Category Archives: arts and culture venues

Ripley’s Aquarium aims for September opening

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: Construction work continues on the building exterior as Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada gears up for its September opening. Below is an artistic rendering that shows how the building will look once complete.


Ripley's Canada Aquarium rendering



Buy now: The wait to see Toronto’s newest tourist attraction is nearly over.

With its public opening set for September, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is now selling advance admission tickets on its website. The “pre-opening” passes, which cost $29.98 for adults and $19.98 for seniors over 65 and kids aged 4 to 13, will be valid for entry to the aquarium for up to one year after date of purchase.

The aquarium, which has been under construction since August 2011, has long targeted a “summer of 2013” opening. Thousands of Canadians eager to view sharks from the Dangerous Reef’s underwater tunnel had been hoping they could visit the aquarium during the summer school break, but construction didn’t finish in time. The precise opening date in September still hasn’t been announced.

Extensive information about the attraction is available on the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada website.

I posted construction photos in reports published on August 18 2011, August 17 2012, and October 14 2012.  Pictures showing how the aquarium site (on Bremner Boulevard at the base of the CN Tower) looked prior to construction can be viewed in my February 3 2011 report about the project.

More than 200 photos showing the various stages of construction during the past two years can be viewed in the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada album on TheTorontoBlog’s Facebook page.


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: Work continues on the aquarium’s main entrance as well as the new pedestrian plaza it will share with the CN Tower.



Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: A view of the aquarium from the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the nearby Rogers Centre.



Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: “Pre-sale” tickets are available from the aquarium’s website


Construction views from Roundhouse Park


Constantly changing scenery: The Rogers Centre, the CN Tower and the skyscrapers of the Financial District once dominated the north and east views from Roundhouse Park on Bremner Boulevard. But a slew of nearby construction projects is giving park visitors new views that change by the day. Above is a video I shot from the park yesterday, showing building activity at five major construction sites nearby: Infinity3, the final phase of the Infinity condo complex between Bremner and Lake Shore Boulevard; the two ICE Condos towers at York Centre on the east side of the Infinity buildings; the Delta Toronto hotel and Bremner office tower at Southcore Financial Centre; the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada approaching the end of construction at the foot of the CN Tower; and the Three Hundred Front Street West condo tower to the northwest.



South downtown skyscraper construction offers soaring backdrop for Toronto’s new aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada and tower construction projects  in Toronto's south downtown area

April 4 2013: Construction is proceeding on schedule for a summer opening of the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada (foreground), located on Bremner Boulevard at the foot of the CN Tower.  The new aquarium is one of eight different buildings seen at various stages of construction in this photo shot from the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the Rogers Centre. Rising behind the aquarium are, from left, The L Tower, the Delta Toronto Hotel and Bremner Tower office building at Southcore Financial Centre, the two cylindrical ÏCE Condos skyscrapers, and the two towers of the Infinity3 Condominiums. Click on the photo to view it in a larger format.



Winter building pics: March 2013

 My March 2013 album on Flickr features more than 500 photos showing dozens of downtown construction projects and building sites. Click once on the image above to view a small-format slideshow of the pictures, or click twice to access the actual album where you can view individual full-size photos with captions.



Frozen fingers: It’s only a few days into spring and I’m still sorting through hundreds of building and construction photos I took during the winter. What has struck me the most is how gloomy and grey the city looked most of the time. Sunny, clear days were few and far between — and when they came, it was usually too bitterly cold and windy for me to risk freezing my fingers by wandering around with my camera.

I did manage a few long photo walks, though, and have been gradually posting the pics in albums on’s Flickr photostream.  Above is a link to my fourth winter photo album, March 2013.




Ripley’s Aquarium construction photo update

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

October 12 2012: The Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is almost fully roofed in …


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

… as seen in this September 25 overhead view from the CN Tower. Click on the image to view a larger photo.


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

 September 25 2012: A view of the giant frame for the building’s entrance area


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

October 12 2012: Construction progress viewed from the southwest, on Bremner Boulevard. Click on the image to view a larger image.


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

 October 12 2012: Aquarium viewed from the southeast, on Bremner Boulevard.  The yellow installation indicates where exterior walls are taking form.


Eyes on the aquarium: Most of the roof is in place for the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, while walls along the building’s east and west sides look like they’re almost ready for exterior cladding and glass installation.

More recent photos of the aquarium, including additional overhead pics shot from the CN Tower, can be viewed in an album on thetorontoblog’s Facebook page.

