About the Vanishing Point
I find those things that have been physically rendered underground, or otherwise rendered by architecture and human geography to the least visible margins of our constructed landscapes, both particularly fascinating and particularly powerful as tools for rethinking the cultures and institutions through which we order and do things. My underground experiences began while I was exploring creeks in the western suburbs of the GTA, and they have shaped so many things that I have done since then.
I think that there is immense social value to be gleaned from revealing and rediscovering infrastructure and other places that we've been made and induced to ignore. When I've been asked to talk about my work with sewers, this is what I've generally focused on, and it's one of the arguments that I want to continue to make with this website in its current edition. As I recently told a journalist, I think that our cities are more productive, more democratic, more sustainable, and more secure when we are collectively aware of and understand the infrastructure that serves us, whether in our buildings, on our streets, or under our feet. Resurrecting an understanding of and an experience with sewers as physical places, rather than just as abstract and largely unknowable networks, should be a key element in pursuing a public (rather than just expert-focused) dialogue about what to do about the future of urban watersheds and urban wastewater management. And I believe the same holds true for other aspects of our urban infrastructure and the wider built environment.
About the Author
Michael Cook is a graduate student of landscape architecture, and lives in Toronto, Canada, where he has been finding his way into underground places since 2003. In addition to this website, his words and photographs have been presented in several publications and exhibitions, and he has lectured on topics related to infrastructure, wastewater and hydroelectric development. Learn more about Michael Cook's work and professional availability.
About the Website
Originally launched in 2004, the Vanishing Point was extensively reconstructed in 2009-2010. Some readers will be disappointed to find locations missing from the collection that the site now presents. In particular, at this time you will find little to nothing about the suburban storm and creek drains in Burlington and Mississauga which provided many of the formative experiences that led to this website. The substantial article about the Lakeview thermal generating station was also temporarily retired, along with the page about the powerhouse of the Toronto Power Company (you can still find an updated article about its famous tailrace). I hope to revisit some of these places in the future, when I have the time to prepare new material and fresh ideas. In the meantime, what you are currently browsing represents my best effort to put in place an efficient platform to share stories, histories and geographies about underground infrastructure, starting with Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Falls, but most assuredly with the intent to look further afield down the road.
Without the insights and opportunities that have emerged from a variety of collaborations over the years, this website certainly wouldn't exist in its present, revamped form, and probably wouldn't exist at all. My most consistent collaborators have without a doubt been Jon Muldoon and Andrew Emond — Andrew's fantastic website about Montreal sewerage was one of the major kicks-in-the-pants that put me on the road to rebuilding Vanishing Point, while Jon's ever-present enthusiasm for Toronto drains has kept getting me back underground when other responsibilities occupied my attention. Other collaborators, new and old, deserve mention: Bryan, "Inventor 77", "Siologen", "Dsankt", "Quantum-X", "Reduxzero", "Speedboy" and of course the greatly missed "Ninjalicious".
I'm much obliged to those who have been willing to extend me opportunities to see elements of this work published in print (and to extend the deadlines when I have inevitably found myself torn between multiple priorities) and hung on walls. Thank you also to those in the architecture and historical communities who have expressed their professional support for my endeavours.
And of course, thank you to my family and my wonderful partner, who have tolerated the hazards, the late nights, and the sludge-coated clothing and equipment. Thanks to all.