Yonge Dundas Square

Architect of Yonge-Dundas Square now thinks it's extraordinarily ugly

Yonge-Dundas Square has been called a lot of things by a lot of people, but "extraordinarily ugly" sounds kind of harsh (true as it may be) – especially coming from someone who helped design it.

Toronto-based urban design and architecture studio Brown + Storey tweeted out a photo of the bustling site on Wednesday with two words – "the horror" – and the hashtag "#deathofpublicspace."

This, after journalist Shawn Micallef pointed out that even more digital screens were being added to the already hyper-commercialized space.

"The original architectural firm behind Dundas Square concedes that the City has allowed it to go to shit," wrote another Toronto journalist, Jonathan Goldsbie, of Brown + Storey's tweet.

The firm had indeed been a driving force behind the project back when they were tapped to design the civic space in 1998.

In an interview with The Star on Thursday, Kim Storey (one half of the accomplished local architecture duo) revealed what happened to change her opinion so drastically.

Storey said that she and partner James Brown once considered the work a point of pride. They'd envisioned it as "a site for a democratic society to gather, discuss and demonstrate, and to be a community."

And then the city started installing huge digital signs everywhere, changing the vibe from "public gathering space" to one of urgent consumerism.

The firm now considers Yonge-Dundas Square – with its ever-increasing amount of ad space – an embarrassment.

"There has to be some place where we are not bombarded by advertising, to have a respite from all of this," said Storey to The Star. "Once you start bringing signs in, it closes down the space."

When asked about whether or not they tried to intervene, the firm wrote on Twitter that it had. Hard.

"We raised concerns and were ignored or dismissed (except for Shawn's earlier article) by the management board, the local councillor and by general public indifference," reads a reply sent Wednesday

"Seemed like an impossible battle to fight on our own.  Heartbreaking in many ways."

Lead photo by

Lee Chu


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