Toronto Through My Lens

Category: Beaches & Lakes

Winter Stations 2024

What Is Winter Stations?

This past weekend I visited the latest iteration of Winter Stations at Woodbine Beach. Winter Stations is a single-stage international design competition held annually in Toronto. Participants are tasked with designing temporary winter art installations which incorporate existing lifeguard towers spaced strategically across the city’s Kew and Woodbine beaches. The structures (not in use in the wintertime) are considered visual anchor points for the installations.

Every year Winter Stations has a theme; this year it was entitled Resonance.

As in previous years, Winter Stations intends to build 4-6 winning proposals for a six-week exhibition along the waterfront, funding permitted.

While Toronto beaches are not typically as well visited in the colder seasons, Winter Stations has captured the imagination of the city. Designers can expect their designs to be well-visited and should anticipate public interaction.

The Installations

This year Winter Stations is spread around a little more to offer more easily accessible locations. There are six installations on Woodbine Beach, which are the ones I’ve covered in this post. There are three more installations that I did not get to: one in Woodbine Park, one in Kew Gardens and one in Ivan Forrest Gardens.

Installation descriptions courtesy of the Winter Stations website.


Bobbin’ invites the visitor to a place where pivotal moments and whimsical memories prompt reflection. It shelters visitors with slats that create an ever-changing threshold between the bobbing zone and the surrounding beach. The seesaws draw from the playground-like Sling Swing and Lifeline projects, while its form within the landscape reflects HotBox and Introspection. Each material has been sourced from previous student projects in addition to salvaged materials from the community of Cambridge. As you navigate through, bobbing up and down, a fresh perspective unfolds, encouraging resonance with the surrounding and past Winter Stations.

We Caught A UFO!

We Caught A UFO! builds upon the project In the Belly of a Bear, which utilized the lifeguard chair by lifting the public above ground into a cozy space, transporting them into a new world. We Caught a UFO! re-imagines these qualities by referencing the rumours and whispers of the many UFO sightings across Lake Ontario. However, these rumours can no longer be disputed, as there is now physical proof! Caught under a net, the UFO is wrapped in glued aluminum foil which glimmers in the light, contrasting its surroundings as a foreign object. The public (especially kids!) are encouraged to explore the UFO and can climb up into the main space where pink plexi windows transform the beach into a new tinted landscape or planet! Ultimately, We Caught a UFO! is an installation which stimulates the public’s imagination while also providing a necessary shelter from the wind and cold.


WinterAction is a collaborative installation between the University of Guelph Department of Landscape Architecture and Ashari Architects in Iran. Its physical form is extremely simplistic and frankly underwhelming, but that’s because this iterative installation requires a phone to get the full experience. Through an augmented reality labyrinth journey, participants are provided with the opportunity navigate from confusion to inner peace, symbolized by a virtual tree at the centre that dynamically evolves with interactions. To begin, you need to download an app from the QR code on the installation’s sign.


Beneath the night sky, stars shine and create geometric patterns. Nova is a star that has crashed on top of a lifeguard station and illuminates Woodbine Beach throughout the night. Nova highlights TMU’s past decade of Winter Stations, inspired by the origami, materiality, and form of Snowcone, Lithoform, and S’Winter Station. Nova introduces 3D printing, a textile canopy, and an elegant steel pipe connection to create a pavilion with Resonance. The star pavilion shields users and encourages them to engage with their surroundings, and the lifeguard station makes a beacon for users to access panoramic views of the beach.


Inspired by the airy strands that make up the 2016 installation Floating Ropes, Nimbus’s playful shapes and colours do more than just resonate with its predecessor. Nimbus evolves the concept and materials by adding saturated blue ropes hanging below a bubbly white structure. The station asks visitors to consider the presence and absence of rain in our contemporary world by referencing both severe storms and flooding, as well as concerning trends of lack of rain, drought, and desertification.

A Kaleidoscopic Odyssey

A Kaleidoscopic Odyssey invites onlookers to step into an experience where we challenge where reality ends and imagination begins. Explore the limitless depths of perception with this mesmerizing adaptation of Kaleidoscope of the Senses, 2020. In this installation, there are two guiding concepts. The scale of a traditional kaleidoscope is magnified 84 times to a human scale so participants can inhabit the instrument and become a part of its wonder. Where a kaleidoscope is commonly a closed-loop system, this device is deliberately severed into two sculptured equal-and-opposite parts, with purposeful space between them.

Rosetta McClain Gardens

The Rosetta McClain Gardens at 5 Glen Everest Road in the east end of Toronto is a beautiful park filled with rose gardens, a rock fountain and a pergola, among many other things. Perched near the top of the Scarborough Bluffs, it also offers fantastic views of Lake Ontario.

