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Madeline Boyce, left, and Kalyna Kardash relax next to the infamous fake lake at the G20 summit media centre in Toronto. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images/Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)
Madeline Boyce, left, and Kalyna Kardash relax next to the infamous fake lake at the G20 summit media centre in Toronto. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images/Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

G8/G20

Fake lake - real money Add to ...

So long, fake lake.

As the city cleans up after an international summit and the largest series of mass arrests in Canadian history, the $1.9-million Experience Canada Alley is being taken apart and shipped out.

The multimedia exhibit - which includes a fake skyline of Toronto connected via a stylized bridge to a "Northern Ontario Oasis" (Muskoka) centred around a much-derided faux body of water - will be dismantled in its entirety within three days, says Maria Piacente, vice-president of Lord Cultural Resources, the project's primary designers.

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The exhibit was meant to show off Canada to visiting media as a business and tourism destination - part of Ottawa's effort to brand the summit's host.

Costs

The entire, 6,100-square-metre exhibit cost $1.9-million, the majority of which went into parts and labour:

  • Northern Ontario Oasis: cottage country comes to you, complete with lake, deck and Muskoka chairs. $208,187
  • Cityscape: fake hanging models of skyscrapers. $292,000
  • Bridge: stylized connection between the "oasis" and cityscape. $218,000
  • Labour: $398,000
  • Planning, design, construction and operations: $407,000
  • Audio-visual production: $147,000
  • Graphics, uniforms, food, beverages and "miscellaneous expenses": $200,000

Fate

Much of the audiovisual equipment for the installation was rented, and will be returned to such companies as Panasonic and Samsung.

The Muskoka chairs and canoes from the Northern Ontario Oasis, on loan from companies in Huntsville, will also be returned.

The metal will be recycled; cedar wood from the deck will be donated, likely either to Habitat for Humanity or to build a playground.

And the water from the fake lake "goes right back to lake Ontario," Ms. Piacente said.

Was it worth it?

Michael Williams, with the city's culture and economic development department, says the Experience Canada corridor was "easily" worth the money.

"The journalists, certainly those I spoke to, said, 'This is the best we've seen at any summit,' " he said, adding that it will take a while to see whether the branding efforts pay off in the form of increased tourist and business dollars.

"I'm very pleased, really, with the level of marketing play," he said.

But Ryerson University marketing professor Rob Wilson says while it's worthwhile for a city or country to try to brand itself as a tourist and business destination, an international economic summit is not the best venue to do it.

"To expect that having [reporters]go to the media centre and have that translate into a message for tourists to come to Toronto is not realistic," he said, adding that the mayhem surrounding G20 protests this weekend likely didn't have much of an effect on Toronto's reputation either.

"To do some little things to get people to appreciate Toronto while they're here, great. To try to translate that into a broad, sweeping, successful re-branding or marketing that develops tourism, no."

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