Paul Raff takes an Underpass

One of Toronto’s most innovative urban parks, Underpass Park, a 2 /12-acre mixed-use space tucked beneath the Eastern Avenue ramps, opened yesterday. Toronto-based multi-award-winning artist and architect Paul Raff designed the park’s new permanent public artwork named Mirage, and was on site to unveil it.

Suspended overhead of pedestrians, large scale mirror-like surfaces create an illusory appearance, which bends light rays to produce a displaced image much like a mirage. Mirage is made up of 57 reflective polished stainless steel panels fastened to the underside of the overpass. Says art and architecture critic John Bentley Mays, “The result is a shifting of semi-abstract imagery gathering from earth and sky, from darkness and light, all of it hovering like a shining cloud over the heads of passersby.”

Underpass Park, the most extensive park built under an overpass in Canada, was designed by Vancouver-based landscape architects Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg. This new Waterfront Toronto park transforms the West Donlands neighbourhood into a socially engaging space with its avant-garde public art, recreational areas, and contemporary green space.

Other noteworthy public artworks by Paul Raff include the recently completed Regina Gateway, a monumental sculptural public artwork that acts as a gateway into the City of Regina (in collaboration with Jyhling Lee), and the upcoming Atmospheric Lens for a new Toronto Transit Commission subway station in Vaughan.

Founding principal Paul Raff was born in Montreal and spent his childhood primarily in Quebec and Saskatchewan, to which he attributes his interest in landscape and atmosphere. Now based in Toronto, Paul and his firm Paul Raff Studio assist local and international clients create projects where art becomes life. Their projects include residential, cultural, and commercial architecture, multi-media and public art, private gardens and special features. They are well known for projects such as the multi-award winning Cascade House, a family residence that unites environmental sustainability with artistic beauty.

Paul Raff Studio has been published internationally, and has been the subject of three television documentaries. Raff and his Studio have won numerous awards such as two Allied Arts Awards for lifetime achievement, one from the Ontario Association of Architects, and the other from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.