No, I’m not talking about the kind of inspiration you get from Successories.

A post on the Spacing Wire last week pointed to a short film called Drum 13 (requires QuickTime 7) by Tony Round. The description read, “a banjo and a massive abandoned Cherry Beach oil drum really do belong together.” Drum 13 was filmed in February 2005. It turns out that in April 2006, I had visited the same location and taken these pictures, among many others, of that oil tank:

Industrial Blossom


While I was there, I was struck by how this big old boring piece of industrial detritus could be so compelling a subject and offer so many interesting studies in light and form. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures of industrial ruins, but this place was special. I couldn’t believe that I’d ridden my bike past it for so many years without once venturing onto the site and vowed to come back as the seasons changed throughout the year.

But by June 2006, the site had been leveled, and you never would have known that the empty field had ever held anything more substantial. It is currently being developed into the transitional sports fields in the port lands. The experience underscored the importance of timing: if you have a chance to take a picture, take it — the scene may not exist an hour from now, never mind next week or next month.

I lamented the loss of the picturesque location, but didn’t know that anyone else had appreciated its interesting features before I saw Drum 13 posted online last week. I wondered if anyone else had been artistically inspired by this storage tank. Some quick Googling found that at least a few other photographers and some musical experimenters have documented the location over the years. It’s good to know that I wasn’t the only fan of this abandoned piece of the city.

Changes in the port lands

I went for a short bike ride through the port lands yesterday, the first time I’ve been down there since the autumn. Unlike most winters, there’s quite a bit of work going on. It’s also a little more challenging than usual to get into the area, as two of the three access roads are closed for bridge repairs.

Unwin Ave Bridge is closed for the seasonThe single-lane Unwin Ave bridge just west of Leslie is closed to traffic, though pedestrians and cyclists on skinny bikes can still use the narrow pedestrian walkway. The walkway is also just one lane wide, so you better hope that you don’t need to pass someone in the middle. Fortunately, it’s not usually a problem at this time of year. Or any time of year, really.

Cofferdam on the Hearn/PEC discharge channelThe decking on one section of the bridge roadway has been pulled up and piled to one side as if the reason for pulling up the deck was more to prevent passage than to make repairs. The channel that the bridge spans was recently blocked off from the lake by a cofferdam and is being drained so that it can be dredged and repaired. It used to be the discharge channel for the Hearn generating station, and will be reused as the discharge channel for the Portlands Engergy Centre. This maintenance should be complete by the end of May. Great White North dragon boats ususally launch from this channel for practices in the Outer Harbour. If all goes according to schedule, they won’t have to portage around the dry channel and the dam.

Transitional sports fields under constructionFarther west on Unwin, construction of the transitional sports fields is underway. Unlike many people who frequent the area, I actually like the idea of having sports fields on Unwin. I think the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation missed an opportunity in constructing these as artificial-turf fields. Natural grass fields would speak a lot more to the environment and sustainability, even if that would have required more site remediation than the TWRC was willing to do. This would be especially significant because these are intended to be temporary fields, lasting about 10 years before being relocated to some permanent location in the port lands. I’m betting that the “temporary” aspect gets lost somewhere between now and then. Otherwise, we’ll have an awful lot of poured concrete to dispose of in a decade.

Natural ice rink in front of St. Jamestown Sailing ClubI also stopped in at my (shuttered for the season) sailing club for to see the winter scenery and noticed that someone at the club next door had cleared out a natural rink on the harbour. Unfortunately, it looked a little melty in the sun, so I didn’t risk a review. But it definitely would have scored a 10 for ambiance.