Commuting across the city of Toronto, one can notice its changing landscape – construction is a constant and cranes dress the horizon. As of 2022, Toronto was home to 252 active cranes (dwarfing the 203 active cranes across the United States), and the majority of these were used for new builds rather than retrofitting older structures. According to heritage architect Catherine Nasmith, “it takes about 50 years of energy savings to pay down the debt to the environment created by the creation and transportation of construction materials”. On top of that, only 12% of waste from construction sites is diverted from landfill. The remaining 88% overwhelms landfills and accounts for 20–30% of the total municipal landfill in Ontario. A frightening prospect is that Ontario is expected to exceed its landfill capacity by 2032.
This building, 7 Labatt Ave, has lived a life longer than most of Toronto’s inhabitants. Over 110 years it has morphed with its tenants and now, it's slated for demolition. This exhibition is an ode to the building and others like it, an exploration of the impact of construction in this city and the value we place on overlooked and discarded things. What would Toronto look like if we opted to retrofit buildings before demolishing them? How could our value system shift to appreciate the unique heritage of the city?
The artifacts in this exhibition are cast with a mixture of 50–75% collected debris from construction sites around Toronto, including famous landmarks, ignored structures and Victorian houses. The binding component of the mixture is gypsum based, which is a material commonly used in the construction of drywall, plaster and sometimes cement. The molds used to cast the structures were created from offcut insulation boards salvaged from construction sites and their shapes often dictate the final form of the sculpture. Architectural and abstract in their form, they could live in centuries past or future, in an imagined city built on the foundation of its past and quietly carrying its hidden histories within its walls.
This building is slated to be demolished. The first development notice went up in 2014, outlining a plan to replace the site with a high-rise condominium complex. In the eight years since, the plans have evolved and the demolition — ever pending — has been delayed. Perhaps indefinitely. Perhaps for a few months. In the meantime, memories remain. The walls, windows, rugs, floors, light switches and layers of paint bear the palimpsest of a century. These are the scenes captured in photography.
In the early 20th century, this site was an industrial setting, where electrical appliances were manufactured. By the 1990s, artist studios and small, independent businesses carved out a new territory, and were eventually joined by offices and a data centre, with car dealerships and apartment towers as their neighbours. Walls were covered in stucco, floorplans were redrawn, windows and floors were replaced, but the bones remain. According to the City of Toronto’s Planning department, “This site was not deemed to have any historical value.” It is a calculus that erases the cultural life behind the bricks — the affordable, creative spaces that breathe life into the building and the city beyond. At 7 Labatt and across Toronto, this heritage, history and culture is disappearing into oblivion. But for now, the building remembers.
In a space where erasure is on the horizon, the sense of fragility is palpable. In lieu of a traditional gallery setting, where works of fine art are framed and displayed on white walls, the exhibition takes an unconventional form, recognizing the vulnerability of its site — and subject — via an ephemeral medium. These fleeting, vulnerable images are displayed in different scales and settings, creating a dialogue with the building and its uncertain future. There is no permanence through photography, no immortality through art. In a few days, this will all be gone forever.
text by Stefan Novakovic, Architecture Critic
Manny Trinh (born in Saigon Vietnam) immigrated to Canada when he was 11 years old. His vivid memories of the human landscape of his home land - dense yet sprawling, chaotic with an underlying order, decaying but full of life and growth - have major influences.
"Beautiful Ending” came from a day spent with his mom during her final weeks. He shared with her his love for his craft, and watched her paint with watercolour. This brief moment in time allowed him to connect with her in a life changing experience that will stay with him forever. This exhibition is a reflection on the passage of time that Trinh had spent with her and his family in Saigon.
"the difference between fitting in and belonging" brings into the gallery an extension of impromptu wheat paste works. Usually created outdoors, they often encroach into spaces where on may not be welcome, and gently interrupt their environment.
Through the act of wheat pasting and use of invasive grasses, the work contemplates our experiences of othering and being in spaces where one may not belong - with hopes of shifting towards perceptions of acceptance and even of beauty.
Alyssa Alikpala is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and researcher working across sound, sculpture, installation and ephemeral forms. Her work explores the sensorial body and its relation to material and environment, focusing on the physical process both as a way of generating insight and as a meditative practice.
Through environmental interventions, her current body of work invites slowness and sensitivity. They respond intentionally to the time, place, and conditions with subtle disruption, making use of found and natural materials. The works have become a vessel for her healing and acceptance.
It is hard to date the first instance of demolition derby as an event, nor is it easy to pin-point with confidence where it originated. Some date the invention of the sport back to the 1930’s, some to 1950's, potentially in Long Island, New York. It is generally agreed on by derby enthusiasts that by the mid-1960’s the events were widespread at county fairs in North America and spreading to Europe, UK, Australia and beyond.
A demolition derby, at a glance, consists of cars or trucks smashing into each other in what can best be described as a mud ring. Last one standing wins the round... but they're not done. They often have a tough go at continuing on through rounds ahead against new contenders. Each derby has multiple categories for participants, each with specific rules that dictate ways cars are allowed to ram into each other, how vehicles are reinforced before the battle, what space or arena the event takes place in, how many mechanics are allowed to work on a car, and more. Listen closely and you'll hear jargon unique to demolition derby drift up above the smashing and revving. Some derbies are independent and stand-alone, while others are part of leagues encompassing townships, counties, or entire provinces/states. The structure for these events is similar in many rural communities in Canada, as well as in the United States.
The demolition of vehicles is only a part of this exciting theatre. How one modifies the car within the scope of official rules and keeps it driving after consecutive brutal rounds of smashing is a mechanics’ sport that is equally exciting, perhaps more than the smash-up that follows and it takes place in the pit: the heart of the derby, the area where teams congregate, work on their vehicles, and just enjoy the show. the event is about creative engineering solutions and intimate understanding of cars.
| find the demolition derby a symbolic celebration of the automobile. It speaks to communities’ historic dependence on and intimate relationship with the automobile and it is passed on generation to generation: many derbies’ starting event features young children using electric-powered toy cars. The event is also about local communities coming together—the teams involved are usually organized by local businesses, or first-responder departments, featuring local mechanics and are often fundraising for community—someone fighting cancer, a business that hit hard times, a new community space, local church.
These images have been taken at demolition derbies and county fairs between 2015 and 2017 in central, south and eastern Ontario. Majority were taken in the pit—the backstage of the event, where mechanics prepare or attempt to resurrect the cars for their showdown.