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South Humber Park Oculus Pavilion – A space-age vision of the future from the past

March 2023

The Oculus Pavilion in Etobicoke, Ontario, also known as the South Humber Park Pavilion, is a one-of-a-kind pavilion that almost seems out of place in a public park. With its fantastical space-age modernist design, the pavilion looks like something you would see at a science or space museum.

Built in 1959 in the newly-created park that sprung up in the aftermath of the devastating 1954 storm Hurricane Hazel, it reflected an age that was fascinated with the idea of space travel. The Oculus Pavilion presents a wonderfully curious structure along Toronto’s Humber River Recreational Trail, as it follows along the park’s tree-lined landscape.

It’s futurist architectural-style, known as Googie, a style popular in America in the post-WWII-era to the early 1970s, that was influenced by car culture, jet aircraft and the Atomic and Space Ages; an updated version of the Moderne architecture from the 1930s.

Intended as a community gathering space and outdoor art and performance venue, it features an upswept roof design, flying-saucer shape, rounded angle, and exaggerated geometric forms with an off-centre opening, called an Oculus, to allow a circular sunbeam to shine through, along with a curved washroom building at the back.

Unfortunately, despite its unique design, Toronto’s Parks Department eventually lost interest in maintaining the pavilion and let it lapse into disrepair for several decades. The futuristic pavilion was left to be covered in graffiti, smothered by underbrush, with the washrooms permanently shuttered.

By 2016, the crumbling Oculus Pavilion faced at best, partial-demolition, but a community campaign convinced Toronto Parks to restore the pavilion

The revitalized Oculus Pavilion is once again, a community gathering place in South Humber Park. It was added to the City of Toronto’s Heritage Register in the summer of 2021.

Sources: Oculus Pavilion – Toronto, Ontario – Atlas Obscura, Heritage Report: South Humber Park Pavilion (brownandstorey.com), Oculus at South Humber Park may be headed for city’s heritage register | The Star, Circle of monoliths pop up around Toronto’s flying saucer pavilion (blogto.com), Googie architecture – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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