Stuart Reid Union Station project, 2015

Toronto Transit Commission
Toronto, Ontario Canada
Artwork Budget: $700,000
Project Team
Jan Peters
Peters Studios
Malcolm MacKay
Toronto Transit Commission
Dom Grossi
IBI Group
Stuart Reid


Stuart Reid is an artist, architectural designer and Professor of Environmental Design at OCAD University. Reid holds a B.A. Fine Arts (University of Guelph) and a Master of Architecture (UCLA). He is internationally renowned for his large-scale artwork in architectural glass. Major public commissions include Bloorview Kids Rehab (Toronto), Salzburg Congress (Salzburg, Austria), Intercontinental Toronto Centre (Azure Bar and Reception), Mississauga Living Arts Centre and Toronto’s St. James Cathedral.

Posted 29 June 2016

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His Union Station project, zones of immersion, is the winner of an international competition. It is a subway platform wall –  a 7’ x 500’ translucent/transparent glass mural with original imagery and text, composed of  silver-stained, enamelled, engraved and laminated glass. Currently being installed as the feature artwork for the TTC’s new platform construction, it is due to be completed for the July 2015 Pan Am Games. 

Stuart Reid is a transdisciplinary artist and architectural designer whose work continues to explore and wrestle with existential themes of human existence – dreams and memories, possibility and fate, connectedness and alienation – our passage through the thresholds and veils of time and space.
Reid is known nationally and internationally for his large commissioned works in architectural glass. Major public commissions include glass projects in Bloorview Kids Rehab (Toronto), Salzburg Congress (Salzburg, Austria), Intercontinental Toronto Centre (Azure Bar and Reception), Mississauga Living Arts Centre and Toronto’s St. James Cathedral.
Reid was born in London, Ontario. He lives and works in Toronto and maintains a Lake Huron studio near Bayfield Ontario. He studied with Patterson Ewen at Beal Art in London; Greg Curnoe and John Elderfield at University of Guelph (BA Fine Art); Joseph Beuys and Richard Demarco at Edinburgh Arts 1973; Patrick Reyntiens and Ludwig Schaffrath at Burleighfield House, England; Charles Jencks and Lionel March at UCLA (Master of Architecture). He has taught at OCAD University for over 25 years, where he is a Professor of Environmental Design and recipient of the 2012 Price Award for teaching excellence.

Stuart Reid at work on Union Station

As an environmental designer and educator Reid is interested in questioning how our human psyche interfaces with the architectural envelopes we create for human experience – the forming and layering of spaces (private and public) that express and reveal our human longing and belonging.
Reid’s early commissioned artworks for corporate, ecclesiastical, public and private clients include the Hudson Bay Triptych for Northern Life Assurance of Canada, Hope and Healing for Victoria Hospital, London, Ontario and People and the City, a civic monument at Queen and Wellington in London, Ontario.
Reid's triptych of windows in the narthex of St. James Cathedral in Toronto, The Calling of St. James, was commissioned in honour of the 200th anniversary of the cathedral, and was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II on June 29, 1997. 
In 1998 Reid completed a 30' x 150' glass mural, dance of Venus (winner of an international competition), in the foyer of the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. 
He is one of six prominent Canadian architectural glass artists who represented Canada in an exhibition entitled Six voix/Six Voices at the Centre International du Vitrail in Chartres, France in 1997. 
His first glass commission in Europe was completed in June 2001 at Salzburg's new convention centre, the Salzburg Congress.  Homage to Mozart is a 5 meter by 11 meter suspended sail of enameled float glass and laminated mouthblown glass.
In June 2000, he received a senior level Canada Council Award for developing new thinking in architectural glass. The work, exhibited in 2003, was a 9-block revitalization vision for the Junction main street corridor in Toronto.
His work is gestural and often includes figuration and textual elements. Exiting: a Requiem (2004), drawn directly on the walls of his studio at the Banff Centre, was a personal examination of the spaces and places of passage into death. Chamber of Dreams, his current project, is an immersive plywood room/chamber exploring, through drawing and painting, his remembered fragments of dream.

