Zine Review: Infiltration No. 8


Infiltration No. 8
Ninjalicious . Pickering, ON . Canada . half ss . 28pp

Infiltration is a well-organized zine about “going places you’re not supposed to go.” Written primarily by Ninjalicious with the occasional contributor, the layout is flawless and refined. Blending illustrations to compliment the informative and, at times, humorous text, he reveals a world that is forbidden to the general public. It is this restriction, it seems, that compels him to infiltrate the structures he finds so fascinating. What is most impressive about this zine is the affection Ninja has for the subject. As he states on page 2, “Great architecture contributes more to the quality of urban life than we recognize. While I fully support continuous, unbounded construction and urban sprawl, a part of me wishes an architectural moratorium had been declared sometime in the late 1980s, when society finally decided to abandon taste and love of beauty in favour of efficiency and economy.”

In issue no 8, Ninjalicious reveals his adventures penetrating the Toronto’s new City Hall. In this well written account, he begins with the history behind the building, the recent debate over two potential structures to house the newly formed city government. The other building considered is “a generic office tower in a commercial development known as Metro Hall,” which he reports to be a “distinctly unwelcoming edifice,” and was eventually rejected for the former.

The Toronto City Hall was built in 1968 by a Finnish architect Viljo Revell, and according to Ninja, “probably the single most significant building in Toronto’s architectural history.” His adoration for this structure is evident in his enthusiasm to examine it “from the bottom to the top…” His description of the uniquely shaped City Hall suggests its appeal: “From the grand rotunda on the lower levels, to the white spaceship suspended in mid air at the building’s centre, to two crescent-shaped towers of unequal height, there are so many things to love about this bizarre building.”

A major part of its appeal would have to be the ease at which the infiltrator is able to access the many parts of the building. Unlike the Metro Hall, where “security cameras and heavy-handed guards keep a close eye on the building,” City Hall is easily penetrated. “It isn’t always clearly marked where the public areas start and where they end.” And it is the awareness of these “grey areas” that Ninja uses to his benefit as he explores the building.

He begins the journey with a friend in the Subbasement, tentatively prowling through crawlspaces, shafts and tunnels, discovering junk, hazardous materials and “a glorious industrial area we dubbed Valveland.” From there they make their way into the basement, where “it was fairly clear we were somewhere we weren’t supposed to be,” but after a harmless run-in with an employee, they call off the search until later. After some research, he enters the basement again with another friend, using a piece of paper with the address for Central Records to disguise his intentions, they explore the employee cafeteria, a lobby full of junk, the mailroom “filled with stationary, City Hall merchandise and election leftovers,” and an old freight elevator marked “Not for Public Use.” Taking the elevator to the next level, they find some blueprints and after another potential confrontation, make their way to the library on the first floor, “a good place to ask about the building’s history.” Also on the first floor is the information desk “a good place to find something in the building,” and the security desk, “a bad place to ask about anything.” The first and second floors are open to public during the day, but Ninja prefers to explore the semi-public areas in the evening, “as this is late enough for most employees to have gone home for the night, but early enough that one won’t seem out of place walking around.”

On the second floor, he takes advantage of a golden opportunity: “While I was exploring the second floor one afternoon, I noticed a group of a dozen or so university students walking down one of the hallways and decided to tail them from a distance and see what they were up to. It became apparent that they were architecture students in the middle of a tour of the building. I toyed with the notion of joining the group. What I was wearing would probably allow me to pass for a student, but there were only a dozen of them, so I knew I’d be conspicuous… As I was weighing the pros and cons, however, the tour guide began fumbling with keys to take the students into some locked boardrooms. The chance to peek behind locked doors was irresistible, so I hauled out a notebook and joined the group.

“As he led us around to various non-public boardrooms, libraries and offices, our tour guide shot me several suspicious looks, as if he wasn’t sure he recognized me. When he looked my way, I would just make some comment about the building to one of my fellow students who seemed too timid to confront me and mention that they had never seen me in their class before. Eventually our guide (whose business card introduced him as Richard Winter, Facility Planner) must have assumed I was a latecomer, for he soon relaxed and began to share his knowledge of the building with me. AS MR Winter led us through the councilors’ offices and staff rooms, he would occasionally pause to ask for questions from the group. My adopted classmates were a rather incurious group, so I asked the questions. Mr Winter seemed very impressed with my knowledge of the building’s history and architecture, and was pleased to answer my questions about the basement levels and the closed Observation Deck (which, sadly, he did not have keys for).

“In fact, by the time we had toured the rest of the lower levels and taken the elevator up to tour the facility planning offices on the East Tower’s ninth level, it was fairly clear that I had gone from being a non-student to being the teacher’s pet. One of my jealous peers finally mustered up the courage to ask me if I was a student, to which I replied that no, I was a reporter writing an article about the changes to City Hall and that I had obtained his professor’s permission to come along for the tour, which was enough to ease his worried mind. The facility planning people offered us a wide variety of blueprints of the building, and were pleased to speak at length about the architectural history of the building and what they hoped for its future.”

On to the spaceship: City Hall’s Council chambers, “perhaps the most bizarre feature of a decidedly bizarre building. The 4,000-tonne, poured-concrete ellipsoid pod is held three storeys in the air by a single, six meter thick concrete column in its centre.” Rarely available for public inspection, he finally managed to enter the spaceship, as it is generally referred to in articles on the building’s architecture. With his business man disguise he finds his way to the rim, through what appeared at first to be a towel dispenser into a janitor’s closet and a door marked “Please Do Not Lock This Door.” “I couldn’t resist crawling around the extremely dusty, sloping walls of the spaceship.” Finding little of interest, he returns a week later to video tape his findings, and while taping his discovery in the “Land Beyond the Towel Dispenser,” sirens begin to sound and he is trapped in the pod, unable to use the elevator and waits in panic for the next event, which fortunately turns out to be unrelated to his activities (a fire in the basement) and he is able to finally escape.

Moving through the otherwise boring towers, he makes his way to the attics, where he finds a “very tall, very wide concrete chamber, reminiscent of the water filtration plant the aliens took over in the movie V,” which house four huge water tanks. “Pipes are everywhere. The room is filled with puddles and the delicious sounds of dripping and bubbling water.” Here he explores mazes of hot and cold metal pipes that he must climb over, under and around, scaling his way to the top. “I then walked along the metal catwalks between the various watertanks and gave each a thorough examination. Everything seemed in order.” Finally making it to the roof, 21 storeys up, standing on the slippery metal grating, which felt “very precarious, particularly since I was in clear view of all the offices on the upper levels of the East Tower.” And it is on the roof of City Hall “in the rain at night, the only solid floor 40 feet down, the air filled with steam rising off the pipes below” that he finds that moment that fills him “with love for all things industrial and off-limits, and convince me further that infiltrating is truly the good life.”

Over all, this was both an informative and enjoyable read and well worth the cover price.

(You can read Ninjalicious’ adventure in the Toronto City Hall here.)


Review by Kelly Dessaint. Read more zine reviews here.

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