Visiting Toronto’s Downtown Labyrinth

Chartres Pattern of Labyrinth

As part of our investigation into how sacred spaces function in the public realm we visited and walked the outdoor labyrinth in Trinity Square, between the Eaton centre and Trinity church (Thanks for telling us about it Dave Wolfenden).

A labyrinth is not a maze, it’s an ancient design intended to create a meditative, open or reflective state in the walker.  We found the length of the segments made us feel like hurrying up and slowing down. How close or far we were from the centre made us relaxed or frustrated.

We stood in the middle together and listened to the sounds of the city, the artificial waterfall, the roar of air conditioners, a helicopter chopping, the clang of metal being dropped on a construction site.

When we came out we sat on a nearby park bench and observed one man praying outside the labyrinth. He created a private space within a public space. Other people sat on the edges of the labyrinth on little grass mounds. One man listened to his ipod, two young women talked to each other.

It turns out there are many passionate labyrinth makers and walkers in Toronto. The Labyrinth Community Network who are behind this Trinty Park labyrinth.

In our modern, often chaotic culture and times the opportunity to step into an oasis of calm is rare. Labyrinths provide such an opportunity. Toronto Public Labyrinth is situated in the heart of Toronto’s bustling metropolis.

The group spearheaded the creation of Toronto Public Labyrinth at Trinity Square Park which officially opened September 14, 2005. LCN worked in collaboration with the City of Toronto and The Church of the Holy Trinity on this labyrinth and its predecessor, the grass labyrinth, installed in July 2000.

There is also the Toronto City of Labyrinths project, whose stated objective is:

Toronto City of Labyrinths is a Project to create a labyrinth within walking distance of every Torontonian inside the city limits of Toronto Ontario Canada.

Labyrinths are placed in public spaces and public events such as neighbourhood street parties and major city festivals like Pedestrian Sundays.

We reflected on other kinds of art and ritual that can create silence and encourage a reflective state of mind in public spaces, Butoh dance for instance. Liz forwarded these links to Shibusa Shirazu Orchestra who don’t create silence but do have butoh dancers in the mix and apparently inspire strong feelings in their audiences.

And here is a segment from a 1960s film all about observing people in a public New York square. We’ll be doing more of this kind of observation as we build our prototypes.

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