The Oculus hosts new public art installation

The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) and Giaimo have revealed a new temporary public art installation, Brighter Days Ahead, at The Oculus in Etobicoke. Designed by Toronto architecture and heritage conservation firm Giaimo, and sponsored by Creative Silhouettes Inc., the installation is located in the City of Toronto’s South Humber Park, along the Humber River Recreational Trail.

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In Summer 2019, The Oculus Revitalization project was announced as one of five projects selected for Park People’s Public Space Incubator Grant (PSI), funded by the Balsam Foundation and Ken and Eti Greenberg. The PSI program aims to encourage and support the next generation of creative public space projects by providing access to funding and professional networks.

ACO and Giaimo are using the grant to transform The Oculus into a welcoming community gathering place along the trail by restoring and cleaning the existing pavilion and implementing new flexible and contextual outdoor furniture—a process that is currently in progress. Their work also includes curating a series of engaging and educational programming to provide the community with ongoing occasions to visit the site, explore the space, and learn about Toronto’s built heritage.

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The project has been further supported by HNR Properties, Friends of the Pan Am Path, and Creative Silhouettes Inc., and ACO and Giaimo are working closely with the City’s Parks, Forestry, and Recreation as well as Heritage Planning department. The restoration and programming was originally scheduled for 2020, but due to COVID-19 it has been postponed until 2021.

Designed in 1958 by architect Alan Crossley and consulting engineer Laurence Cazaly, The Oculus—originally called the South Humber Park Pavilion—is a space-age park shelter nestled in a meadow along the Humber River Recreational Trail. While it stands out as a unique modernist structure, The Oculus’ sculptural quality and use of concrete is part of a generation of ambitious and optimistic public pavilions built in the late 1950s and early 1960s that can be found scattered throughout the City’s parks system.

More details on the pavilion’s history and cultural value can be found in Brown+Storey’s South Humber Park Pavilion Heritage Evaluation Report.