arc en ciel yorkdale station

Famous art installation coming back to Yorkdale Station

Yorkdale Subway Station was once home to one of Toronto's most glorious public art installations, and now, decades after it was unceremoniously removed by the TTC, it's set to make a return. Thanks to a partnership between the TTC and Oxford properties, the lost rainbow will return as an LED light installation.

Arc en ciel (literally "rainbow") was a series of 158 mercury vapour tubes installed in the atrium of Yorkdale Station that would pulse as subway trains entered the station. Only a few videos and photos remain of the original work, but plenty of people have waxed nostalgic over it since it was removed in the 1990s.

The story of its demise is as predictable as it is disheartening. After water leaked into a few of the transformers that controlled the light patterns, the TTC delayed repairing the installation for lack of funds (this despite that fact that the parts required were very cheap). Eventually the decision was made to dismantle Arc en ciel instead of fixing it, and that was that.

Or at least that's what it seemed until 2010. Former TTC Chair Howard Moscoe had been pushing for the return of Hayden's work for years, and looked like he had a deal going to replace the artwork in conjunction with an expansion of Yorkdale Shopping Centre, but the money never came together and Arc en ciel remained lost.

When I spoke to Michael Hayden back then he was excited to get to work on a new version of the installation with updated technology, but he noted that his intention was to make the work as similar looking as possible to the 1978 version.

According to TTC spokesperson Susan Sperling, Hayden has "already signed on" and "the work is being prepared." The installation process for Arc en ciel 2.0. will begin this year, though a completion date is yet to be determined.

The majority of funding for the project, which will cost some $500,000, will come from Oxford Properties, while the TTC will also kick in. $47,000 of Section 45 development money is also likely to come to the artwork thanks to a motion from Councillor Josh Colle.

When the return of Arc en ciel failed to come together in 2010, the odds of it ever coming back looked slim. That the project has finally come together and is set to start work is truly remarkable. Kudos to the TTC and Oxford for getting this done, and to Michael Hayden for his willingness to replace the stunning work.


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