One summer’s day in 2017, I was playing tennis on the driveway of Brentwood Towers, the apartment complex behind this wall. Chasing a ball under some bushes, I stumbled on a lunar landscape of abandoned mid-century concrete fountains, hiding in plain sight. The fountains inhabited a park-like setting which in the 1960s included goldfish, peacocks and swans. This urban paradise exemplified the tenant-centred ethos of the “Towers in the Park” movement, founded by famed architect Le Corbusier. Later that year, I was saddened to learn the fountains were slated for imminent removal and (I thought) destruction, to make way for new townhouses on the site. Over the next few months I obsessively photographed these crumbling monuments, developing a personal relationship with them.
In September 2020, I installed a series of those photographs on the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail just west of Yonge Street, on a concrete wall adjacent to Brentwood Towers. Those images were meant to biodegrade over the winter. I then photographed the walls papered with pictures as they peeled and flaked away, wanting to hold on to every remnant of these delightful creatures.
This story has a happy ending. I got to know the owners of Brentwood Towers and it turns out they too felt a fondness for the fountains and decided to restore two of them. You can now visit these fountains in the new publicly accessible park on the other side of Brentwood Towers. This good news in difficult times inspired “Denizens”, the series of digital images above, installed a little west down the trail, near Lascelles Boulevard. The collages combine photographs of the fountains in their original location and the images of their degraded likenesses on the walls. I hope these portraits will bring a moment of pleasure to whoever sees them.
Leala Hewak, 2021