On Monday the 26th, Ninjalicious and I had planned to check out the latest construction at the Toronto General Hospital / MaRS project.The workday was not yet over – from our position we could see the crane operator, who was lifting gravel from one part of the site to another. A few other workers passed within our field of vision, however none of them saw us, or if they did they didn't care. In the distance I kept hearing the distinctive noise of machinery backing up. We snuck about the half-finished fourth floor of one of the new towers, which is being built in the former courtyard of the hospital. I think it's a ridiculous idea to place buildings in courtyards; rendering hundreds of windows useless. Patients will wake up to the glorious view of concrete.
For those who don’t know, the Toronto General Hospital is receiving a huge facelift, with the main building being almost completely rebuilt on the inside, and with several new towers being added on the east, west, and southern sides of the main building.
Ninjalicious and I started our trip by meeting at the nearby Queens Park subway station. We entered the hospital via a side door, and made our way to the small food court, since neither of us had eaten. We enjoyed a quick dinner of subway and bagels!
Without much difficulty, we managed to gain access into the hospital. It’s amazing how many doors are left unlocked. During the day, when the construction crews are busy working, nearly every door is wide open, even if there are no workers in that immediate area. Doors labeled "keep locked at all times" were wide open. It was through one of these doors that we gained easy access to the west end of the construction site.
Anyway, Ninj and I were somewhat concerned we'd be spotted by the crew, so we slipped back into the building we'd come out of and climbed the stairs to the roof. From here, we gained an awesome view of the entire courtyard construction. The mystery of the machinery I heard was also solved: A small front-loader was helping move gravel into the crane's bucket.
I took a quick hand-held panorama from the roof, and then we proceeded through a door into a small uninteresting mechanical room, and back out onto the north-west roof. From here, we got a rather impressive view of College street, and Queens Park. To our right was a rusty staircase which led up to an elevator machine room. Ninj bounded ahead of me up the stairs as I snapped a photo of the scene, and then I followed him. It was indeed an elevator room, except that there was no elevator, and what remained of the elevator machinery lay in heaps on the floor. Clearly, this elevator had made it's last stop.
Leaving the elevator room, we climbed down the staircase from the roof, now arriving in more familiar territory: The old original hospital building under renovation that I had explored before. Not much had changed since the last time I was there. Our sights were set elsewhere, however. From the roof, Ninj and I had observed that the tallest building – the east tower – appeared to be empty; the workers having gone home from the day. There was some initial uncertainty as one of the two cranes atop this tower moved by itself, but we attributed this to wind.
In order to get to the East Tower, we would have to walk directly through the center courtyard – the most exposed part of the construction site, and the most likely place to run into another worker – without getting seen. A difficult task. After spending some time examining the other floors of the building, hoping to find an alternate route, Ninj and I decided to risk it. We stepped nonchalantly out the door, with Ninj holding his briefcase with authority, pointing left and right as I nodded with understanding and posed the occasional random question, complete with an uncertain wave of my hand. Hopefully, anyone who saw us would have assumed we belonged there.
We made it into the ground floor of the east tower without incident. The ground floor was interesting, if somewhat haphazardly laid out, but it was not our target. The top floor called to us, and that was our ultimate destination. So Ninj and I began to hunt for a staircase leading up. Deftly we sneaked between pillars and walls, trying our best to stay out of view. North and south, east and west, we snuck about, but it was in vain. The staircase was nowhere to be found. I was about ready to give up when Ninj suggested we climb up one floor along the outside of an older crane's scaffolding.
The climb was easier than I had thought – it took us only a minute to get up to the second floor. We repeated our search for the staircase, this time striking gold! It turns out that staircase did indeed go down to the first floor – however, it did not exit into the floor itself, but rather exited to the outside of the building. Joyful at this discovery, we energetically (Ninj more than I) bounded up the 15-ish flights, as high as the stairs would reach. The view was incredible. The setting sun lit the entire city in an orange-gold, light reflecting from peaks and towers all over.
A brief cloudburst prevented us from climbing the ladder to the highest unfinished floor, so we waited for it to pass. When it did, we ascended and enjoyed the feeling of standing on top of the world. Well, this world, anyway. I set up my camera for a quick time-lapse, and acquired 30 minutes of photos while we enjoyed the view. I'll be making the time-lapse public at the bottom of this story later.
Now thoroughly chilled, we quickly climbed back down to the ground floor and re-entered the main area. Work in the nearby courtyard seemed to have stopped, and there was no sign of the workers we had seen earlier. We gained quick access back into the old building by a shortcut we had discovered earlier, and were about to leave – when we noticed the door to the steam tunnels was open. Ninj informed me that these tunnels are full of asbestos, but we ventured a quick peek anyway. To our surprise, nearly all of the pipes had been removed! Unfortunately, the tunnels did not connect to any other tunnels any longer.
Exiting the tunnels, Ninj and I casually left the construction site, having conquered yet another building successfully. It was quite a lot of fun!