Wilson station is a jazz tune gone sour.

Wilson station exterior photograph
An ungainly Brutalist exterior 

A bewildering labyrinth of halls, corridors, and tunnels awaits visitors to this station. Perhaps intended as a powerful showcase of modernist transit design, Wilson instead reveals the disconnection of its engineer-planners from actual users—unlike the other stations of the Spadina line, Wilson and St. Clair West were architected in-house by the TTC, under the direction of Herta Freyberg.

Sections of the station are wonderful. The problem is, the incongruous parts don’t match or flow well with each other.

Wilson subway platform
The subway platform at Wilson: plenty of visual stimuli

The primary complaints with Wilson are the distance and change of levels between the subway and the bus platforms — for transferring passengers, the extended layout translates into missed connections, as precious minutes are eaten up by the laborious trek from one area to the other.

That concern aside, I had a blast exploring Wilson’s Byzantine nooks and crannies. I have a perverse attraction to architecture that doesn’t quite mesh, holistically.

Lounge area at Wilson station
The Wilson Lounge: the saddest artificial plants you’ll ever see. 

Ted Bieler's wall sculpture Canyons in Wilson station's mezzanine
Ted Bieler’s aluminium wall-relief sculpture, Canyons

My nomination for ‘most-unwelcoming public section of the TTC subway system’ is the fearsome view that greets you from the south-east commuter parking lot entrance:

Parking lot tunnel at Wilson station
Beware: the Minotaur awaits.

There isn’t much point in dressing up a parking lot tunnel. Why bother? Still, it’s shocking to be confronted by such a raw vista (Midland’s east-side automated entrance is the rival that comes to mind for barren disdain).

Contrast this with the placid circular hub at the heart of the station:

Circular hub at Wilson Station: where everything connects
Meet me at the circle

Until the end of Wilson’s reign as the terminus of the Spadina line in 1996, the two-level bus platform was a maelstrom of activity, serving 17 routes at its peak (in fact there was even a secondary North Terminal constructed to handle the overflow; this structure was subsequently mothballed when its routes were mostly transposed to Downsview (now Sheppard West)).

Wilson bus platform
The depressing and bleak double-decker bus platform

Isolated, convoluted, and inharmonious, Wilson station officially opened January 27, 1978, with public access the following day. It was putatively named after the widely-respected and influential civil-engineer, Norman D. Wilson, who helped plan and design the original Yonge subway (as well as the wye connecting to Bay Lower for interlining). I say putatively because in fact, Wilson Ave. (formerly Twentieth Ave.) was named after Arthur L. Willson, a clerk and treasurer of York Township. In spite of this historical fact, I like to pretend that Norman D. got the nod regardless. The nearby Wilson Yard houses and services the trains for Line 1.

Shalak Attack 'The Guardians' Wilson Pillars project
One of Shalak Attack’s Guardians beneath Wilson Station

Update: On October 26, 2016 the city enthusiastically unveiled Shalak Attack’s The Guardians, a vivid work of magical realism celebrating women’s empowerment, in collaboration with StreetART Toronto and the TTC. The Canadian-Chilean artist’s installation enlivens the dark and foreboding underpasses supporting the subway platform and the Allen expressway, and is well worth exploration, just like the rest of Wilson station.

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past, including photos of The Guardians:
(hint: turn on the captions)

Wilson subway station photo gallery

Transfer for Wilson subway station
Wilson station transfer

More about Wilson

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Wilson

My next stop: Islington
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