spirit garden toronto

Toronto's new Indigenous spirit garden will feature a ten-ton stone turtle

In just over two years, Toronto will be getting a brand new public Indigenous cultural space that will invite dialogue on the 18 residential schools that operated in Ontario.

Set to open in 2023 at the west end of Nathan Phillips Square, the Spirit Garden will be a fully programmed complement to city hall, intended for education and healing purposed.

The space will feature some exceptional design work from an accomplished Indigenous artist and a local architecture firm, incorporating the symbolism of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis cultures into its 19,250-square-foot footprint.

At the heart of the Spirit Garden, the focal point will be a massive, ten-ton limestone turtle ascending boulders on a three-tiered fountain, known as the Restoration of Identity sculpture.

Water will flow from the sculpture over the names of the individual dozen and a half residential schools where — Ontario's Indigenous children were forcibly stripped of their cultural identities— and into a reflecting pool.

Representing "Our Mother" in the Indigenous Creation Story, the turtle was designed (and will be fabricated) by Anishnaabe artist Solomon King, working with Gow Hastings Architects.

spirit garden toronto

The massive sculpture will rest in the centre of a reflecting pool, with illumination after dark. Rendering by Gow Hastings Architects.

Other features of the plan include a semi-enclosed Teaching Lodge, a life-sized canoe, an inukshuk, and various other visually distinct elements tied to Indigenous history.

Landscaping within the new Spirit Garden, as the name would imply, will highlight various Indigenous plantings.

Conceived by the Toronto Council Fire Native Culture Centre to further reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, the project is being funded through a $2 million contribution from the City.

Tendering of the project is just around the corner, slated for November, while construction is due to begin in early 2022. If all goes according to plan, the garden — complete with giant turtle — will open by the end of 2023.

Photos by

Toronto Council Fire Native Culture Centre

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