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    Ontario Place

    Ontario Place Pods are anchored into the water
    0 visual documentation
    depicted item: One of the Ontario Place pods
    source: Wikipedia
    date accessed: August 2, 2014

    more visuals
    1 identity of building, group of buildings, urban scheme, or landscape/garden
    address: 955 Lakeshore Boulevard West , Toronto, ON., Canada
    protection: Place of provincial cultural significance
    2 history of building

    original brief/purpose:

    To create a watertront park using landfill to shelter a lagoon with a 300 boat marina, a covered performance space, a children's interactive play area, exhibition galleries, a large cinema, restaurants, beer gardens, boutiques, picnic areas, snackbars, benches and parkland.

    commission/completion dates: 1968-1971
    engineer(s): , , ,
    contractor(s): ,
    current use: Same as commission (currrently closed)
    3 description

    general description:

    A waterfront lagoon is created with 514 acres of landfill to create a park covering a total of 96 acres. In the central, outer lagoon a 300 boat marina is protected by a breakwater of 3 sunken lake freighters and several man-made islands linked by bridges and causeways. The most prominent built structures are five 88 foot square "pods" that are each supported by four pipe columns at their centres above the water. Trusses beneath their upper decks cross the pods diagonally to link with the other pods at the corners. These trusses also house the mechanical plant for each pod. They are additionally supported by cables from the four masts that rise through and above the centre of each pod. Below the three level structures are cable and struts supporting the lower floor from underneath. The two lower levels of each pod are used as flexible exhibition spaces with moveable ramps, stairs and partitions. On the roof is a promenade deck with outdoor exhibits. Each pod connects with a two level bridge to another pod, a fire escape stair or, in one case, to the Cinesphere domed cinema. This is an 800 seat cinema designed as the first Imax cinema in the world. The screen is 80 feet by 60 feet, curved for the special format 70mm films. It is housed in a spherical triodetic dome of 61 ft. outer radius. The inner dome is a 56 ft. radius prefabricated steel tube structure supporting the outer shell's aluminum alloy structure, erected on the geodesic principle. The entrance to the cinema is from the adjacent pod and the exit is to stairs at a lower level on the opposite side leading to the islands to allow for simultaneous change over.

    The pods themselves are accessed from a bridge that begins from the mainland entrance. This entrance is adjacent to a large parking area, a formal garden and a bridge across the expressway that runs along the north side, leading on to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

    The forum is a covered, open air performance area occupying its own island, linked to the pods and other islands by bridges. This has capacity for 2,000 people seated, with an additional 6000 on the adjacent hill sides. The 68 ft. revolving stage is covered by a copper-sheathed, tongue-in-groove plywood roof of hyperbolic paraboloid form supported on concrete bastions.

    The Children's Village is an active adventure playground that physically challenges its users on free equipment. Even use of air mattresses and water games is free as these are all part of the creative environment deliberately set off from paying rides. The area is covered so most equipment can be used rain or shine.

    On the west islands, the marina esplanade, and in one of the pods are restaurants, cafes and beer gardens. Those on the islands are of modular octagonal structures clustered together with boutiques to form streets.

    Later constructions include a gunite water slide, a series of exhibition spaces built as vernacular concrete silos and a glazed pagoda housing a temple bell (Though coordinated by the original architects, some of these are the work of other designers).

    4 evaluation


    - Sleel tension structures of industrial origin are used in public buildings
    -Wooden hyperbolic parabolic roof
    - Double geodesic dome
    -Habitable space is configured in pods supported on and cantilevered off steel columns standing in water
    -First Imax cinema


    - Children's Village is an interactive playground space
    -Permanent exhibition spaces to promote the province
    -Desire to reconnect the city to the lake by giving everyone access to the water, marina etc.

    cultural & aesthetic:

    -Futureland - the pods invert the usual form of architecture as ground based, massive structure to a light tension structure
    - The park as a whole refigures the urban relationship to the water


