Temporary street-level interventions add light, colour and enhanced waterfront connectivity at York and Simcoe Streets

June 8, 2023 - [Toronto, ON] – Following a national design competition completed in early 2022, today The Bentway announced the opening of two projects that explore new strategies for improved intersections under the Gardiner Expressway.

Waterfront ReConnect continues the organization’s creative work to re-imagine the Gardiner at street-level, demonstrating how this pedestrian obstacle can be transformed into a vital gateway between Toronto’s downtown core and Lake Ontario. The projects have shaped and now test some of the recommendations emerging from the Under Gardiner Public Realm Plan, a joint effort between The Bentway and the City of Toronto to chart a new future for the public realm below the Expressway.

The pilot projects will remain up until the City’s Gardiner Expressway Rehabilitation work commences in the area (currently scheduled for late 2025).

“These projects represent an exciting expansion of The Bentway’s work along the length of the Gardiner and highlight the creative opportunities we can explore from end to end,” says Ilana Altman. Co-Executive Director of The Bentway. “Each intersection is so unique, but together the creative design teams have demonstrated how colour, pattern, environmental lighting, and storytelling can transform a space built for cars into a more welcoming and accessible place for pedestrians and cyclists.”

The program is co-presented by The Bentway, local business associations (the Waterfront BIA and the Toronto Downtown West BIA), and the City of Toronto.

The two projects take over the under-Gardiner intersections of Simcoe Street and York Street.
The two projects take over the under-Gardiner intersections of Simcoe Street and York Street.

“We’ve very excited to see these designs tested at underpass connections to the waterfront,” says Tim Kocur, Executive Director of the Waterfront BIA. “Our hope is that we’ll learn what will work best in making these intersections feel safer for pedestrians living, working and visiting the many growing offerings along Queens Quay. These projects are the first step in a long-term transformation that will ensure the that connections under the Gardiner can offer better gateways that invite people to explore the waterfront.”

"This collaboration between the Bentway, the Waterfront and Downtown West BIAs, and the City of Toronto showcases how meaningful partnerships can create safer, more welcoming and beautiful neighbourhoods," says local City Councillor Ausma Malik. "Through creative design, Waterfront ReConnect re-prioritizes people’s experience crossing under the Gardiner, and strengthens the connections between our downtown and waterfront".

Details about each of the projects, Boom Town and Pixel Story, are available below and at thebentway.ca.

Boom Town

by 5468796 Architecture and Office In Search Of
(located under the Gardiner @ York Street, south of Raptors Way)

Winnipeg-based firm 5468796 Architecture and Toronto's Office In Search Of employ vibrant colour and environmental lighting to enliven the York Street intersection, improving safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

For Boom Town, the design team drew inspiration from the ongoing transformation of the Gardiner Expressway and the familiar presence of equipment deployed to inspect and maintain the structure. The project positions a fleet of boom lifts as “street theatre”, with a rotating cast of characters that will animate the space and help the city celebrate the changing seasons.

5468796 Architecture is a Winnipeg-based design studio established in 2007. Working around a single table, the office unites the diverse knowledge and experience of twenty professionals pursuing a critical architectural response to contemporary issues in multi-family housing and urban design.

Office In Search Of (OISO) is an interdisciplinary and collaborative design practice founded by Brandon Bergem and Jeffrey Garcia. The body of work includes architectural visualization, exhibition, and installation. In addition to their design research, they are Sessional Lecturers at the John H. Daniels Faculty at the University of Toronto.

Pixel Story

by O2 Planning & Design and ENTUITIVE
(located under the Gardiner @ Simcoe Street, south of Roundhouse Park)

Led by O2 Planning & Design and ENTUITIVE, Pixel Story addresses the many vantages, scales, and speeds from which we experience the Gardiner, breaking down the structure’s monumental quality through the application of a graphic gradient. The project uses colour and iconography to draw attention to the Simcoe Street intersection, and the entire under-Gardiner corridor, as a cultural connector.

 An accompanying series of sculptural pixel walls invites passersby to pause and explore the stories of visitors and residents accessing Toronto’s waterfront (collected from 300+ community submissions over the past year).

O2 is a nationally recognized, collaborative studio that integrates urban design, planning, landscape architecture, ecology, data analytics, and engagement and communications in a holistic practice to create highly valued places. Our work seeks to understand the broader social, ecological, and cultural systems that support the vitality of successful places.


Waterfront ReConnect is co-presented by:

  • The Bentway
  • City of Toronto
  • Waterfront Business Improvement Area
  • Toronto Downtown West Business Improvement Area 

With additional support from:

  • Government of Canada
  • Manulife
  • Anonymous (2)
  • DiamondCorp
  • Lifetime Developments

and The Bentway’s growing family of donors and supporters.


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About The Bentway

The Bentway works “to ignite the urban imagination”, using the city as site, subject, and canvas.

Anchored under Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway and guiding its complex future, The Bentway is a growing public space, and much more. The Bentway is a new type of civic organization: a not-for-profit, powered by vital partnerships with the City of Toronto, residents, supporters, artists, city-builders, and dreamers. The Bentway is a catalyst rooted in experimentation, leading a creative movement to re-imagine the opportunities of urban spaces. Phase 1 of The Bentway opened in 2018 and is already a vital public space, backyard park, cultural platform, connector for the western Waterfront corridor and a demonstration of what is possible.

 Visit thebentway.ca for details about The Bentway’s programming and activities; and follow on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. #thebentway #beyondconcrete


250 York Blvd., Toronto, ON M5V 3K9