Two concerned citizens took aim at Toronto’s “glowing monstrosities.” We talked to them about it.
To call Astral Media’s new information pillars (or “info-pillars”) widely criticized would be an understatement: more than any other breed of street furniture in recent memory—save, perhaps, for EcoMedia’s MegaBins—the pillars are downright reviled. Pick your complaint: they’re 85.7% advertising and only 14.3% info, and stand to make Astral a lot more money than the city; they arrived with even less information on them than they have now; they were installed with little consideration for bikes; they block the sightlines of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Even the councillors who voted them in admit that they’re no fans, either.
It was only a matter of time before someone got creative with fighting back, and last Saturday morning, two people did, draping a pair of blackboards overtop the info-pillar at College and Bathurst. One blackboard, which had “SAY IT HERE” on top of it, covered up the Bell ad, and another, with “INFO T.O. ?!”, covered up the Apple one. There was free chalk below each.
The blackboards filled up fast, and disappeared almost as quickly. (You can see what each side looked like early on Sunday morning below; BlogTO has some more photos.) By Monday night, all that was left of them at College and Bathurst was a few pieces of chalk scattered on the ground. The ads that spent a day or so covered up, meanwhile, looked no worse for wear.
The Grid has since learned that the posters are the work of a new group called Re:Post Toronto, who we tracked down on Monday.
So, who are you?
We are two active citizens who formed Re:Post in response to them awful pillars. He works at a music office and she runs a small playschool. We are both local musicians in bands.
Have either of you done anything like this before?
This is a definite first.
What makes the info-pillars such an attractive target?
They are a total joke.
The info-pillars are glowing monstrosities and an obvious target. The minimal “info” space is dwarfed by the overblown ad space, and they disrupt pedestrian and road traffic. Our chalkboard aimed at drawing attention to them, and how its civic function falls short. To think that public would just accept such an obstructive design is insulting. We understand the presence of ad space is a reality, but the streets still belong to the people. We all have a right to keep them vibrant.
The boards were installed on Saturday afternoon. How’d it go?
It was fantastic. We ate brunch across the street with a great view of the activity. We caught many glimpses of Torontonians chalking it up. They were excited and empowered. A group of moms watching their little kids draw. Tourists posing for photographs. Cyclists dismounting to leave a message. Lovers making declarations. All kinds of heads doing double-takes.
Of all the messages that people left, was there any one that stuck out?
Two, actually! A cluster of drawings by little kids, and a signature by one of them: “Griffin.” It was energizing to see that the city’s youngest members could interact with their public space and finally have a voice in it.
Someone commented on Torontoist: “What crime are these things committing that is so horrible? Do you think money for public services just materializes out of the sky? I agree that calling them ‘info pillars’ is laughable, but I have no problem with them if they are driving revenue for the city.” What do you say to that sort of criticism?
The contractual agreement between the City of Toronto and Astral Media was to install 120 pieces of street furniture that would help people navigate through the city. This was supposed to be the priority. Not ad space. They basically installed dozens of free-standing LED sidewalk billboards. With the glowing “information” sign facing the street, oncoming pedestrians cannot even identify these structures as a place to find anything useful. The problem is not their existence. The problems are their poor designs and locations that prioritize corporate agendas over Toronto’s citizens.
We were at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting at City Hall last week. Even the councillors admitted that they made a mistake in voting for these designs. One of the motions made was to look into the feasibility of redesigning these awful structures. At one point, they even acknowledged that the difference in revenue between the new designs and old ones is marginal.
There are a few dozen more info-pillars around Toronto: is the one at College and Bathurst your last?
That answer is up to the rest of Toronto. They are an open canvas, as far as we’re concerned.
Is Re:Post working on anything new, in that case?
Did you know three bike posts were removed at College & Manning…?