    -Cited as one of the "significant buildings of the last quarter century" in The Canadian Architect, November 1980, and The Canadian Architect, March 1994, Mapping Excellence: 25 Years of Awards for Canadian Architecture.
    -Ahead of Piano and Roger's Beaubourg in Paris

    5 documentation

    principal references:

    Jose M. Castel-Branco, 1994 rapporteur/date:

    written records, correspondence, etc
    - Zeidler Roberts Partnership Architects

    drawings, photographs, etc
    - Models: colour + B&W
    - Exterior + Interior: colour + B&W, 8xl0's
    - Aerials: colour 8x10’s
    - Construction: colour + B&W, 8xl0's

    principal publications (chronological order)
    -"Ontario Place", Deutsche Bauzeitung, April 1971
    -"Waterwonderland: Ontario Place", Architectural Forum, July 1971
    -"Ontario Place", Industrial Design, September 1971
    -"A Ponte Sui Lago", Domus, September 1971
    -"Ontario Place, Toronto", The Canadian Architect. October 1971
    -"Toronto's New Turn for the Lake", Michael Hough Landscape Architecture, October 1971
    -"Ontario Place, Lac Ontario" Architecture d'Aujourdhui, July 1973
    -"Children's Village, Ontario Place", Architectural Design, January 1974
    -"Ontario Place Children's Village" Architectural Review, February 1974
    -"A Perspective of Modern Canadian Architecture", Special Issue, Process Architecture, No.5, 1978
    -"25 ... Significant Architecture of the Last Quarter Century", The Canadian Architect, November 1980
    - "Building with Words; Canadian Architects on Architecture", compiled by, introduction by W. Bernstein, Ruth Cawker, Toronto: Coach House Press, 1981
    - "Modern Canadian Architecture", Leon Whiteson, Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1982
    - "Eberhard Zeidler; In Search Of Human Space", Christian W. Thomsen, Ernst & John, 1992

    RLTD news

    Curtain rises, again, on Ontario Place’s Cinesphere

    The theatre, which will open to the public in November, is part of a vision to transform Toronto’s waterfront into a widely accessible park Ontario Place is coming back to life. The province will announce this week that the site’s Cinesphere theatre will open to the public in November for regular events and screenings. Following that, […]


    Ontario Place Cinesphere and Pods and CN Tower receive 2017 Prix du XXe siècle

    The National Trust for Canada, in partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), announces the Ontario Place Cinesphere and Pods and the CN Tower as recipients of the 2017 Prix du XXe siècle – recognized for their enduring excellence and national significance to Canada’s architectural legacy. Ontario Place’s dramatic structures by Toronto architect […]


    Ontario Place, Toronto

    By: All Images courtesy of Zeidler Partnership Architects This article originally appeared in the docomomo US web site on November 12, 2014 Designed as an inclusive space for public entertainment, education, culture and recreation, Ontario Place is an internationally renowned, urban waterfront park in Toronto. With its integrated environment of parkland, lagoons and megastructures, Ontario Place crystallized […]


    Ontario Place’s entire site identified as a Place of Provincial Cultural Significance

    As part of the recently released plan to revitalize Ontario Place, which closed in 2012, the province designated the entire Ontario Place site, as a provincial heritage property of provincial significance.  Attached below is the statement of cultural heritage value. Description of the property Ontario Place is located off the shore of Lake Ontario on Toronto’s […]


    Construction set to begin on first phase of Ontario Place revitalization

    The provincial government says it will start the first phase of its planned Ontario Place revitalization in the next few months. Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Coteau says construction is expected to begin soon on the first phase of the project — a new urban park and waterfront trail expected to open in […]


    Ontario Place: A Modernist cultural landscape at risk

    An internationally renowned urban waterfront park, Toronto’s unique futuristic site called Ontario Place captured the avant-garde architectural ideas of the late 1960s. It’s closing for some badly needed attention that, unfortunately, could include demolition of its most historic features. Learn more! This article is featured in the latest edition of Heritage Magazine available through the […]

    documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement