A new bus stop in Montreal will include a 64-foot-tall, Ferris Wheel–shaped art installation that cost the city a cool $840,000. For blatantly obvious reasons, many Quebecois aren’t thrilled about that—in no small part because the expensive art project is in a part of Montreal that is struggling to combat poverty. CityLab reported that the sculpture, called La Vélocité des lieux (the Velocity of Places), is part of a larger reconstruction of an intersection that is set to include a park, bus rapid transit, and new housing. The wheel was designed by BGL, a Quebec City–based art collective, that was dubbed “Canada's Art-World Class Clowns” by Vox, and more recently represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. The trio of so-called class clowns won a competition to design the art piece for the intersection in 2012 When the wheel is completed in September, bus frames will zip around its circular frame as a gesture toward the bus stop below. In a statement, BGL said the installation embodies “dizziness, playfulness, [and] community spirit.” But right now at least, the community is pretty mixed on the project. In an interview with Montreal CTV, one local resident praised the wheel saying that it would help put Montreal-Nord on the map, but many others have said the money spent on the wheel should have gone toward schools, roads, and social programs. Chantal Rossi, a city councilor for Montrea-Nord, defended the controversial project, saying that the area deserves public art just like anywhere else in the city. “The people will be proud of it,” she said.
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After more than a decade of planning and three years of construction, Queens Quay in Toronto has been turned into a veritable urbanist's dreamscape on the waterfront. Four lanes of traffic have been reduced to two making room for a separated bike path, separated light rail, benches, thousands of new trees, and extra-wide pedestrian promenades with pavers set into maple leaf patterns. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=54&v=gIv4dCDfIlc In 2006, West 8 and local firm DTAH, won an international design competition led by Waterfront Toronto to fully reimagine the area. "Once uninviting, the opening of the new world-class Queens Quay, links major destinations along the water’s edge creating a public realm that is pedestrian and cycling-friendly," said West 8 on its website. "It offers a grand civic meeting place and an environment conducive to economic vitality and ground floor retail activity." (In April, West 8 won another Waterfront Toronto competition to reimagine the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park.) In the video above, West 8 explains the massive undertaking, which included significant infrastructure upgrades below the new public amenities. While the long-awaited revitalized Queens Quay has been celebrated and enjoyed by pedestrians and cyclists, the new configuration (notably the reduction of traffic lanes) has been confusing, and frustrating, some Toronto drivers. This learning curve should straighten out soon, though, as the Toronto Star reported that new signs and street markings are on the way to clear up any questions about who and what goes where. Check out the video below, as Toronto Star reporter Stephen Spencer Davis bikes along the Queens Quay.
If you took Herzog & de Meuron's so-called "Jenga Tower" in New York City and combined it with NBBJ's so-called "Jenga Tower" in Cleveland, you would have something resembling Büro Ole Scheeren's proposed residential tower in Vancouver, which, sure, kind of looks like a game of Jenga. The firm's first North America project would land at 1500 West Georgia Street in Downtown Vancouver and rise 48 stories. The tower, with its cantilevering volumes, is intended to break up the monotony of the city's glassy skyline which the firm summed up as "extrusions of generic towers that don’t engage their environment and create isolation rather than connection." To change that, the tower has a unique massing that is supposedly intended to free up space at the street level for things like a public plaza and an "amplified reinterpretation" of the site's existing water feature. Unspecified "renewable energy sources" stuck into the building's crown would provide 100 percent of the power for these public amenities, helping the building hit its LEED Platinum target. The project is still in its early days as Ole Scheeren and Francl Architecture have only recently sent a letter of inquiry to the city about the redevelopment, which is being developed by Bosa Properties. [h/t Dezeen]
In a recent essay for the forthcoming book Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal, Frank Gehry reminisced about his childhood in Canada. “My family was one of approximately 30 Jewish families in our town—Timmins, Ontario—and for a while, I was the only Jewish kid at my school. I used to get beat up regularly for ‘killing Christ.’” Perhaps that’s why he has such a thick skin today when dealing with critics and internet commenters. Gehry also talks about how his shrink and mentor, Milton Wexler, helped him combat criticism from peers in his early career: “Screw them! There aren’t any rules. Just because they did it that way last week doesn’t mean you have to do it that way today.” So did his therapist also advise young Gehry, when in doubt, and if words won’t suffice, just flip the bird to a meddlesome critic?
The Toronto City Council will vote on June 21 on whether to remove a one-mile elevated section of the prominent but crumbling Gardiner East Expressway in the city’s downtown. Mayor John Tory wants to rebuild the road, but his staff, including chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat, are advocating for removing the highway and replacing it with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. It is unclear what the 45-member council will do. The mayor is advocating what he somewhat dubiously calls a “hybrid plan,” which would rebuild the road with some modifications to its ramps and structure. He told the Toronto Star that "I didn’t get elected to make traffic worse. And let’s be clear, removing that piece of the Gardiner will almost certainly make traffic worse.” Proponents of the teardown want to build a widened road along the city’s waterfront. They say that the mayor is wrong about traffic, as evidenced by Toronto’s successful removal of another section and put in a similar at-grade road. It would compliment the recent plans for the nearby Harbour Landing waterfront, designed by West 8. “It’s very clear removing is in the best interest of... [the] long-term vision, as articulated in our official plan,” Keesmaat told a group of landscape architects. “This is an opportunity for us to create a grand boulevard that weaves together the waterfront with the rest of the city, and opens up new development parcels, allowing us to create complete communities within walking distance of the downtown core.” According to polls, 45 percent of residents want to tear down the road, while 33 want to save it. Advocates of the at-grade option say that it will be 96 million dollars cheaper to build, and will save $458 million over the course of 100 years to lower maintenance costs. For the hybrid option, upwards of $100 million would need to be raised just to complete the project. Advocates of removal say that the impacts of their plan are being overhyped. According to experts, only 3 percent of commuters into the core of Toronto use the road. They say that the hybrid proposal would have similar effects on traffic as removal, because in both cases people would find other ways to go, travel at different times, or just avoid the area altogether. Construction on the project would start in 2018.
Everyone's favorite canoe museum, the Canadian Canoe Museum in Ontario, Canada, is expanding. The museum has short-listed six firms to design its new facility at the Peterborough Lift Lock National Historic Site. The canoesuem (our word, not theirs) paddled its way through 90 submissions before settling on the finalists which come from Canada, the United States, and Ireland. The Peterborough Examiner reported that Richard Tucker, the canoesuem's executive director, wants the firms to team up with local architects who can make site visits and meet with local officials. Drawings are due on August 11, and a winner will be announced in the fall. The finalists are Kohn Pedersen Fox from New York City; Heneghan Peng Architects from Dublin; 5468796 Architecture from Winnipeg; as well as three teams—Bing Thom Architects from Vancouver and Lett Architects from Peterborough; Provencher_Roy from Montreal and NORR from Toronto; and Patkau Architects from Vancouver and Brook McIlroy from Toronto.
Hey Torontonians, your city’s waterfront might be getting a pretty exciting makeover dubbed a "great green living room for the city." The City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto have announced that a proposal from West 8, KPMB Architects, and Greenberg Consultants has won its competition to reimagine the dated Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and adjacent Harbour Square Park. In the winning design, named “Harbour Landing,” there is a new terminal with two pavilions set underneath an undulating wood canopy. The whole thing is topped with a rolling, green occupiable roof. The new structure, along with the adjacent park and revamped promenade, are intended to be used year-round and serve as an iconic gateway for the city. “The Jury was impressed by the design balance achieved between a new heavily landscaped Civic Park, an elegant, iconic Ferry Terminal whose naturalistic form echoes the landscape topography and an overarching plan which makes strong connections to the emerging public realm of the waterfront," said jury chair Donald Schmitt in a statement. Of course, the bold design is just the start of what will be a long process. According to the National Post, “Now that a design has been selected, both the board and the City of Toronto must approve it. Designers will then sit down and develop a master plan, which will sketch out the redevelopment in phases. Each one will come with its own price tag.” Currently, $800,000 has been secured for the first phase of the project which is slated to break ground next year. The project’s boosters in Toronto want to see the entire thing completed with 10 years.
The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has released a snazzy video of its eponymous leader explaining the design of Vancouver House, the firm's upcoming mixed-use project in—you guessed it—Vancouver, Canada. As you can see from the photo above, the development is focused around a 52-story tower that appears to be twisting and expanding as it rises. That eye-catching form was actually born out of a setback requirement aimed at limiting development alongside the adjacent Granville Bridge. As Ingels is wont to do, he incorporated the site limitation into his design and ended up creating an entirely unique building. To that end, he said Vancouver House is a "contemporary, Canadian evolution" of the Flatiron building in Manhattan. BIG's building is slated to open in 2018 but you can watch the video about it right this very second.
Video> Shanghai Talks: Toronto city planner James Parakh talks skyscraper design, sustainable urbanism
Last September the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat invited me to serve as the special media correspondent for its Shanghai symposium, entitled "Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism." I conducted video interviews with dozens of architects, developers, building managers, and others on topics relevant to tall building design and sustainable urbanism. Among the many designers, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Toronto City Planner James Parakh. Parakh talked about enhancing public space through Toronto's POPS program for privately-owned public spaces. Downtown Toronto has added over one million square feet of these developments over the last 10 years—think plazas, parks, pedestrian connections. “I often say it's a win-win,” he said. “The developer gets extra height through the process.” As one of the newest hotbeds for tall building development, Canada's largest city is trying to walk a line between runaway “Manhattanization” and suburban sprawl. At the same time Parakh said Toronto is grappling with questions about its urban character—from the top of its skyline down to its pedestrian spaces. “I don't think every building is a landmark building and I don't think every building should be a gateway building,” he said. “How do we intersperse tall buildings—whether it's in Toronto or Chicago or Mumbai or São Paolo—how do we do that the best that we can so that we can improve the quality of life for people around the world?”
