Book Review: As It Is—A Precarious Moment in the Life of Ontario Place

Architectural photographer Steven Evans’ latest book is an homage—and a call to preserve intact—a place deeply rooted in the memories of many Ontarians.

Over 100 black-and-white photos document the current state of Ontario Place’s buildings by Eberhard Zeidler and landscape by Michael Hough. Photo by Steven Evans

As It Is: A precarious moment in the life of Ontario Place takes readers on a journey through the landmark site, aiming to capture the essence of the iconic buildings by Eberhard Zeidler and waterfront park by Michael Hough, while painting a picture of Ontario Place’s uncertain future.

The book’s 102 black-and-white photographs were taken by Evans between November 2021 and June 2023. The images are interwoven with texts by Evans, urban affairs journalist John Lorinc, and AGO curator of photography Maia-Mari Sutnik.

According to Evans, the project sparked during the pandemic. “It was something that was going to keep me busy in the dark days of COVID,” he recalls. “I went down there and almost immediately had a flashback to all of the experiences that I’ve had at Ontario Place,” he says, adding that he had gone there as a child, and brought his own children years later.

“Going back there, I was really struck by the place and how at that moment, it looked so decayed, and how sad it was. I really understood that the place was in trouble,” says Evans. “The buildings were rusting, there was an abandoned amusement ride, and the landscaping had deteriorated; it wasn’t in great shape. I was drawn to that because of the history that I have of documenting abandoned and neglected places.”

For Evans, putting together the book was more than just a way to revisit memories: it became an opportunity to showcase the significance of the landmark and its impact in Ontario and beyond. “Ontario Place is, in part, about history and about making history. It was a gift to the people of Ontario, and it was a place where people could come to understand where they lived, what their history was and imagine what the future might be,” says Evans, who notes that its futuristic architecture also represented optimism about the province’s prospects.

“When I started this whole thing, I wasn’t really aware of the political dynamics or the Ford government’s long-term plans. It wasn’t a motivating factor for me then, but it has since become an abiding one. I think people need to be alert to what’s happening at Ontario Place, and I really hope that the book will become part of the wider conversation about the importance and meaning of public space,” says Evans. 

As It Is: A precarious moment in the life of Ontario Place can be purchased in person or online from Swipe Design and the Spacing Store. An exhibition of the book’s photographs was on display at Urbanspace Gallery in Toronto. A panel discussion recorded at the exhibition opening featuring Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, author John Ralston Saul, and landscape architect Walter Kehm can be viewed at

As appeared in the May 2024 issue of Canadian Architect magazine