Urgent action required: Ontario Place (Toronto, Canada)

Docomomo International would like to share a message from Ontario Place for All, a grassroots organization advocating to protect Ontario Place, one of Toronto’s key heritage sites, from privatization and immediate threats of demolition. 

The 155-hectare public waterfront site was designed by architect Eberhard Zeidler, landscape architect Michael Hough, and playscape designer Eric McMillan–opening in 1971. It masterfully combines three artificial islands, waterscapes, landscapes, and futuristic architecture, including the world’s first IMAX theatre housed in a triodetic dome, and suspended megastructures known as “the Pods.” Since 2019, the provincial government of Ontario has been engaging in opaque efforts to develop Ontario Place, a public site. In 2020 Ontario Place was included in World Monuments Fund’s Watch List as one of twenty-five international sites that “marry great historical significance with contemporary social impact.” The Cultural Landscape Foundation also lists Ontario Place as an at-risk cultural landscape.

The Government of Ontario plans to bulldoze through local opposition, destroying much of the site’s original landscape in order to build a sprawling private mega-spa. Despite triggering a review by the Auditor General of Ontario, the site continues to face demolition threats including the impending destruction of hundreds of original trees that were critical to Michael Hough’s landscape design. This would alter the characteristic synergy between architecture, infrastructure, and landscape that has made Ontario Place a beloved site for many.

Yesterday, Ontario Place for All filed an application with the Divisional Court seeking an injunction prohibiting the Government of Ontario from proceeding with its West Island Redevelopment proposal including its Mega Spa development until a full environmental assessment is completed. We are currently circulating an international petition in collaboration with The Cultural Landscape Foundation to build even more pressure towards a transparent public process that protects the site’s heritage, ecology, and public value.  

We are asking voices in conservation, architecture, landscape architecture, design, and allied fields to help us with the following actions: