© Emma Fraschetti, Ryerson University 2019.
The Bloor Street Viaduct, more formally known as the Prince Edward Viaduct, is the steel and concrete truss-arch landmark that connects Bloor Street East with Danforth Avenue in Toronto, Ontario. Upon its proposition in 1910, the viaduct was deemed the “bridge to nowhere” in reference to the underdeveloped state of Danforth Avenue at the time. Although the “bridge to nowhere” label lost its credibility after the viaduct was completed in 1918 and the East End of Toronto transformed into a thriving rural area, it seems that a certain quality of alluring peculiarity remains true of the massive structure which hovers over the city.
Depending on where you are situated, your perception of the Bloor Street Viaduct and all its glory may differ. On a TTC subway cart travelling Eastbound from Castle Frank Station to Broadview Station, the viaduct can be inspected most intimately, but only for about twenty-five seconds. If you’ve been riding Line 2 for long, these twenty-five seconds can inspire a necessary renewal of perspective. Suddenly, the stark blackness of the underground subway tunnels is mitigated by an affective view of the Don River Valley. Peering into the truss-work of the viaduct, you may recognize the resilient steel criss-cross beams to be strong like the bones of your ancestors, who may have helped build the bridge themselves. Noticing the questionable grey and amber stains on the beams could bring about some insecurity; rust is rarely a good thing, should that be the case. For these twenty-five seconds, you are in limbo floating forty meters over a constant stream of impatient vehicles and hanging beneath them as well.
If you’re travelling across the viaduct on foot, it is certainly difficult to ignore the fantastical qualities of its five-lane energy flow. Especially in the night’s darkness, crossing the viaduct is comparable to crossing a glowing threshold into an unknown location. From its most western point looking eastward, the path seems everlong and narrow. The flashing headlights and reflectors from five lanes of traffic arrange a visually overwhelming scene. The viaduct’s most notable luminous veil, composed of over nine-thousand steel rods changing colours every few minutes, brings about a feeling of surrealism that can only be damaged by knowing the disturbing truth of its origins.
It is not uncommon to be suspicious. Despite the Bloor Street Viaduct’s longstanding establishment, its presence often feels liminal to the local travellers who suspend their belief and entertain their imagination while riding across it. When analyzed closely, the well-known landmark of Toronto doubles as the origin of unfamiliar spaces, or at least, spaces that evoke an alluring sense of disorientation and displacement. In this way, the Bloor Street Viaduct is unique in its ongoing ability to derrive new perspectives out of familiarity.
City of Toronto. “Bridging the Don: The Prince Edward Viaduct.” City of Toronto Web Exhibits, City of Toronto, Nov. 2017, www.toronto.ca/city-government/accountability-operations-customer-service/access-city-information-or-records/city-of-toronto-archives/whats-online/web-exhibits/bridging-the-don-the-prince-edward-viaduct/.
Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. Routledge, 2000.
Hauen, Jack. “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bloor St. Viaduct as It Turns 100.” Thestar.com, The Toronto Star, Dec. 2018, www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/12/12/10-things-you-dont-know-about-the-bloor-st-viaduct.html.