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We Are Shaped by the Obstacles We Face
Upcoming public art commission

March 21, 2019 press release:

Toronto, ON – A public art and landscape installation inspired by Terry Fox’s legacy has been selected as a new keystone of Toronto's waterfront. Led by Legacy Art Project Toronto (LAPT), the new work will be unveiled in Fall 2020 to help mark the 40th anniversary of Fox’s cross-Canada Marathon of Hope.

Designed by Jon Sasaki and DTAH, We Are Shaped by the Obstacles We Face, draws waterfront visitors along a curving, landscaped path that is obscured by one-storey-high sculpted granite slabs. From the installation’s west end, they present as a single figure – the iconic silhouette of Fox, midstride.

“The granite sculptures act as an optical illusion inviting pedestrians to consider obstacles as opportunities,” Sasaki says. “The design strives to convey Terry Fox’s legacy in an experiential way, to inspire people to keep pushing forward and to recognize all that can be achieved with a collective perspective.”

Last summer, Toronto City Council named more than 4,000 square metres of waterfront space at 439 Queen’s Quay, between the Music Garden and the Spadina Quay Wetlands, as the new home for a permanent, citizen-funded art-park reflecting the values Fox exemplified: innovation, perseverance, courage, community engagement and hope.

Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy, representing the ward in which the art park will be located, congratulates Sasaki and DTAH, a multidisciplinary design firm with James Roche as the lead landscape architect, “... on the creation of an evocative public space that Torontonians and city visitors will enjoy for generations to come, one that is a gift to the city and to all Torontonians.”

An open, national design competition, facilitated by seasoned art consultant Rebecca Carbin, Principal of Art + Public Unltd, was conducted in the fall of 2018. The jury, comprised of art and design luminaries, selected the finalist after receiving proposals from five Canadian artist and landscape architecture teams. They chose the winning piece following a reception at Fort York that also welcomed Fox’s biographer, Leslie Scrivener and Councillor Cressy.

Isadore Sharp, founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and founder of the Terry Fox Run, pledged his personal support for this tribute to Terry which “would become a Toronto landmark, both a place for reflection and a catalyst for future fundraising, so that Terry’s goal of finding a cure for cancer can be achieved.” He added, “His fight became our fight and a lasting tribute to Terry is a reminder to us all to never back down in the face of adversity.”

To support the installation’s construction, the Legacy Art Project invites the support of Canadians: please visit for more information.

Throughout the Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox encountered challenge after challenge, both physical and psychological and taking myriad forms. Over the 3339 miles of terrain he crossed, every step was a test, and for anyone else, an excuse to quit. Yet he didn’t, and the world was inspired by his astounding perseverance. Although our challenges may be vastly different, the example of his optimism in the face of a challenge is applicable to every journey. We Are Shaped By the Obstacles We Face is a permanent integrated public art and landscape architecture installation that strives to convey this to visitors in an experiential way.

The installation is a course of formidable carved rock features that act as an optical illusion, visually appearing to obstruct a visitor’s path with a wall of stone and foliage from certain perspectives, while creating an uplifting silhouette from another.
The concept takes inspiration from P-Gates, a device commonly found at entrances to pedestrian walkways designed to discourage the use of bicycles. When seen from afar, a P-Gate can appear as an unbroken, impenetrable barrier. However, when encountered up close, an s-shaped accessible pathway through presents itself. Similarly, the installation is comprised of vertical rock slabs carved from solid black granite that convey formidable mass and immobility, symbolically standing in for the hindrances we encounter in our own lives. These rock features interrupt the pace of a visitor’s walk and in so doing, invite pensive moments. These elements are places of opportunity, where one can pause and reflect on personal obstacles, past, present and future. At that point a route forward presents itself, and it becomes apparent that these obstacles are not insurmountable.

Although the path can be accessed from many points, the installation is designed to flow east-west akin to Terry Fox’s journey. Visitors enter from Queen’s Quay and experience the obstacles in a southwesterly direction, ending at an elevated vantage point. From this unique perspective, the granite impediments visually transform into a familiar silhouette, a meditation on the way many challenges can shape and strengthen us if we have the tenacity to face them bravely as Terry Fox did.

This uplifting revelation is coupled with a position of choice; from here visitors can define their future path. As visitors radiate outwards through the surrounding green space, circumnavigating the planting and topography with an approach of their own choosing, they can make connections with adjacent spaces and beyond. With them, they’ll carry the spirit and ideals of a young man with unshakable determination and a desire to affect positive change in the lives of others.

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