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It's a whole new Museum Station

Posted: April 08, 2008, 6:38 PM by Rob Roberts


By Zosia Bielski, National Post

Management consultant Robertson Boyle took a different route to work this morning so he could be among the first to see the new-look Museum Station, and liked what it suggests about the future of transit station design.

“I think each TTC station has its own personality. Each of those stations is in the heart of a community. Who knows what creative minds can come up with.”

After its $5-million revamp, Museum station is now lined with hieroglyphs, First Nation house posts and Doric columns. Carved of foam, clay and cement, the pillars are based on artefacts from collections in the Royal Ontario Museum and Gardiner Museum, spectacularly revamped institutions that sit above the station.

“As an art lover I love this idea. The design reflects what is happening above,” said Awet Tekeste, a University of Toronto architecture and planning student currently studying the Libeskind Crystal.

As a design lover, Joe Clark — the gadfly known for championing the TTC’s unique fonts and tiles — hates the re-design.

In an oversized patchwork sweater, Mr. Clark wove through the crowd of dignitaries gathered on the station platform today. The “amateur typeface historian” introduced himself to journalists and presented them with a pamphlet: “The new Museum station: Hot…or not?”

“The new columns are cute,” the transit activist begins, then blasts “elites [who] don’t actually ride the subway” and “corporate donors,” individuals Mr. Clark believes persuaded the TTC to revamp for the benefit of their own tax write offs.

The Museum station revamp cost $5-million: $2-million from private donors (including $1-million from the Budd Sugarman foundation), $2-million from the province and $1-million from the TTC.

Mr. Clark complained the new Museum signage - large and decorated with hieroglyphs - is spaced too tightly, and that smaller versions cannot be seen from the traincar window because they are set too low on the walls.

Mr. Clark pointed to the “legions of transit fans in Toronto and around the world” who loved the TTC’s unique typeface and tile heritage, now set to disappear as 63 of the system’s 69 stations prepare for a makeover as part of a $275-million station modernization program.

TTC commissioners voted last month to scrap the uniform tile motif in its stations in favour of unique designs. “We have a public transit system that has the same design scheme as a public bathroom,” Councillor Joe Mihevc, a TTC commissioner, said last month.

Ms. Tekeste was not certain how the TTC would manage individual looks for more obscure stations on the line, or find equally enthusiastic philanthropists to fund the facelifts.

“I’m not quite convinced that it will work at other stations in other parts of the city. Where are you going to find the resources? I don’t think they’re going to find the money to do the other 63, so stick with this one,” said Ms. Tekeste after she snapped photos of the columns.