The album includes photos showing the aquarium site before construction commenced, as well as dozens of photos tracking the building’s progress since the summer of 2011.

Information about the project, along with building renderings and construction photos, can be viewed in my previous posts about the $130 million aquarium on August 17 2012, August 18 2011, and February 3 2011.



Ryerson Image Centre opens tonight

Ryerson Image Centre

September 25 2012: The entrance to the new Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) at 33 Gould Street on the Ryerson University campus. The RIC opens to the public tonight.


Ryerson Image Centre night photo by Tom Arban

The RIC occupies the west side of the Ryerson University School of Image Arts building, the northwest corner of which is seen in this Tom Arban night photo provided courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects. Click on both photos to view larger-size images of each.


Open doors: Arts aficionados finally get to visit the newest destination on the city’s ever-expanding cultural landscape tonight when the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) leaves its doors open all night long as part of the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche festival.

The RIC is situated in the School of Image Arts building, which recently won the 2012 AL Light & Architecture Design Award for Best Use of Colour. Originally a brewery with few exterior windows, the brick building was expanded and totally transformed into a showcase faculty and gallery facility designed by Toronto’s Diamond Schmitt Architects. In sharp contrast to the original structure, transparent glazing lets people see in and out  three sides of the redesigned building while an LED system concealed in the exterior double-glass cladding lights up the university campus at night with a regularly-changing array of colours. (See my September 10 2012 post for full details and photos of the building and its lighting system.)




Regent Park’s Daniels Spectrum provides bright, inspiring space for creativity, culture & innovation

Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre

The Daniels Spectrum at 585 Dundas Street East, seen last Friday …


Daniels Spectrum

… and again today, sporting its new signage. The Spectrum officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning, and will be hosting a public open house on Saturday.


Daniels Spectrum photo provided courtesy Diamond Schmitt Architects

Another Dundas Street view of Daniels Spectrum, this time in a photo provided courtesy of Elizabeth Gyde/Diamond Schmitt Architects



Great space:  I’ve been absolutely amazed by the incredible neighbourhood transformation that has been taking place the past several years in Regent Park, where a 15-year revitalization project is gradually rebuilding the east downtown area’s 60-year-old social housing development into a completely new mixed-income and mixed-use community.

Though still in early stages of the multi-phase project, the makeover has already given the heart of Regent Park a remarkable look and feel with modern new townhouses, apartment buildings and condo highrises, attractive landscaped streets and public spaces, and bustling retail shops and services. But the official opening today of the impressive new Daniels Spectrum (formerly known as the Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre, as it was called up until this morning’s ribbon-cutting ceremony) is about to add an entirely new dimension of energy and excitement to the neighbourhood.



Exterior lighting system at Ryerson Image Centre wins architecture design award for use of colour

Ryerson Image Centre photograph by Tom Arban

The LED system in the cladding of the new Ryerson Image Centre and School of Image Arts building on Gould Street glows red in this photograph by Tom Arban


Ryerson Image Centre multi-colour lighting photograph by Tom Arban

… and offers a bold multicoloured pattern as seen in this Tom Arban photo


Light fantastic: One of my favourite new downtown buildings — the Ryerson Image Centre and School of Image Arts on the Ryerson University campus — has won an architecture industry award for the colourful impact of an LED lighting system built into its exterior.

The faculty and gallery building, designed by the team of Donald Schmitt, Peggy Theodore, Steven Bondar, Liviu Budur, Zvonimir Cicvaric and Tara Plett at Toronto’s Diamond Schmitt Architects, recently received the 2012 AL Light & Architecture Design Award for Best Use of Colour. The annual award is sponsored by Architectural Lighting Magazine whose editor, Elizabeth Donoff, said of the new Ryerson facility: “The work shows moments of articulated restraint as well as moments of exuberant celebration.”



Ripley’s aquarium shaping up & filling in fast

Ripley's Canada Aquarium

August 15 2012: The sharply angled roof of the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is quickly taking shape at the foot of the CN Tower, left


Ripley's Canada Aquarium rendering

This rendering provided to the media shows how the distinctive roof will appear when viewed from the entrance plaza to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada


Ripley's Aquarium Canada

August 15 2012: Another view of the iron and steel frame of the aquarium roof


Ripley's Canada Aquarium

August 15 2012: Construction viewed from the southeast on Bremner Boulevard


Ripley's Canada Aquarium

This rendering shows how the aquarium will appear when viewed from the southeast …


Ripley's Canada Aquarium rendering

… while this illustration shows the aquarium viewed from the south


Ripley's Canada Aquarium

This model shows the layout of the aquarium interior


Gone fishing: It was exactly one year ago I reported that construction had commenced at the foot of the CN Tower for the $130 million, 135,000-square foot Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada — Toronto’s first major new tourist attraction in years.

