Owen-Illinois

Toronto's Forgotten Landmarks: Owen-Illinois Glassworks, Leave the Lights On

There is nothing quite as unnerving as entering a decommissioned factory in the middle of the night to find all the lights still on. But this strange start wasn't the only highlight of my visit to the Owen-Illinois Glassworks plant in Toronto's West end: the machinery, the sheer size of the plant, and the bizarre glass-and-concrete wasteland surrounding it, gave me a new appreciation of the improbable aesthetics of industrial space.

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Parts of the plant, especially on the upper levels, seemed like a frozen scene from an episode of '

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How It's Made'...

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I was amazed by the amount of materials left behind (not to mention the

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small mountains of glass outside the building), but my partner, who had been there not a week prior, remarked on how quickly they were emptying the place.

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The farther we delved, the more apparent the transition this building was undergoing became...

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Owen-Illinois Glassworks is an empty, eerie, and beautiful place. Pascal, meditating on the sublimity of space, once said: "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread." But being in this place, which was once so loud and busy and is now so still and empty, filled me with awe and respect. The machines are all quiet now, and the workers have all gone home. All that remains is this building and their tools, all preserved as if it were a room in a museum, but stranger. It was more like walking around a frozen waterfall; all of the loud implements of labour, held in an uncanny instance of surreal quiet.

(To see the rest of the set of snaps, as well as high-resolution versions of the ones above, please view my flickr slide-show below.)


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