Ontario Place

Glory days at Ontario Place

With the upcoming revitalization of Ontario Place, I thought a little time spent YouTube hunting on the weekend might offer a glimpse of the waterfront complex in its heyday. Although difficult to conceive of these days, Ontario Place was itself meant to revitalize a waterfront that was dominated by industrial use and structures. More than an amusement park, it was meant to showcase the modernity and promise of both the city and the province.

And, in fact, a little research on the construction of the complex and its artificial island-pods reveals that the project was rather cutting edge. Opened in May of 1971, the park was, according to head architect Eb Zeidler, meant to "[exploit] technology to shape the society of tomorrow."

Well, "tomorrow" has come, and like many designs of the this type, the futuristic elements of Ontario Place are probably the ones that appear most dated. This, no doubt, is what accounts for the palpable nostalgia the complex never ceases to instill in me whenever I pass by. Riding my bike beside the Atlantis pavilion, it always strikes me as a boxy spaceship, something that might have made an appearance in the original Star Trek series.

And, yet, for many years Ontario Place was defined by a certain optimism. As the videos below demonstrate, the park was positioned not just as a place of leisure, but as a civic monument. It even got the Dolores Claman -- composer of the (former) "Hockey Night in Canada them" and "A Place to Stand" -- treatment.

It remains to be seen what role the current structures and design will have in the revitalized Ontario Place, but it would certainly be sad if the entire area was razed. Though likely impossible, it'd be nice to somehow preserve some of the gushing confidence and optimism of its early years in the new version.

It's All Yours 1983

Happy Together in 1987!

Labatt 50 commercial (apparently before they realized half-naked women sell more beer)

CFTO Ontario Place promo (long build up)

Theme from Ontario Place (music and video)

Theme from Ontario Place (different version, music only)

Photo by Danielle Scott of the blogTO Flickr pool. Videos from retrontario, Grossmobile, WNED17, Parkwaymania.


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