Sailboats at Ontario Place - Wikipedia
10 . 24 . 2017

Curtain rises, again, on Ontario Place’s Cinesphere

AUTHOR Alex Bozikovic

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, the waterfront site, just west of Toronto’s downtown core, will host a series of public events this winter. It’s part of a vision to transform it into a widely accessible park for downtown Toronto that will also be a hub for cultural and sports events.

“We imagine a new series of pavilions and experiences along the lakeshore that will be worth the drive, or the bike ride, to go down there and spend time,” says Alex Josephson, with the architecture firm Partisans.

Partisans, together with landscape architects at Janet Rosenberg & Studio and other consultants, have won the job to provide a vision for the interim revitalization of the site, and then to create detailed designs. The first stage of the work was a quick renovation of the Cinesphere for the Toronto International Film Festival in September; now the team is working on a renovation to the landscape and existing buildings.

The designers’ ambition is to treat the existing site, which opened in 1971 with designs by architect Eberhard Zeidler and landscape architect Michael Hough, as a venue for a variety of temporary events. The Cinesphere, housed in a 19-metre dome, and the “pods” – large, glassed-in exhibition halls that stand on pylons above Lake Ontario – will house a variety of events. Ontario Place “should be a platform that can adapt and change as the world around us changes,” said general manager Nancy Rowland.

“We’re recognizing that the pods themselves and the Cinesphere are really the heart of Ontario Place,” Ms. Rowland added. She said Ontario Place staff are exploring film screenings and other uses of the Cinesphere. “We’re trying to get them back into use. They’ve been inaccessible for a long time.”

This means dealing with a considerable design legacy – a set of radical buildings that were the province’s answer to Montreal’s Expo 67. Mr. Zeidler adopted the technical ambition of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome and Frei Otto‘s West German Pavilion. In these buildings, Mr. Zeidler has written, “the technological possibilities of their day… were crystallized in a form that finally became an expression of their time.”

Ontario Place “is an icon,” says Pooya Baktash, who leads Partisans along with Jonathan Friedman and Mr. Josephson.

The details of the design and programming are still being developed, Ms. Rowland said. But Mr. Josephson said: “We’re imaging a series of pavilions and lookouts that could range in use from reading room to a lookout to fire pits to bike trails. And a sauna; imagine polar bear dipping in Lake Ontario.”

Partisans’s best-known projects include a sculptural private sauna on Georgian Bay, but the office is also working on new retail spaces in Union Station and completed the temporary fitout of the Hearn Generation Station for the Luminato Festival in 2016.

Related News

Ontario Place