Making art out of everyday infrastructure: Q&A on bike lock-ups with Marianne Lovink and Scott Eunson

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Scott Eunson and Marianne Lovink with one of their Bike Plant designs at Edward Gardens. Photo by Stefan Weber (courtesy of Toronto Botanical Garden)

While we debate the scope and location of cycling support in Toronto, two artists have added a creative touch to the city's bike infrastructure. Marianne Lovink and Scott Eunson have built unique bike lock-up posts sprinkled across the city. We touched base with the artists and asked them about their work and their vision.

Marianne: We won our first commission through a City of Toronto open competition in 2010 to design and fabricate a large series of “Artist-Designed Bicycle Lock-Ups” for the new Hydro and Rail Corridor Pathway System. Since then, over 180 of our original Corten Bike Plant designs have been successfully installed along the Rail Path Corridor, including sites within Edwards Gardens and the Evergreen Brickworks.

The following year, we were invited to design and fabricate another series of bicycle stands and an art fence for the DuWest BIA along Dundas Street West with PMA Landscape Architects, a project which won a Toronto Urban Design/Award of Merit in 2013. And, since that time, we have also created new and unique bicycle stand designs for the Weston Village BIA and most recently the College West BIA.

Scott: Our collaborative approach involves balancing form and function. Once we establish the design constraints, involving bicycle leaning and locking functionality, security and strength, we begin to explore visual themes and develop patterns that adhere to these constraints. In previous projects, we have abstracted patterns of plant growth and used historical references from the neighborhood as design generators.

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Bike post at Dundas Avenue and Sheridan Avenue. Photo by John Saunders

Do you also consider the location of the posts while designing them?

Scott: We scale the height and width of our designs according to location, smaller sizes being appropriate for tighter, urban locations.

How durable/ theft-proof are the posts? What are they made from and how did you make them?

Scott: Our bike stands are made from waterjet-cut corten steel plate 3/4" or 7/8" thick.
We feel that the durability of our corten steel stands far exceeds the city's new standard post and rings, which although bulkier than the original designs, are still made of brittle cast aluminum.
Environmentally, the waterjet cutting process that we use creates no toxic gasses. The corten is a naturally oxidizing material that does not need paint finishing or galvanizing and will renew the natural patina if it is scratched or marked.

In general, how would you describe the design and implementation of bike posts in Toronto – and beyond?

Scott: Great steps are being taken in the design of parkettes at small intersections in the downtown core with small bike parking areas for five (or) six bikes off of the sidewalk.
In general of course, we would like to see more bike parking integrated into new developments around the city.

Marianne: In addition to bicycle lock-ups, Scott and I also work as a team on larger public art commissions. Our first project, commissioned by the TTC, was a large-scale installation along Lansdowne Avenue between Paton Street and Wallace Avenue and our most recent project, commissioned by Waterfront Toronto and titled "Site Specific" was installed last summer on Sumach Street at Eastern Avenue. We are also currently working on a new public art commission for SEPTA (South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) in Philadelphia, where I now live.


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Site Specific at Sumach St. and Eastern Ave. Photo by John Saunders

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Commuting by bike from East York to U of T Scarborough

From the Horse’s Mouth: Councillor Ana Bailão on Expanding the Railpath and connecting bike lanes in Ward 18

New Complete Streets book launched at Ryerson University by TCAT

Rethinking suburban roadscapes: building rapid transit greenways

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