From the Archives: Sherbourne Common (North)

public art structures at Sherbourne Common which have water cascading down into the water channel and the city and CN Tower in the background

Sherbourne Common’s eclectic mix of woods, water and greenery offers some of the best views in the city. (Image by: Nicola Betts)

By: Meghan Hogan

A few weeks ago, we dug into our archives and took you on a journey through the south side of Sherbourne Common. Today, we’re going to continue on that journey by exploring the features on the north side of the park. While the south side is full of opportunities to relax and unwind next to the lake, the north side is an active and engaging space designed to fuel your imagination. 

A view of the north side of Sherbourne Common before it was transformed into a park.A view of Sherbourne Common in 2011 shortly after its official opening.
Top image: Before - A view of the north side of Sherbourne Common before it was transformed into a park. Above: After - A view of Sherbourne Common in 2011 shortly after its official opening.

One of the park’s most iconic and recognizable features is Light Showers, a dramatic sculptural public artwork. Its three dramatic nine-metre-high towers can be spotted from a variety of vantage points including Lake Ontario, and the Gardiner Expressway. Designed by Canadian artist Jill Anholt, the concrete, glass and stainless steel sculptures are as beautiful as they are functional. Not only are they serve a public artwork, but they are also an integral element in the park’s stormwater management system.

Do you recall from our previous post that the water treatment facility located in the basement of the pavilion collects and cleans stowmwater using UV light? Well, the treated water is then sent underground to the north side of the park where it is released through the sculptural towers, flowing down illuminated mesh veils into an urban marsh. The water then flows along the urban river channel and back out to Lake Ontario. 

A view of Light Showers at night.
After sunset, the towers are illuminated from below in several shades of blue (Image by: Nicola Betts)

At night, Light Showers is cast in a soft blue light and as people move across the water channel, motion sensors trigger shifting light patterns in the water cascading down the mesh veils. Visiting in the winter? Stop and have a look at the mesh veils, which are designed to capture water in the winter to form unique ice patterns!

Sherbourne Common North also features a fun and interactive playground designed for people of all ages to enjoy. Towards the northern edge of the park you’ll find a sandbox and equipment geared towards younger children, while equipment focused for older children (and yes, even adults!) is located further south. Climbers, balance beams, see-saws, swings, and merry-go-round are just some of the play features you will find spread across the park.  

Children playing on the see-saw at Sherbourne Common.Children playing on the spinning equipment at Sherbourne Common.
Sherbourne Common North offers a variety of play features that delight and inspire people of all ages (Images by: Nicola Betts)

You will also notice lots of shade provided by a large grove of trees, which comes in handy on those hot summer days. Plenty of benches and seating are also available throughout, so that you can sit back and enjoy the sound of trickling water or children’s laughter. 

Since its completion in 2011, Sherbourne Common has received a dozen awards for its unique design and engineering, including a 2013 American Society of Landscape Architects Honour Award, a Toronto Urban Design Award of Merit, a National Urban Design Award and a Gold Award for Landscape Architecture at the Design Exchange Awards in Toronto. 

Inspired by some of Europe’s great public plazas, parks like Sherbourne Common continue to offer new and exciting spaces for Toronto residents and visitors to gather and enjoy our waterfront. Come and check it out for yourself – you won’t be disappointed! 

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