55 Unwin Avenue sits in the heart of Toronto’s Port Lands, an area that was created for industry by infill projects that disrupted a vital ecosystem—the marshlands of Ashbridges Bay—and its natural filtration system. Earth and rubble covered over important bird habitats and spawning grounds as well as hunting and fishing sites that date back 9,000 years.
Marked by heavy industry, much of the Port Lands is now contaminated by oil, heavy metals, and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). Many companies abandoned their leases before they were bound by current environmental protocols. Coal plants lie dormant like hollowed-out sentinels from a former age. Farther east, along a human-made spit made from the rubble and detritus of city-building, shrubs grow between twisted rebar and bricks whose edges have been softened by decades of lapping water. Along the lakeshore, a concrete plant still chugs along, a lone barge tethered to its dock. Dump trucks speed past towering heaps of salt. Soon the remaining low-lying buildings will be razed to capitalize on the condo boom, and the slow deindustrialization of the area, which began in the 1980s, will accelerate to meet the needs of an economy increasingly based on technology and information.
The Port Lands and the mouth of the Don River are currently slated to be “renaturalized.” For some, these efforts to remanufacture nature herald the welcome prospect of parkland and residential development; for others, they signal a continued cycle of civic and colonial initiatives that seek to remake nature as a commodity for consumption.
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 Giant Containers.
Work can be accessed from road. Pathway presents uneven terrain.
- Getting There
By Public Transportation: Via TTC, the 121 bus line stops at Cherry St and Unwin Ave.
By Car: Take the Gardner Expressway to the Jarvis Street exit, keeping right. Make a slight right towards Lake Shore Blvd E, and keep right to merge onto Cherry Street. Stay on Cherry Street, then make a left onto Unwin Ave, and the destination will be on the right. Parking can be found by continuing down Unwin Ave.