Union Station design and images

Zones of immersion
“Zones of immersion” is an epic, translucent/transparent mural composed of silver-stained, enameled, acid-etched and laminated glass panels. Using imagery and text, the artwork captures the blurred, throbbing rhythms of a city in transit. The design responded to an international competition for Toronto's Union Station revitalization, and sought to evoke the commuters’ lived experience. Possibly the largest permanent public art project in Toronto’s history, it runs the length of Union Station's redesigned subway platform (7' x 500'). Glowing colours and monochrome portraits of commuters are either reflective or transparent, making the entire artwork both ribbon and veil.
The transit commission sought an integrated artwork that acted as a barrier and fire wall between north and south platforms, as well as an engaging and spectacular artwork that allowed, in places, views from one platform through to another. The project had to be able to withstand the cyclonic pressure of the subway high-speed trains and any blunt-force trauma. It had to be impervious to vandalism and easily cleanable from accumulated brake dust. The artist envisioned the project as environmental art – an experience the public is immersed in as they walk through the space or contemplatively wait for the train. Reid says: “It is filmic, immersive, and responsive to the viewers’ movements – seeing themselves figuratively and literally mirrored in this subjective rendering of the very experience they are objectively part of at the moment of their viewing.” Because the architectural project was constricted by a single-story, low-ceiling space with no natural light penetration, the artwork played a significant role in providing the qualitative aspects of the space, including ‘embedded psyche’ and creating rich interplay between color and light, human gesture and movement.
The call for submissions came quite early in the process, enabling the artist to engage with the design team. The comprehensive and environmental scope of the proposal was embraced with enthusiasm by the jury and the client. The artist worked closely with Project Architect, Dom Grossi, and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Project Director Malcolm MacKay to accommodate many changes necessitated by structural and technical issues. The overall fabrication was executed by NGI (Toronto) and Peters Studios (Germany). Due to the delays in the station’s construction, the project was not installed until eight years after the initial competition. The first fabricator, contracted by the TTC, filed for bankruptcy, and the artist facilitated transfer of the project to Peters Studios, Germany. He spent 178 days at the factory, both painting the glass panels and supervising the overall fabrication. He worked closely with project director, Viola Lingstaedt, who managed Peters Studios’ technical production team (handling, firing, sandblasting and laminating, shipping, etc).. After the project was successfully shipped to Toronto, the artist oversaw the sorting and installation of the pieces so that none of the 167 pieces were mislaid or damaged by the installer.

Stuart Reid: Union Station

In 2008, Reid won the open international competition for a large artwork at Union Station subway station. His proposal indicated that he wanted to “ illumine and give shape to the idea of transit – from private to public and back – from home to work or school or various forms of play....”
He wrote: “I’m interested in public art that remains personal art, that engages the public not as a mass, but one on one. For this project I propose an all-glass wall that shifts in and out of imagery and abstraction, drawing and colour, materiality and immateriality, darkness and light. I see the project as environmental art – something the viewers are immersed in as they walk through the space, as well as being the feature or series of features that they can contemplate while they wait for the train.”
In 2015, zones of immersion is being installed at the new Union Station subway platform ­and is due to be completed for the 2015 Pan Am Games. It will be a 7’ high x 500’ long translucent (and sometimes transparent) glass mural comprised of ­ silver-stained, enameled, engraved and laminated glass with original imagery and text ­–­ a work that combines technologies from the 13th to the 21st century. This extraordinary wall of drawing, writing and colour features the commuters who come and go as they share the public/private world of travelling the rails, together and alone. 

Stuart Reid Union Station at Peters Studio

Stuart Reid Finished Panel at Peters Studio

Stuart Reid Finished Panel at Peters Studio

Sruart Reid Union Station

Artist's Statement on In Transit
“These are drawings of people riding or waiting for the subway, which were part of a larger project for a 500' long glass mural "zones of immersion" for Toronto's TTC Union Station.
In the 'drawing in and drawing out' that this work engages there is a push and pull between control and accident - the subconscious and the conscious. That, for me, is the origin of drawing - a line that goes from eye to mind to hand to page.

As these drawings evolved, from quick recorded glimpses to full scaled works of art, the physical aspects of the transit experience - noticed in long or short rides within the city, became a found gestalt to work with ... the sounds, the vibrations, the changing rhythms or speeds, the patterns of darkness and light.
These works specifically reflect on the human condition within urban transit - a world both intensely collective and remarkably isolated... a world where the anonymity of the no man's zone offers us an unvarnished glimpse into the face, and hence perhaps a sliver of the psyche of one's fellow passengers. I am interested in drawing that reveals the interrelationship of the 'self' and the 'other' with both empathy and freedom.”

Stuart Reid Union Station

Stuart Reid, Union Station: she's talking on her cell phone

Stuart Reid Union Station: zones of immersion, proud-and-free

Urban Toronto wrote: “"Everything started in 2007 when I entered the competition with a digital collage of text, sketches, and colour fields" Reid recalls. Since then the work has taken him on quite a journey… from intial sketches and design work, to collaborating with a glass factory in Vaughan, through the intense difficulty of the initial fabricator's bankruptcy, and finally to the outskirts of Paderborn, Germany where the work was successfully completed by Peters Studios.

See the Video Union Station - Zones of Immersion>

Stuart Reid is the great-nephew of the eminent Canadian painter and architect George Agnew Reid, founder of Ontario College of Art, and past president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.>

CODAworx is on a mission to transform every space in the world by making great commissions happen. Since 2012, the site has been an online hub for the commissioned art world where anyone can showcase work, hire artists, and get hired. Visit>

Additional Info
An article by critic Mark Mann appeared in Neues Glas magazine, Vol 1 2016 issue. A link to the article is at of immersion.html To see images of the design, individual panels, over fifty full-scale drawing and a short documentary on the making of zones of immersion, visit: An article by Chris Hume, architecture critic, Toronto Star is at:

Stuart Reid Union Station

Stuart Reid Union Station

Stuart Reid Union Station

Stuart Reid Union Station

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