May 12, 2023

Brandon Vickerd’s “The Heights” is a 41-foot lesson in harmonizing history and innovation on a grand scale

Th 41-foot Corten steel sculpture “The Heights” towers over the Keele and Finch gateway evoking how the history of a place informs its present and the future. 

Drawing inspiration from the one-room Elia Public School that stood near the sculpture’s current location between 1873-1956, Brandon Vickerd’s “The Heights” neatly connects the past with the present, highlighting how both Elia Public School and York University have helped to shape and drive the community it belongs to.  

“The goal of this project is to acknowledge the historic significance of the site while celebrating the changing dynamic of the Keele and Finch intersection, says Vickerd. “This sculpture is about the relationship between time and memory. It reflects on the role of history in providing a guiding light that illuminates a path forward into the future.” 

With its multi-faceted open design, rusted metal finish, and architectural abstraction of the Elia Public school, the sculpture balances its monumental size with a sense of dynamic tension and wonder. “The Heights” offers locals the opportunity to visually see the community in new ways, while reflecting on the physical, social, and economic changes in the neighborhood.  

Vickerd credits AMPD with the academic knowledge and practical knowledge he’s gained that enabled him to create projects like “The Heights” sculpture. “It’s the accumulation of years of working with my colleagues and students in a way that can only happen at a university like York, which allows us to push boundaries, try out new ideas, think through things and experiment with materials. So, when opportunities like this come up, we can better develop successful projects and create a greater experience in the community for the people who live it day.”

The design process – including engineering revisions and community feedback – took six months, followed by another six months for building. Currently, the sculpture – funded and managed by Duke Heights BIA, but now a permanent collection of the City of Toronto – is visible because of its size and is open to the public for viewing.