A Brief History of the Rosetta McClain Gardens

Thomas McDonald West, owner and operator of J. & J. Taylor Limited, Toronto Safe Works purchased the 16.2 hectare Rumph farm overlooking the Scarborough Bluffs in 1904-1905. He and his wife, Emma, then divided it among their four children, Joseph McDonald, William Needham, Howard Thomas, and Rosetta. Many of the historic landscape improvements enjoyed today were initially undertaken by Rosetta’s husband, Robert Watson McClain, and her brother Joseph McDonald.

Rosetta McClain died in December 1940 and in 1959 her husband donated their property (about 4 hectares) to the city of Toronto in her memory. In 1977, this land was conveyed to the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and combined with portions of the J.M. and H.T. West properties. A further parcel from the W.N. West holdings was added in 1985, creating a 7.5 hectare park.

Shady Pergola
The gazebo – a shady place to rest
The shell of an old pine house reminds park visitors that people once farmed this property

A spectacular view from the Scarborough Bluffs…

Lake Ontario, looking west
Lake Ontario, looking east
How is it that every time I visit an urban park or garden, I either crash a wedding or model photo shoot?! Here, I encountered hordes of Asian photographers converging on their innocent victim.
One last look

History of Rosetta McClain Gardens courtesy of the City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry & Recreation web site.

From The Vaults: Toronto Skyline, 1985

So, it’s time for another installment of From The Vaults – so called as these are cityscape photos from many years past which I had originally shot on film, then scanned to digital only recently.

This short sequence (hey, this was film and every shot counted!), was shot on July 1, 1985 as I travelled out to the Toronto Islands on the ferry boat.

Our downtown skyline has changed considerably over the years!

Simcoe WaveDeck

The Simcoe WaveDeck is one of four WaveDecks along Toronto’s Harbourfront. Located at the foot of Simcoe Street – 234 Queen’s Quay West to be exact – it opened in June 2009.

Located at the water’s edge, the wooden Simcoe WaveDeck features an informal public amphitheatre-style space with curves that soar as high as 2.6 metres above the lake. Inspired by the Canadian cottage experience and the shorelines of Ontario’s great lakes, the WaveDeck is meant to give urban dwellers a feel for life at the lake.

The other WaveDecks along the Harbourfront are the Spadina WaveDeck (foot of Spadina Avenue), the Rees WaveDeck (west of Rees Street on the south side of Queens Quay), and the Parliament WaveDeck (foot of Parliament Street; currently under development).

The WaveDecks were designed by the firm West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The WaveDecks have achieved the Award of Excellence, Ontario Builders Awards (2009) and were nominated for the Conde Nast Traveller Innovation and Design Awards (2010).

The Spadina WaveDeck has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including a Toronto Urban Design Award. It was also the first Canadian project ever to be short-listed for the world-acclaimed Brit Insurance Design Awards.

The Rees WaveDeck has been honoured with several awards including a Bronze Medal for Landscape Design from the Design Exchange.

The Simcoe WaveDeck’s Construction

To see a time lapse video of the Simcoe WaveDeck’s construction, check this out:

Future Plans

There is to eventually be a total of 8 WaveDecks along the Harbourfront, and they promise to totally transform our waterfront.

Here’s an interesting video from our controversial architecture critic Christopher Hume, discussing this project and its expansion:

A Frozen Woodbine Beach

Not to rush us into full-on winter or anything, but here’s a frozen Woodbine Beach and a freezing Lake Ontario. I took these images after going through the Winter Stations exhibit at the Beach on March 9, 2019.

What is Winter Stations you may ask? Well, Winter Stations is an international design competition held annually in Toronto. Participants are tasked with designing temporary winter art installations which incorporate existing lifeguard towers spaced strategically across the city’s Kew and Woodbine beaches. The structures (not in use in the wintertime) are considered visual anchor points for the installations. The exhibitions usually stay in place for about 6 weeks.

While Toronto beaches are not typically as well visited in the colder seasons, Winter Stations has captured the imagination of the city. The competition is open to everyone in the world.

Stay tuned for a future post dedicated to the Winter Stations installation I attended. For now, here’s a frozen Woodbine Beach…

Woodbine Boardwalk
Hang Glider On Woodbine Beach
Getting ready to go out over the lake
And there he goes… out over frigid Lake Ontario in early March… bbbrrrrrrrrr
Leuty Lifeguard Station
Leuty Lifeguard Station
A flower in the freezing cold… good thing it’s plastic
The freezing water of Lake Ontario
Woodbine Boardwalk

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