You’re sitting on the train, headed home, lost in the usual daydream of: the past, or work, or what you’re going to eat for dinner—when all of a sudden, a beautiful woman steps aboard. A real head-turner, so striking that she can’t be ignored. And everybody—men and women alike—starts checking her out, silently dissecting her appearance.

Yorkdale subway station exterior
All systems nominal. Prepare for HYPERSPACE LAUNCH!

Yorkdale is the subway station analogue of that woman: Glorious. Exuberant! And guaranteed to generate a reaction. Designed by Arthur Erickson, Yorkdale masterfully commands our attention from within, and without. Visually, the station is without peer in the TTC network; the structure was awarded a 1982 Governor General’s Medal for Architecture.

All aboard the train at Yorkdale subway station.
Southbound Toronto Rocket at Yorkdale’s sunny platform

Back in the 1960s, while Toronto built the pragmatic, utilitarian boxes of the Bloor-Danforth subway, Montreal under mayor Jean Drapeau began construction of the Métro system, notable for its modernist flourishes and extensive public art installations. The contrast in flair aroused what might be described as petulant civic envy, here in Hogtown. When the Spadina line was approved, the TTC felt compelled to keep up with appearances, hiring external architects to strive for unique station designs with stylistic ambitions.

Et voilà, Yorkdale.

Pedestrian walkway to Yorkdale mall from the subway station.
The pedestrian walkway to the mall: beloved by Instagrammers; despised by stroller-pushing parents and accessibility activists

Ascending from street level to the platform, beneath the glazed apse at either end, feels like entering a transit cathedral with a 600-foot vaulted glass ceiling. The pre-cut concrete walls feature rounded portals set at train-window height, giving spaceship glimpses of the outer world. Even the handrails are lit from below—you’ve got to be a barbarian, not to admire the clever attention to detail.

Yorkale station entrance view looking up to the platform level.
Lissome grace and effortless class

Speaking of details, it would be uncouth not to mention Michael Hayden’s absent Arc En Ciel, the kinetic light-sculpture originally integrated into the length of the structural ribbing that holds up the glass station roof. Neon tubes were programmed to react to the movement of the subway trains below, lighting up across the entire spectrum of colours.

Alas, a constantly leaky roof, and a less-than-robust electrical setup proved a fatal combination. The mesmerizing installation malfunctioned all too frequently. A parsimonious TTC allowed the work to fall into increasing disrepair; it was eventually removed altogether, though (as with Rita Letendre’s Joy at Glencairn) dreams for a revamp using modern technology have occasionally been bruited. Funding, as ever, stands as the prime obstacle. Keep your fingers crossed!

I contacted Mr. Hayden to inquire if he had any depictions of Arc en Ciel in operation; he generously provided several superb images which are reproduced in the gallery for your viewing pleasure. His images are accompanied by several from Simon Scott, the architectural photographer for Arthur Erickson, who was also gracious in usage consent.

Yorkdale station's glass roof.
Even without Arc en Ciel, Yorkdale’s ceiling delights. Are you looking up at the clouds, or down at them?

Yorkdale station platform walls
Spaceship portal views

Opened on January 28, 1978, Yorkdale station provides a stair-filled direct connection to the adjacent mega-shopping centre that gives the stop its name. I looked around and found this video which contains some brief old footage of Arc en ciel in operation.

Highly recommended. Except during winter, when you’ll freeze your ass off waiting for the next train.

Photo Gallery

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

Photo gallery of the TTC's Yorkdale subway station

Transfer slip from the TTC's Yorkdale subway station
Yorkdale station transfer

More about Yorkdale

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Yorkdale

My next stop: Victoria Park
Previous station: Sheppard-Yonge

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