A Downsview Wind Rose installation by Future Simple Studio both tracks the prevailing winds and celebrates the ancestral importance of this place to Indigenous First Nations people. It’s a dynamic installation of blue flags set in a radial network of 32 square arches arranged like a compass that form a large rose-like shape. It was designed by Mi’kmaq artists Chris and Greg Mitchell, who lead the Born in the North design studio.

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Blue flags waving in a field during sunset

A wind rose is a tool invented by meteorologists to map the direction, speed and frequency of wind in a specific location. The wind rose for Downsview is specific to the Downsview airport and maps the area’s prevailing northwest winds. The work is titled “The Turtle and the Traveler” after Turtle Island, the Indigenous name for the lands of North America, and the eastern woodland people’s who first called Toronto, Canada home.

Related: Here are 5 Indigenous eco-charities to support

A white flag with a stick figure person holding a stick and a black flag behind it surrounded in blue flags

The flags are positioned with special significance: one is white to represent the north on the medicine wheel, another is black to represent the west. Some flags are labeled with petroglyph-style artwork traditional to the native people of Toronto.

The white flag shows a traveler to represent Indigenous people’s use of this place as an important route for trade and travel through history. The turtle on the black flag represents Turtle Island and local wildlife. The turtle shell references a medicine wheel to highlight traditional teachings.

A white and black flag stand side-by-side to each other amidst a sea of blue flags

Additionally, the installation is part of XOXO Downsview, a celebration of public art, culture and local heritage launched in partnership with Toronto’s Year of Public Art. It involves dynamic installations, murals, multimedia works and an audio walking tour on the Downsview Lands and in Downsview Park. It also highlights local artists to bring people together and highlight the history and potential of Downsview as a destination and generator of cultural works.

Blue flags in a green field

The architecture team for the project was Christine Djerrahian, Ernst van ter Beek and Martina Di Bacco. The project was built for client Northcrest Developments and Canada Lands Company.

+ Future Simple Studio

Photography by Cinematoscape