Last week I was amazed to learn that, less than a year after construction shovels had hit the ground, the aquarium had already begun hydro-testing its 750,000-gallon Shark Lagoon, filling the acrylic tanks with water to ensure there are no leaks. I had not seen the construction site since early May, at which time it looked like the building still had a long way to go, so I was surprised to hear that water testing was underway on the tanks that will become home to more than 13,500 fish and other sea creatures. (Also last week, the Toronto Star reported that marine biologists and shark experts started hunting for sand sharks for the aquarium back in April.)



Airy and bright entrance cube welcomes visitors to freshly revitalized Toronto Reference Library

Toronto Reference Library

January 11 2012: The new entrance to the Toronto Reference Library, at the corner of Yonge Street and Asquith Avenue, opened in December …


Toronto Reference Library

… well over a year after construction of the3-storey glass and steel cube structure commenced. The entrance area is seen here on November 11 2010, several weeks after work started as part of a $34-million building revitalization project.


Toronto Reference Library

Entrance seen from west side of Yonge Street on January 11 2012 …


Toronto Reference Library

… and from Asquith Avenue on January 21 2012


Toronto Reference Library

The large rectangular windows on the north and west sides of the cube …


Toronto Reference Library

… ensure that the spacious entrance area is airy and bright …


Toronto Reference Library

… but some work remains to be completed on the interior


Toronto Reference Library

A crescent-shaped window brightens a reading room located at the library’s northwest corner, overlooking Yonge and Collier Streets


Toronto Reference Library

As of last week, however, the library’s sidewalk-level facade along Yonge Street was still under construction. Windows running the length of the building will eventually provide a visual connection between the interior and the street.


Doors open: They had to wait well over a year, but visitors can now enter the Toronto Reference Library in Yorkville through a bright and airy new entrance at the corner of Yonge Street and Asquith Avenue.

The 3-storey glass and steel entrance cube, designed by Toronto’s Moriyama & Teshima architects, opened for public use in December, though some finishing touches remain to be done on its interior.

As I reported in a January 27 2011 post, the new entrance was created as part of ambitious $34-million, 5-year revitalization project intended to create “a dynamic interface between the library and its community, connecting the library’s interior more directly to the street, and the public to the services inside.”

The spacious, sunny cube certainly achieves that goal, as does a curved row of windows that brightens a reading lounge situated at the northwest corner of the building, overlooking Yonge and Collier Streets.

As of last weekend, which was the last time I passed by the library, construction work still had not been completed on a stretch of new street-level windows along the building’s Yonge Street facade. Once they’re installed and the hoarding along the sidewalk has been removed, passersby should notice an immense improvement to the library’s look as well as the streetscape.

Designed by Raymond Moriyama, the reference library opened on November 2, 1977. The revitalization design is the work of Raymond’s son, Ajon.

Below is a photo from the library website, showing how the entrance looked prior to the commencement of the revitalization project. It’s followed by a Moriyama & Teshima rendering that shows the new cube entry and glass-walled facade next to the Yonge Street sidewalk.


Toronto Reference Library

This image from the Toronto Reference Library webpage shows how the building entrance looked before the new entrance cube was added


Toronto Reference Library

Architectural illustration by Moriyama & Teshima architects of the Toronto Reference Library building revitalization enhancements



The ROM’s Crystal, after an overnight snowfall

Royal Ontario Museum's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

A light layer of snow covers the sharply-angled east side of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal on January 21 2012. Designed by “starchitect” Daniel Libeskind, the glass and aluminum-clad extension to the Royal Ontario Museum slices into the sky above Bloor Street. Below are several more wintertime views of the Crystal.


Royal Ontario Museum's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal


Royal Ontario Museum's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal


Royal Ontario Museum's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal


Royal Ontario Museum's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal




Construction starts on $130M Ripley’s Aquarium

Artistic rendering of Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

This artistic illustration shows how the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will appear when viewed from the east on Bremner Boulevard …


Ripley's Aquarium construction in Toronto

… while this photo from August 17 2011 shows hoarding around the aquarium site below the CN Tower, where construction has commenced


New tourist attraction: Construction of the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada officially kicked off yesterday when government and corporate officials gathered at the Bremner Boulevard building site beneath the CN Tower to announce details of the $130 million project.

