Holding Space

Nnenna Okore uses scaffolding, pipe, and Ankara – a versatile and iconic African fabric that embodies a deep sense of identity and community – to create a new space for human connection. Vibrant fabric hues weave around the Gardiner’s hard edges, softening the concrete infrastructure.

In a hard city, how can we hold space for people? 

When The Bentway’s Phase 1 site opened in 2018, it was an unexpected transformation of a formerly inhospitable environment. The creation of an inviting public space softened the Gardiner Expressway’s hard mid-century infrastructure, making  space for human activity and connection.  

Inspired by the role of public space in softening our cities, Chicago-based Nigerian artist, Nnenna Okore’s dynamic art installation envelops the benches and bioswales around The Bentway’s figure-eight skate trail. Titled Holding Space, Okore’s work explores new ways of “softening” the Gardiner’s hard-edged infrastructure while holding space for people to dialogue, think, care, and rest.  Using a mixture of hard and soft materials — scaffolding and pipe, which are common to city-building, and Ankara, a versatile and iconic African fabric that embodies a deep sense of identity and community— Okore creates a flowing, modular form that weaves around existing structures, opening up a vibrant, colourful space that reorients visitors and is more intimate, approachable, and conducive to human scale. 

What to expect:

  • A site-specific installation made up of scaffolding and pipe geometrical structures that weave around the architecture of The Bentway Skate Trail, wrapped in brightly coloured fabric.
  • Benches are situated adjacent to the installation and nearby for those that require seating accommodation
  • All-gender and accessible washrooms available Tuesday-Friday from 1pm-8:30pm and Saturday-Sunday from 11am-8:30pm. The washrooms will be closed on Mondays, with the exception of holidays.


project team

Fabrication: SHEEEP Studio, Africa Modern and Traditional Dresses, and Robin Akitt Ankara

Fabric supplied by: Ceektex International


Co-commissioned by The Bentway and Trust for Public Land

Supported By:

  • Government of Canada  
  • Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund 
  • Dream Community Foundation
  • Hal Jackman Foundation
  • Partners in Art