Believe it or not, Toronto’s beaches are not a particularly huge draw during the winter months—insiders say it has something to do with temperature. To try and change that—to make the city's beaches seem appealing even in frigid temperatures—some optimistic Canadians have launched an international design competition to transform the city's sandy stretches. The inaugural Winter Stations Design Competition was launched last fall and invited artists, designers, architects, and landscape architects to turn the city's "utilitarian lifeguard stations" into “whimsical pieces of wintertime public art.” Fittingly, the competition asked those entering to incorporate the concept of warmth into their designs. Check out the four finalists below alongside a proposal from the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at Ryerson University. These five installations will be on display from February 16–March 22. Sling Swing by WMB Studio
From the competition website: A playful take on how the iconic deckchair might adapt itself to the cold winter months, Sling Swing is meant to huddle beach goers together in pockets of warmth. The colourful canvases evoke a sense of summer beach nostalgia, while the breeze ensures a continuously animated installation. WMB studio is a London and Liverpool based design collective founded in 2013 with a background in architecture, design and art.Driftwood Throne by DM_Studio
From the competition website: Using reused timber, DM_Studio's design transforms the modest lifeguard stand from a simple, discreet metal object into a strong, faceted sculptural form that provides seating and shelter from the winter wind. Founded by Daniel Madeiros, DM_Studio is an emerging London based practice aiming to breach the boundaries between architecture, art and design.Wing Back by Tim Olson
From the competition website: Appropriating the tall, swept typology of a wingback chair, this installation creates an over-sized seating structure designed to gather people together. The tall wall provides shelter from northern winds, and a central fire ring will provide warmth in the depths of winter. Tim Olson is a designer whose work ranges in scale from architecture to furniture and art installation. He currently works for the design-build company Bensonwood in New Hampshire.HotBox by Michaela MacLeod and Nicholas Croft
From the competition website: HotBox mimics the typology of the ice house traditionally used in northern climates, heightening the contrast between inside and outside and allowing visitors to experience warmth through visual, auditory, tactile, and associative means. The design was submitted by architects Michaela MacLeod and Nicholas Croft who began collaborating on installations and public art projects two year ago.Snowcone by Diana Koncan and Lily Jeon and the Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson
From the competition website: Snowcone mimics the protective organic form of the pinecone and marries it with the simple, effective technology of the native igloo. Snowcone was the winning project of a design charette held within the Department of Architectural Science to chose the fifth Winter Station. Fourth-year undergraduate students Diana Koncan and Lily Jeon are leading the design.
Urbanists rejoice! Montreal will tear down a major piece of one of its expressways and replace it with a multi-modal urban boulevard complete with parks, dozens of new trees, bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, a dog park, and art installations. The Montreal Gazette reported that crews will start dismantling the city’s Bonaventure Expressway this spring, and that the entire $141.6 million project should wrap up as soon as 2017. “At the centre of the massive project, which was subject to public consultation in 2009, are 42-metre wide public-park spaces, totalling more than 20,000 square metres, that will separate the north and southbound roadways,” reported the Gazette. An original plan would have placed new buildings on the sites now slated for parks. Montreal’s mayor said that the city’s independent inspector will monitor the project for possible corruption. [h/t Planetizen]
With 50 pivoting prisms, Toronto-based architecture firm RAW has transformed downtown Montreal into an interactive kaleidoscope. The installation, called Prismatica, is one of two winners selected in the city’s fifth annual Luminothérapie competition. This is the first time that a non-Quebec based firm has won the competition, so congrats to RAW. “The 50 pivoting prisms are made of panels laminated with a dichronic film that transmits and reflects every colour in the visible spectrum, varying with the position of the light source and the observer,” RAW explained in a statement. “The prisms are mounted on bases containing projectors. As visitors wander among and manipulate the prisms, they will enjoy an infinite interplay of lights and colourful reflections. As the prisms rotate, a variable-intensity soundtrack comprised of bell sounds will play.” The director of the firm, Rom Colthoff, added: “We wanted to contribute an installation that was immersive, yet inviting. We wanted people to play around, have fun and, in doing so, forget about the cold.” While impressive, the installation probably isn’t enough to get people to forget about the cold—the bitter, bitter cold. Prismatica is on display until February 1st.