literary readings, contemporary dance, exhibition spaces, and active public craft studios. In 1991, Harbourfront Centre was established as a platform for artists, and the ten-acre site was transformed into one of the few places in Toronto where multiple forms of production, performance, and international programming coexist.
This Biennial site description was generated by the curatorial team, in consultation with our creative partners, to offer lesser-known facts and histories, and explore sites in relation to the changing shoreline.
This Biennial site was made possible through a partnership with Harbourfront Centre.
Accessible entrance and washrooms
Accessible ramps / elevators
AODA compliant building
Hearing devices available
- Getting There
By Public Transportation:
- By Streetcar: 509 Harbourfront streetcars run between Union and Exhibition. 510 Spadina streetcars run between Spadina and Union. Exit your streetcar at the Harbourfront Centre stop. TTC Trip Planner
- By Subway: Head southbound on the Yonge-University Line to Union Station
- Motorists exiting from the new off-ramp MAY make a right turn and travel south on Lower Simcoe Street. (Check out this City of Toronto video on YouTube.)
- There is NO TURN on Lake Shore Boulevard for travel south on Lower Simcoe Street.
- Motorists travelling WESTBOUND on Queens Quay West MAYmake a left turn at Lower Simcoe Street into our site. Please note the advance left turn signal light.
- Motorists travelling EASTBOUND on Queens Quay West MAY NOT make a right turn into our site.
Parking: Underground parking is available on-site at 235 Queens Quay West, or above-ground one block west at Rees Street and Queens Quay West. Parking Information
By Bike: Ride the Martin Goodman Trail or take any street between Bathurst and Parliament traveling south to Queens Quay West and bike along the water for the most scenic route. Bike parking is available.
By Foot: Head South down York Street from Union Station. Take a right on Queens Quay West for about two minutes and Harbourfront Centre will be on your left at 235 Queens Quay West. Additionally, The PATH provides a direct route south to Queens Quay West.
By Boat: Visiting Harbourfront Centre by boat during the summer is easy! All docking areas can be accessed through either the western or eastern channel. Upon entry into the Toronto Inner Harbour, head for the north shore. Please call on VHF channel 68 or phone 416-203-1212 for further details and reservation information. Marine Section