The Bridges of Toronto, Ontario (Photography Meets Architecture)

by | Jul 13, 2021

Feature image: Prince Edward Viaduct by @fouronesixfoto

Article and Photography by @donnachong21

 

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

 Sir Isaac Newton

 

In Toronto we definitely do not have this problem. Do a google search on the number of bridges in this city. You will be blown away. There are more than 1055 bridges in the city. With 2 rivers and ravines, the Don and Humber, train tracks going in and out of the city, and major highways like the 401, the DVP, and the Gardiner intersecting the city, there must be bridges, and lots of them, for vehicles and pedestrians to traverse all these obstacles.

Bridges are divided into 4 categories: roadway, pedestrian, railway and other bridges over waterways. The city’s Engineering and Construction services maintain 1055 bridges. On top of that there are 325 bridges in the 400 series highways maintained by the Ministry of Transportation and another 259 bridges and structures in parks maintained by Parks, Forestry and Recreation.

We are naturally drawn to bridges. From a photography and architectural standpoint, bridges are beautiful, engineering marvels worthy of being photographed. The views they offer are some of the best since they are elevated, often unobstructed and provide clear views of the city skyline and the skies above. For night photography, shooting long exposure light trails on or near bridges is a lot of fun especially if there are streetcars that travel over them. And there’s something to be said about the symbol of bridges as a transition from one place to another, as passage for travelling and as a symbol of hope for overcoming obstacles and reaching a better destination on the other side. Bridges naturally draw people to stop, pause, enjoy the views and photograph them.

So without further ado here are the bridges in the article:

Toronto’s biggest and coolest bridges

● Prince Edward Viaduct
● Humber Bay Arch Bridge
● Puente de Luz
● Sir Isaac Brock
● Garrison Crossing
● Queen St. Viaduct
● New Cherry Street North Bridge

Bonus bridges (for shooting from)

● Eaton Centre Skybridge
● Sheraton Centre – City Hall pedestrian bridge
● Bridges over highway 401

 

Prince Edward Viaduct from Chester Hill lookout by @fouronesixfoto

Prince Edward Viadcut from the Chester Hill lookout by @fouronesixfoto

Prince Edward Viaduct aka Bloor St. Viaduct (Don River)

As seen in this article’s feature image, the highest and longest bridge, the Prince of all bridges in the city, is the Prince Edward Viaduct or Bloor St. viaduct. It is a double decked truss arch bridge that connects the eastern part of the city at Danforth Avenue with midtown Bloor St. and rises above the Don River valley and ravine below as well as the 6 lanes of the Don Valley Parkway. At street level, there are 5 lanes of vehicular traffic and 2 bike lanes. Below street level are 2 subway tracks.

The Luminous veil installed in 2003 is a suicide barrier consisting of 9000 steel rods. Before that the bridge was the 2nd highest for suicides in North America after the Golden Gate. The beautiful lighting installation was completed in 2015 in time for the Pan Am games. The building of the bridge was immortalized in the book In the Skin of the Lion by Toronto writer Michael Ondaatje. It has been featured in the movies Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Room.

Humber Bay Arch Bridge by @arashrz

Humber Bay Arch Bridge / photo by @arashrz

Humber Bay Arch Bridge (Humber River)

One of my favourite bridges and another great place for shooting sunrise is the beautiful Humber Bay Arch Bridge. Two 1200 diameter high strength steel pipes are bent into twin arches that rise 70 feet. Designed in 1994 by Montgomery Sisam Architects of Toronto, it has received numerous architectural, design and engineering awards. It’s a great bridge to shoot any time but especially at sunrise with cyclists, runners and dog walkers crossing it and the sun rising behind it. It’s no wonder that it’s a favourite destination for many.

Wikipedia describes the historical importance of this spot for indigenous people: “The bridge is situated at the mouth of the Humber River, the start of the “Toronto Carrying Place” trail, an ancient aboriginal trading route leading north, and thus features design elements and decorations such as carved turtles and canoes that evoke this native heritage.”

The bridge forms is an important architectural landmark, cycling route and facilitates the Waterfront Trail along Toronto’s western Lake Ontario shoreline.

Eaton Centre and Puente de Luz by @donnachong21

Eaton Centre Sky Bridge and Puente de Luz by @donnachong21

Puente de Luz Bridge

Puente de Luz, or in translation, Bridge of Light designed by Chilean sculptor-designer Francisco Gazitua is a pedestrian bridge that offers a clear unobstructed view of the CN Tower and the railroad tracks and trains below. This beautiful, brightly coloured yellow bridge is actually the biggest art installation in the city, the result of a great collaboration between an artist and an engineering and design team.  It resembles the backbone and rib cage of an animal and spans the busiest railway corridor in Canada –16 sets of tracks.

Eaton Centre Skybridge

The Eaton Centre bridge is a sci-fi, wormhole-like bridge connecting the historic 1896 Hudson’s Bay/Sak’s Fifth Avenue building with the modern Eaton Centre. It starts out on the Hudson’s Bay side with circular arches and morphs into rectangular forms at the other end contributing to its futuristic vibe. The bridge is comprised of 190 bronze panels and 210 double, curved glass panels, each unique in shape and curvature. The intricate design was a collaboration between WilkinsonEyre Architects and Zeidler Partnership Architects. It opened in 2017.

For those wanting a shot of Queen St. facing east at sunrise with the Eaton Centre bridge in frame, head to the City Hall walkway connecting City Hall and the Sheraton Hotel across the street. This is a great place to shoot the sunrise or sunset henges – when the rising or setting suns shine light down the downtown avenues, creating perfect conditions for photography.

