All images courtesy of Patrick Fahn
Site: Cawthra Square, in the heart of "gay town" and adjacent to the 519
Center, a social service facility and community center.
Funding: The budget for the memorial was approximately $75,000, with
additional funds raised through the city, contributions, and fees requested
from those wishing to add a name to the plaques.
History & Description: A committee formed, which including one city council
member, an architect, and several folks concerned with the development
around the 519 building. After putting together a thorough competition
brief, and soliciting proposals, the committee reviewed the submissions and
decided that most of the proposals were not appropriate; either they would
cost more than the budget, or they would not fit the space. Some proposals
considered integrating the names of people who died from AIDS, some did not.
The committee decided to re-open the competition with revised criteria to
ensure that every proposal allowed provisions for including and adding to
the names, which was deemed a necessity. It also required a cost estimate to
ensure that proposed projects would fit the budget. A cost analysis was done
as part of their review process as well.
The names policy for the built memorial mandates that each person named need
not come from Toronto, but simply be requested by someone who can verify
that the person did indeed die from AIDS. (They don't require a death
certificate, and if someone with AIDS wants to request that their name not
be added they can do so; only in a few instances have people requested that
a name be removed.) The panels are easily updated, and arranged by the year
of death. Each year during Pride Day, they hold a ceremony at the site and
read names and add new names submitted during the year. Since they have a
limited number of panels, they have redesigned the panels to be able to hold
more names, although there is obviously a limit to the space.
Patrick Fahn was selected to design the Memorial. When I interviewed Fahn,
he stated the idea for his design came to him clearly and quickly, and he
prepared his proposal in one day (very unusual for such a competition). He
has an architectural background and was able to put a drawing together that
made it clear what he proposed without much effort. He said his design of a
series of triangular columns was partly inspired by art deco styling, and
the concept for simple plates to hold the names, plates that could easily be
changed and updated for very little expense. He obtained help with landscape
design, and planned to include ivy which would grow up around the columns
yet not cover the plates. (The ivy is just now starting to grow around the
base and it may be a few years before the plant materials achieve the effect
he wants.) Still, the project works as a concept; it is used and appreciated
by people in the community, although I doubt many tourists seek it out as a
local landmark. It has a processional feel, similar to the Vietnam Memorial
in DC, and in a similar fashion, flowers and keepsakes are left to be
collected or cleaned up. The surrounding park area is a hangout for homeless
people (Toronto, I was told, is pretty lax in this manner), and many people
walk their dogs here, which happens to do a great deal of damage to the
plants and walkways.
The site is clearly off the beaten path in terms of location within the
city, and is clearly meant to serve the gay community (Toronto has the
highest gay and lesbian population in Canada). This is not a criticism, just
an observation that reflects the objectives of the original conception.