Toronto Brickworks

The Toronto Brickworks remembered

Adaptive redevelopment at the Don Valley Brickworks in Toronto has been under way for quite some time now. After examining the historical aspects of the location some time ago, I had resigned myself to never return to the place. The prospect of losing my favorite Toronto abandonment to gentrification seemed almost unbearable to me.

As fate would have it, I recently returned to the place amidst its transition, after being pressured by a fellow explorer who had never seen the property in any iteration. Much of my initial hesitance regarding the Evergreen project was immediately quelled, as I found that much of what I loved about the space remained, in a somewhat transformed state.

A friend recently informed me that an archeologist/historian passing through Toronto some time back stopped in the Brickworks quarry to examine the exposed shale. This ended up dating to over a hundred-million years! At that time, the fate of the abandoned site was up in the air, but this discovery lead to eventual UN-protected status for the property. In this new light, the development by the Evergreen project had to follow very strict guidelines.

As opposed to documentation-style photography (a la my original post on the Brickworks), I have assembled here a set of more 'emotive' snaps, which I feel capture the spirit of this haunting space in the midst of conversion...

Toronto Brickworks

With the weather whipping through much of the complex, at many points I felt as though I had somehow wandered onto the deck of some forgotten ship, and at other times, as if I were deep in its bowels...

Toronto Brickworks

I was especially glad to see that metal snakes and ladders still dominate much of the space...

Toronto BrickworksToronto BrickworksToronto Brickworks

Even the larger equipment, it would seem, is being preserved...

Toronto Brickworks

Toronto Brickworks

Some pieces I didn't even recall from the buildings formerly abandoned state...

Toronto Brickworks

Toronto BrickworksToronto Brickworks

Word is that even the massive pipe that crosses the open area west of the kiln-room will be incorporated into the new design (

Toronto Brickworks

photographers always seem to take shots of this particular feature

Toronto Brickworks


Toronto Brickworks

Toronto Brickworks

What struck me most deeply on my final visit to the Brickworks was not how much of itself has been lost, but rather how much is now revealed. I had loved the old run-down Brickworks for years, but even those to whom it was dear will admit that it was in very rough shape. Not that the redevelopment will immortalize the site, but it will most definitely give it a new life.

This was a building which created buildings -- a beautiful mechanical wellspring of life for built Toronto. It allowed the city to grow, as itself and the quarry diminished, finally leaving nothing but an empty husk in the Don Valley, with a lone smokestack reaching upward. Much of the iconic image I have of the building will, thankfully, remain.

Both in its outer appearance and inner constitution, the Don Valley Brickworks has always felt to me like an old friend. My fear, however, is that my next visit will be to that of a stranger. Thankfully, I enjoy meeting new people. Even in a new body, though, the Brickworks will always seem to have more of the past about it than the present.

(To see my original entry on the Brickworks, you can click here, and to see the rest of the snaps, as well as high-res. versions of the ones pictured above, you can visit my flickr slide-show below.)

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