Scheduled to open in 2013 with 135,000 square feet of space, a capacity of 1.5 million gallons, and 13,500 sea creatures, the facility — Toronto’s newest tourist attraction in years — will be one of the largest aquariums in North America.

Designed by Toronto’s B+ H Architects, the 3-storey facility will feature a 750,000-gallon shark lagoon which visitors will be able to observe through an acrylic tunnel with a 315-foot moving walkway.  The aquarium will also have a tropical reef, exhibits for Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific habitats, a Marine and Freshwater Education Centre with classroom space, a restaurant and a gift shop.

Construction actually commenced several weeks ago when crews began clearing the site, a large grass- and tree-covered knoll situated between the CN Tower to the west and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre‘s south building to the east.

The aquarium has been in planning and discussion stages for quite some time, but a summer construction start appeared imminent when city news media reported last winter that various levels of government were negotiating financial incentives in a bid to land the Ripley’s project for certain.  The City of Toronto is providing 12 years’ worth of property tax incentives (an estimated $8- to $12 million) under its Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology (IMIT) program, while the Ontario government is kicking in more than $11 million towards the construction costs. Canada Lands Company, the federal Crown corporation that owns the land on which the aquarium is being built, is also a partner in the project.  According to its president & CEO Mark Laroche, Canada Lands will spend “more than $10 million to redevelop the John Street corridor with new signage and other improvements that will increase and improve the flow of pedestrian traffic from Front Street to the site,” improving the entryway to the aquarium, CN Tower and Rogers Centre.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is a division of Ripley Entertainment Inc., which already operates two other aquariums — one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the other in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ripley Entertainment is owned by the Jim Pattison Group, Canada’s third-largest privately-held company. Extensive information about the Toronto project is available on the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada website.

Below are several artistic renderings and illustrations that the aquarium released to the media in connection with the official building launch ceremony, along with several photos I shot yesterday of construction activity at the site. Additional photos of the project site can be viewed in my February 23 2011 post, my first report on the Ripley’s Aquarium.


Ripley's Aquarium Shark Lagoon

 An artistic illustration of the 315-foot observation tunnel in the aquarium’s 750,000 gallon shark lagoon


Ripley's Aquarium main lobby

Artistic rendering of the Toronto aquarium’s main lobby


Ripley's Aquarium Tropical Reef

Artistic illustration of the aquarium’s tropical reef. In total, the facility will feature more than 13,500 marine creatures from 450 species


plaza view of Ripley's Aquarium

Artistic rendering of how the Ripley’s Aquarium will appear when viewed from the entrance plaza off Bremner Boulevard near the CN Tower …


Ripley's Aquarium construction in Toronto

… and a view from yesterday of construction trailers and hoarding on the site of what will become the entrance plaza depicted above


Ripley's Aquarium Toronto promotional hoarding

Promotional posters adorn the security fence around the construction site


Ripley's Aquarium Toronto construction site

Aquarium construction site viewed from the entrance plaza to the CN Tower


Drilling and excavating equipment on the aquarium site

Excavation machines and foundation building equipment in action on the site


Drilling machines on the aquarium construction site

Two red and black machines drilling near the Convention Centre south building


Ripley's Aquarium construction entrance

The construction entrance on Bremner Boulevard. The beige building to the immediate north of the work site is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada artistic illustration

… and here’s an artistic illustration of Ripley’s Aquarium viewed from a similar perspective from Bremner Boulevard


Regent Park construction continues its quick pace

40 Oaks construction at Regent Park

June 21 2011: Brilliant green Securock glass-mat sheathing panels give 40 Oaks, the Toronto Christian Resource Centre’s 87-unit affordable housing project, a bold presence in the northwest corner of Regent Park …


40 Oak Street Regent Park

… but by July 13 2011, the green is beginning to disappear as insulation and cladding is applied to the building’s exterior


One Park West  condominiums Toronto Regent Park

June 21 2011: The front entrance to the One Park West condominiums at 260 Sackville Street is still cordoned off as exterior landscaping and sidewalk installation continues …


One Park West condominium Toronto Regent Park

… but by July 13 2011, the landscaping and sidewalks are complete, the front entrance is open (but awaiting some finishing touches), and One Park West residents have moved into their new condos


