Panels trace York’s development since 1959

                                         Above:  York in its infancy

If you know York, you know this photo: Murray Ross, York’s founding president, sits at a desk in the middle of a farmer’s field. It’s a clear winter day and tractor tracks filled with snow trail off into the distance. On this fertile ground grew Canada’s third largest university.

That spot where Ross sits is marked by a red dot on a series of four giant, backlit panels recently mounted in York Lanes. The panels document the growth of York’s Keele campus since it was a mere glint in Ross’s eye. Each panel spans roughly a decade and features aerial views of the campus, photographs of new buildings and of major news events in the world at large.

The display is the first of many planned by the York University Development Corporation YUDC), which is responsible for campus planning and land-use management. “Many people at York aren’t aware of the initiatives going on around them, particularly the work of other agencies that affect York,” says Chris Wong, YUDC director, transportation and master planning. “We wanted an opportunity to inform them about YUDC and its initiatives.”

The corporation decided to start with a display that illustrates how much has changed as York, said Wong. And York Lanes, with its heavy pedestrian traffic, seemed ideal for capturing attention.

Wong and his team searched government archives for the aerial photographs and university archives and Marketing & Communications Division files for campus building photographs. He hired a design firm to compile news photos of major events to give a flavour of what was going on in Toronto, in Ontario and in the world, said Wong. Two aerial photos dominate each panel. News photos parade across the top and news text across the bottom as part of a time line. Photos of new buildings line up vertically along one side. Ground diagrams up the opposite side show the increasing density of buildings on campus.

Not only do you see how Keele campus has grown but how the surrounding area has filled with houses and apartment buildings — how a rural landscape has become an urban one, how dirt roads have become multi-laned thoroughfares.

If you look closely, you will also notice a subtle transportation theme. Aerial photos are framed as subway train windows and the final panel shows York University as the subway train’s destination. The timeline extends past 2006 in the future where stops along the way are stations proposed for the subway extension from Downsview to Vaughan.

“We will continue to build on the transit theme and how it is going to influence campus land use,” says Wong of the next exhibit, expected to go up early next year.

With this first exhibit, “we wanted to demonstrate that a lot has gone on in 47 years and that we can look forward to ongoing change,” said Wong. “And a catalyst for that change is going to be the subway along with city and provincial planning policy.”

Future exhibits may focus on the proposed bus-only lanes from Downsview to York, mixed use development at Pond and Sentinel roads, and the city update of the University’s secondary plan governing land use.

                             Below: York now as it heads into the future…