Downsview

Downsview is a sprawling transit palace. And I mean that in a good way.

Criticized after its opening in 1996 for its supposed opulence in the middle of nowhere, Downsview has served for nearly two decades as the terminus of the Spadina line. Inspired by the aviation heritage of De Havilland and Downsview airfield, the high-ceilinged subway platform level was designed by The Stevens Group Architects and evokes an aircraft hangar, while Adamson Associates Architects were responsible for the mezzanine and above grade structures.

Downsview station's vaulted subway platform
Downsview’s vaulted subway platform evokes a ‘classic train station’

Even when busy, the station’s vast modern spaces provide ample room for passengers to breathe and meander. The grand bus transfer hall is the most spectacular of any TTC station built to date. Where Scarborough Centre is likely the nadir of Toronto bus platforms (some might argue for the pre-demolition Victoria Park), Downsview must represent its zenith. I’ve often had the chance to reflect on the hall’s expansiveness when taking the 85 or the 101 out to Downsview Park. It feels like a genuine transit hub.

Photo: Downsview station: Arlene Stamp's Rising Pi tiling installation
The tiles of Arlene Stamp’s Sliding Pi grace the station walls

The station features two artistic installations. The seductive tile mosaic of Arlene Stamp’s Sliding Pi covers the concourse wall surfaces with its soothing blue and green influence. Although observers might initially mistake it for a simple tiling pattern, on closer inspection the mosaic is non-repeating and mathematically generated, based on the digits of pi. It was an extremely clever way to enliven the facility while remaining within a constrained budget. There is no doubt in my mind that Stamp’s design is integral to the atmospheric success of Downsview station.

The second piece at Downsview does not fare so well in my estimation. A jarring sculpture called Boney Bus by John McKinnon stands dejectedly outside the main entrance. Frankly, it does not impress; I leave it to you to search it out in the photo gallery. De gustibus...

Photo: Stairwell to passenger pickup, Downsview station, Toronto
Stairwell to Passenger Pick Up, or Space Station?

Photo: Bus platform, Downsview Station, Toronto
Enormous ‘wings’ shield waiting bus passengers from sun and precipitation 

Photo: Skylight for subway platform, Downsview Station
A massive circular skylight provides natural illumination to the subway platform

Downsview was named for John Perkins Bull’s 1844 farm, “Downs View”. The Downs View structure was used by Bull for religious services and a courthouse (the jail was located in the cellar). The Downsview name was selected in a 1994 TTC contest involving the local North York community.

Downsview is supposed to be re-named Sheppard West when the new Spadina-Vaughan line extension opens (The next station on the line will assume the name Downsview Park). Although this nomenclatural switcheroo will doubtless provoke confusion for awhile, the logic is not entirely without merit.

All things considered, Downsview station is a muscular statement, the pent-up outburst of almost a decade without subway construction in Toronto. Naysayers may have derided it as an excess of civic ambition and over-expenditure, but sometimes, it’s better to simply shut up and enjoy the architecture.

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past:
(hint: turn on the captions)

Downsview station photo gallery

The opening ceremony for Downsview was held on March 29, 1996, and featured a train bursting through a banner, plus a 180-child choir.

Transfer:
Photo: Downsview station transfer
Downsview station transfer

More about Downsview

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Downsview

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