Sir Isaac Brock Bridge

Alternately known as the Bathurst St. bridge, a block west from Puente de Luz, the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge is a historic truss bridge built in 1903. Interestingly, it used to be located over the Humber River but was disassembled and relocated in 1916 to Bathurst St. It offers the same spectacular views of the CN Tower and train tracks. Arguably one of the best attractions of this bridge are the streetcars travelling across it making the combination of black steel framework and colourful light trails created by the streetcars an eye popping combination for photography.

Garrison Crossing Bridge

In the same vicinity further west is Garrison crossing, one of the newest bridges in the city completed just a few years ago in 2019. The crossing includes two steel bridges. The view of the CN tower is still unobstructed for now and since all 3 bridges are within walking distance of each other, it’s always a good destination if you’re looking for a beautiful CN Tower skyline shot of the city with the added bonus of trains running underneath.

Cherry St North bridge by @donnachong21

Cherry St North bridge by @donnachong21

Cherry St. Bridges

The Portlands development is the site of some older and newer bridges. It is the largest area under construction in the city, and it lies along Cherry St., south and east of the Canary District (much of the area developed for the Pan Am games).

The Cherry St. Strauss Trunnion Bascule bridge, a mouthful to say, is worth mentioning as it is a steel drawbridge that opens up to allow ships to access the channel. It was built in 1930. Bascule bridges are moveable bridges with a counterweight for balance as it opens up. When you see it from the north side, it resembles one of the Transformers. There are actually two bascule bridges on Cherry St. The smaller bascule bridge is a little further north called the Cherry St. lift bridge. To make things even more confusing there is also the new Cherry St. North bridge, one of 4 new bridges that are part of the development of the Port Lands. The 2nd of these, the Commissioner St. Bridge, assembled in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia arrived in May. It’s an exciting time in the Port Lands for development and for new bridges! 

401 bridge view by @eddiemarkhampyro

Sunset over Highway 401 by @eddiemarkhampyro

Highway bridges

When you think of highways, you might not immediately think of them as places to photograph but the bridges over highways offer great views of the city skyline and skies, are very photogenic and tell a story about travelling, commuting and the movement of people around the city. It was Norm’s @normyvision shots over highway 401 at sunset that showed many how beautiful highways can be. And more recently, Eddie Chan’s @eddiemarkhampyro shots of the full moon and sunrise over the Gardiner prove that shooting over highways can result in some amazing shots.

Be prepared though as it is loud and usually windy. Long exposure light trails and highways go hand in hand with the high volume and the speed of traffic. Here are a few highway bridges worth checking out: the Dufferin St. bridge over the Gardiner has a great view of the skyline and the CN tower and is a good location for sunrises. The Don Mills overpass over the 401 is a great location for sunsets and views of the Bayview towers with their architectural spires. For great views of the Don Valley Parkway, head to the Millwood/Leaside bridge.

Don Valley Parkway and O'Connor Bridge by @donnachong21

Don Valley Parkway and O’Connor Bridge by @donnachong21

Fun facts

5 oldest bridges in Toronto

1. King St. West railway subway completed in 1888 allows for 4 sets of railroad tracks. Driving under it is like driving through a tunnel, hence the name “subway.”
2. Keele St. overpass in the Junction, completed in 1891
3. Queen St. subway at Dufferin, completed 1898
4. Bathurst St. bridge,1903
5. Lansdowne overpass at Dupont completed 1907

Newest bridges in the city

The Union/Bay St. pedestrian bridge connects the new CIBC Square to the Scotiabank Arena and the Union Station Bus Terminal.

King Liberty pedestrian bridge provides a convenient and more direct route from Liberty Village to King Street West between Atlantic Avenue and Strachan Avenue.

Random Facts

The last major bridge collapse in Ontario occurred in 1938 when the ice built up on the bridge abutments of the Honeymoon bridge in Niagara Falls causing the entire bridge to collapse. It was replaced by the new Rainbow bridge in 1941.

Love is the bridge between you and everything is a quote by Rumi but love locks on bridges are a big no no. Love locks are removed regularly from the Humber bridge over structural and aesthetic concerns and on many other bridges worldwide. In Paris’ Pont des Arts, the weight of all the love locks caused the parapet to collapse.

On May 2, 2018, in one of the ultimate pranks, police were called when it was discovered there was a blue car dangling on a yellow rope from the Millwood/Leaside bridge. Police were amused and confused. Similarly, in 2001 a group of engineering students at UBC suspended a red Volkswagen beetle outfitted with a Canadian flag from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Oh those wild and crazy engineering students! They sure know how to have fun on bridges!

Bridges of Toronto: Yours to Discover

With well over a thousand bridges in the city to explore, you could be very busy trying to cross a few off your list. Do you have a few favourite bridges in the city? How many bridges do you cross every day in your travels? Grab your camera, go chasing bridges and have fun!

Please leave a comment in the discussion at the Instagram post for this article

 

CREDITS

Article and photography by @donnachong21

Production and editing by @mikesimpson.ms

Additional photography by @arashrz / @fouronesixfoto / @eddiemarkhampyro

Thanks for the editing assistance @to_shots

Thanks for the contribution @normyvision

 

Donna Chong

Donna Chong

Author

Donna Chong loves photography, her daughter Jade and running with pup Sashi, though not necessarily in that order. She admits to a very slight addiction to Instagram which she controls by working full time in the financial sector with the occasional writing assignment on the side. She lives in Toronto. Follow her on IG: @donnachong21/

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