The following is a letter I wrote to the TTC in May 2007.
At the Commission meeting of 2007.04.18, Don Léger delivered a presentation on cleanliness in the subway. He explained the plans for cleaning St. George station this summer, and added, almost offhand, that sign bands would be removed in the process. He was surely referring to the prototype signs designed by the late Paul Arthur and installed circa 1993. They are comprised mostly of green or yellow bands across half the length of all platform walls.
While it’s true that the signs are outdated and should not have been in place this long, they should not simply be “removed.” They are unique and irreplaceable artifacts from an important project in TTC’s history. I appeal to the Commission to direct staff to take all precautions necessary to carefully remove (intact if at all possible) and retain these signbands. Please direct staff that they are not to be unduly damaged or discarded.
Once removed, the signbands should be handled as follows:
- Some portion of both colours permanently retained by TTC. They can later be exhibited in the information displays planned for various subway stations.
- Some portion sent to the ROM, where Paul Arthur’s papers are permanently located.
- Some portion offered to Paul Arthur’s widow, Dinah Arthur, and/or his children.
- Some portion offered to specific transit fans. I knew Paul Arthur when he was alive, I edited his second book, and I have made presentations to TTC about signage and wayfinding. I would like a sample, but I am not the only person who might.
I don’t think the Design Exchange or other design-related museum would know what to do with the signs. The Design Exchange certainly does not deserve them.
There are two other vestiges of Paul Arthur’s sign system at St. George. On the inside upper right of the Bedford doorway is a single sign. The station’s pylon sign is also unique. The former may have to be removed temporarily to clean the tiles, but it should not be damaged or destroyed. The latter need not be touched during the cleanup phase.
Transit fans are fond of the unique Vitrolite tiles at Eglinton station, and with reason. Apparently the platforms outboard of the track edge must be widened to be safe for work crews. The TTC may be unaware that the exact usage of the typeface reading EGLINTON on the walls of the station is unique in the system. There is no other station like it. I also ask that, during any renovations that impinge on or remove those signs, that some or all of them be preserved, even if that means sectioning out the concrete behind the tiles and preserving a heavy object. These three-dimensional letters are unique and irreplaceable; photographs and rubbings would not suffice to preserve them.
Other station renovations
Some stations, including Pape, Victoria Park, and Islington/Kipling, are slated for renovation or modernization. I ask that the TTC develop a policy of preserving its old and irreplaceable signs, particularly enamelled-steel plates, if it is genuinely necessary to replace them during such renovations (it isn’t always necessary or even desirable).