The Hearn Modern?

January 3, 2011 | By

Last week, the Star’s Christopher Hume wrote a piece regarding the Hearn Generating Station, built to power Toronto with coal, then natural gas, and then decommissioned and shut down in 1983, after which it became another abandoned industrial site visited by urban explorers, and movie companies wanting a unique location.

Last year’s Bruce Willis actioner, Red (to be released Jan. 25), used the facility, and images from the station also appeared in Robert Fantinatto’s 2005 documentary, Echoes of Forgotten Places [M] (Scribble Media), but Hume’s piece was written to provoke thought into reusing the site for other purposes besides scrap metal.

It is reportedly gigantic – three times bigger than the power station reconditioned into London’s striking Tate Modern art gallery – but exactly what Toronto may do or can do or is willing to do is a quandary, because of leases, money, filed permits, potentially toxic land, the somewhat bleak, functional design inherent to industrial behemoths, and friendly mayor Rob Ford (ahem).

But let’s set aside politics and focus on the gi-normous building that few have seen up close, but a building that has an important historical connection to the city. Is it worth saving? Is it indeed safe to reuse for art, sports, or some giant film production hangar? Or can it be appreciated for its industrial beauty – something few might believe exists outside and within its walls.

Hume’s piece is worth reading, as well as peeking at the (too short) video, plus Chris So’s 360 degree virtual reality tours of four key areas, replete with peeling paint, dim sunlight, and aspects of industrial gear frozen in time when the humans left. There’s also a recent follow-up article by Michael Cook at The Vanishing Point.

The Wikipedia entry on the Hearn has some stats, but there are some links at the end to photo essays. Charles Bodi’s images look like CGI creations, but the mass of tubes, steel, wires, and girders are all real, and they just go on and on. Talk about density and textures.

Lastly, there are also images on Flickr, and two visual blogs:, and

Why should a hulking industrial relic matter?

Toronto has a long history of killing its past because of eying valuable land over historical buildings, condos that will net more profit over a turn-of-the-century house, and a poor sense of history on behalf of politicians.

Now go back to images of the Tate Modern again, and think about what could be done with the Hearn – for art, commercial, or mixed use – instead of opting for the scrap metal solution, and leaving the land to rot while entities figure out what to do with it.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor



Comments are closed.