Regent Park aquatic centre construction

June 21 2011: The steel frame for the Regent Park aquatic centre takes shape at the northwest corner of Dundas and Sumach Streets …


Regent Park Aquatic Centre construction

… and has more than doubled in width by July 13 2011


Regent Park development site

June 21 2011: Demolition of low-rise apartments created this large empty plot of land, seen from St Bartholomew Street looking north to Dundas Street …


Regent Park development site

… which is right next door (to the west) of the Paintbox Condominium highrise currently under construction (right) …


Regent Park redevelopment site

… but by July 13 2011, the property is buzzing with work crews …


Regent Park redevelopment site

… as construction begins on another new Regent Park condo highrise


Paintbox Condominium at Regent Park

June 21 2011: The Paintbox Condominium tower has risen to 11 storeys behind the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre on Dundas Street …


Paintbox Condominiums Regent Park

… by July 13 2011, Paintbox has climbed four storeys higher, with crews beginning to pour concrete for the 16th floor


Paintbox condominiums Regent Park

June 21 2011: A view of construction progress at Paintbox Condominiums from St Bartholomew Street to its southwest …


Paintbox condominiums at Regent Park

 … and another look at the building, standing four storeys taller, on July 13 2011


Construction of underground parking facility will create new public spaces for Harbourfront Centre

artistic illustration of the new Harbourfront Centre

From the Centre’s website, this artistic illustration suggests how the revitalized Harbourfront Centre will look with new public parks and amenities on the space formerly occupied by a large above-ground parking lot


Harbourfront Centre construction

April 21 2011: Excavation of the existing above-ground parking lot is underway to build a new below-ground parking facility

Site transformation: You can’t walk very far in downtown Toronto without encountering a “revitalization” project of some kind. Whether it’s public spaces like Nathan Phillips Square or the “mink mile” on Bloor Street, retail complexes like the Toronto Eaton Centre, transportation facilities like the Union subway station, or office towers like First Canadian Place, massive renovation and reconstruction projects are either underway, close to completion, or just getting started. Harbourfront Centre is no exception. The 10-acre cultural landmark is getting a major makeover that will create significant new public spaces at one of the city’s most popular waterfront attractions. The most visible work at the moment is excavation of the Centre’s large above-ground parking lot, which will be rebuilt — underground. That move will free up a tremendous amount of space to create new park and public amenity areas around the Harbourfront Centre facilities, which draw more than 12 million visitors annually. Although the parking lot is now a large, closed-off construction zone, it’s business as usual at the various Harbourfront Centre buildings, including Queen’s Quay Terminal, York Quay Centre, The Power Plant and the Enwave Theatre. Completion of the new underground parking lot is scheduled for next spring. Below are some recent photos of the revitalization activity underway at Harbourfront Centre.

Harbourfront Centre construction area

November 9 2011: The former parking lot for Harbourfront Centre has been cordoned off with fencing and hoarding as the revitalization project gets underway


Harbourfront Centre construction hoarding

November 9 2011: Construction hoarding around the former parking site


Harbourfront Centre billboard

A billboard on hoarding around the Harbourfront Centre construction site


Harbourfront Centre construction

Another billboard at the Harbourfront Centre construction site


Harbourfront Centre billboard

A diagram showing how the Harbourfront Centre site will be transformed


Harbourfront Centre construction site

April 21 2011: Construction site hoarding along Queens Quay Boulevard


Harbourfront Centre construction site

April 21 2011: Construction site hoarding along Queens Quay Boulevard


Harbourfront Centre construction site

April 21 2011: Looking from Queen’s Quay Boulevard toward excavation activity at the northeast corner of the site


Harbourfront Centre construction site

April 21 2011: Excavation activity at the northeast corner of the property


Harbourfront Centre construction site

April 21 2011: Excavation activity along the eastern perimeter of the property, next to the Queen’s Quay Terminal building


Harbourfront Centre construction site

April 21 2011: Construction of the new underground parking facility is expected to finish at around this time in 2012


Harbourfront Centre construction site

May 8 2011: Looking northwest at the Harbourfront Centre construction site from the driveway next to the Queen’s Quay Terminal building


Harbourfront Centre amphitheatre

May 8 2011: Landscape reconstruction activity north of the lakeside amphitheatre


Landscape reconstruction outside the amphitheatre

May 8 2011: Another view of landscaping activity behind the amphitheatre