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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) has taken its talents up north to Canada with the new Corktown Common park in Toronto. The 18-acre public space—which is part of the burgeoning, 80-acre West Don Lands neighborhood—was created with Arup and developed by Waterfront Toronto, the government-funded corporation spearheading the revitalization of the city's waterfront. The Common has all the requisite features and amenities to attract Torontonians and their kids to what was, until recently, a brownfield site. Using Brooklyn Bridge Park and Hudson River Park as reference points, the reclaimed space has an array of natural plants, landscapes, ecosystems as well as lawns, athletic fields, picnic tables, play areas, and a pavilion that includes a community kitchen. That can all be seen at first glance, but the $27 million park was built as more than a play area—it was built to work. Representatives from Arup told AN that the park is designed as a “cistern” that stores and treats stormwater to protect the surrounding neighborhood from flooding. This is done through natural elements like plantings, bioswales, a landscaped berm, and a living marsh. But the play areas do their part as well. Water used at the large splash pad, for example, is treated and then directed back through the marsh. “An expansive urban prairie on the berm will respond to changing water levels and frame the more active areas of the park,” MVVA said in a statement on its website. “To the west, lawns, marshes, and woodlands will provide settings for walking, cycling, sledding, sports, sunbathing, and public art, with a multifunction pavilion at the center.” This was all part of a vision to create a park that acts like a cistern, but doesn’t necessarily look like one. This was the team's challenge: mask all the tricks and tools that make the park sustainable within the park itself. “If a mechanical engineer does her job right everything she does should be invisible,” said Jennifer McArthur of Arup.
Ten Roads Whose Time Has Come: Congress for the New Urbanism Releases List of Freeways Ripe for Removal
The Congress for the New Urbanism has released their annual list of Freeways Without Futures. The organization selected the top 10 urban American (and one Canadian) highways most in need of removal. The final list was culled from nominations from more than 50 cities. Criteria for inclusion included age of the freeway, the potential that removal would have to positively effect the areas where the roadways are currently situated, and the amount of momentum to realize such removals. Additionally the CNU highlighted campaigns in Dallas, the Bronx, Pasadena, Buffalo, and Niagra Falls, that are taking significant steps towards removing freeways (some of which have been included in past lists) as illustrations of broader institutional and political shifts on urban infrastructural thinking. I-10/Claiborne Overpass - New Orleans The already aging Interstate 10 was heavily damaged in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. The Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) suggested that the removal of the elevated portion of the highway would allow for the reclamation of 35 to 40 city blocks and 20 to 25 blocks of open space. With the help of public engagement Livable Claiborne Communities outlined a plan for a similar removal that would improve living conditions in the neighborhood in the immediate vicinity of the expressway. I-81 - Syracuse This road, including an elevated portion that runs through downtown Syracuse, was built in the 60's. Advocates for the transformation of the most urban portion of the freeway could be replaced by a boulevard that would connect neighborhoods, inject economic activity into the area, and be cheaper to maintain. Numerous local politicians have spoken in favor of such a plan and the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) co-led the I-81 Challenge to examine traffic patterns and alternatives to the current state of the highway. Gardiner Expressway - Toronto Unpopular with local citizens, the overworked Expressway requires more than $10 million annually in repairs. Recently, the City of Toronto and WATERFRONToronto finished work on the Gardiner Expressway & Lake Shore Boulevard Reconfiguration Environmental Assessment & Urban Design Study which will dictate the future of the portion of the Gardiner overlooking Lake Ontario. Route 5/Skyway - Buffalo The Skyway Bridge and Route 5 mar public views of the Buffalo River, diminish land values, and create a web of confusing traffic patterns predicated on inefficient one-way streets. The Department of Transportation rates the Skyway bridge as "fracture critical" while the Federal Highway Administration classifies the bridge as "functionally obsolete." It is likely to cost more than $50 million to maintain over the next two decades. Inner Loop - Rochester The Loop was built for the city Rochester once was, rather than the shrunken metropolis that stands today. For this reason much of the beltway carries traffic that could easily be carried by a urban avenue. Furthermore it constricts the downtown area, inhibiting development and isolating adjacent neighborhoods. In 2012 the city was awarded a USDOT TIGER grant to replace the eastern portion of the Loop with a two lane boulevard flanked by street parking. I-70 - St. Louis I-70 separates the city from the waterfront of the Mississippi River and Saarinen's iconic arch. Calls for bridging this divide by converting the expressway into an urban boulevard have been long simmering. Park Over The Highway is a $380 million project for a park and pedestrian and bike path that leaps I-70 in connecting the city to the area abutting the river. I-280 - San Francisco Meant to be part of a larger web of freeways that was ultimately halted by mid-century protests, the removal of this highway stub would increase the land values of the area by $80 million according to a report by Fourth and King Street Railyards. Replacing the strip with a urban boulevard would open the area for further redevelopment and allow for greater fluidity between neighborhoods. The city's Center for Architecture + Design has hosted a design competition for such a project. I-375 - Detroit This 1.06 mile strip served to divide portions of the city and contributed to the isolation and subsequent decay of once thriving black neighborhoods. Detroit's drop in population has lead to a 13% decrease in usage since 2009. In December of 2013, Detroit's Downtown Development Authority moved forward with alternative plans for the highway, with particular focus on converting the road into a more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. Terminal Island Freeway - Long Beach As it stands the freeway currently serves a mere 14,000 vehicles a day, numbers that could drop further if plans to expand the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility come to fruition, a development that would redirect significant freight traffic in the area. Local nonprofit urban design studio City Fabrick have spear-headed a movement to convert the road into a greenbelt that would act as a buffer between residential districts and industrial port infrastructure. In 2013 the plan was awarded a Caltrans grant. Aetna Viaduct - Hartford This 3/4 mile stretch of elevated expressway was completed in 1965. In running directly through downtown Hartford the Viaduct destroyed historic architecture, public spaces, and severed inter-community links once easily traversed by foot. Initially set for costly re-surfacing that would increase its lifespan by 20 years, new plans are being considered for the heavily-trafficked road. Hartford officials and Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) are currently considering plans to re-align nearby rail tracks that would open 15-20 acres of nearby land for redevelopment.
Today, contentious Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was removed from office following a court ruling in a years-old conflict of interest case. The mayor has made enemies of many urbanists over the years, including Creative Class author Richard Florida, who called him "the worst mayor in the modern history of cities." More recently, Ford drew the ire of Toronto's bike community after making good on a promise to remove bike lanes from city streets. The mayor has vowed to appeal the decision and has the option to run for office again in an upcoming election.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has proven to be a controversial public figure, whether it's unsafe reading while driving, or now, removing Toronto's recently installed bike lanes on Jarvis Street. Yesterday, city crews showed up in large scrubbing trucks to scrape away thin dividing lines from the street, only to encounter a small collection of riders who would not stand by idly. Instead the cyclists chose to lie down, sit, and ultimately blockade the street scrubbing vehicles, eventually forcing them to leave for the day. A subtle part of the infrastructure that regulates a city’s traffic, bike lanes on Jarvis Street in Toronto have been voted out by City Council to make room for a reversible fifth lane meant to improve traffic flow for automobiles. The lanes were part of street safety measures enacted by Ford's predecessor David Miller. Cyclists have been unhappy with the decision declaring that removing the lanes puts their safety at risk. A few have chosen to make their thoughts known—including freelance writer Steve Fisher who noted that, prior to the lanes, he was hit twice by passing cars. The small group of protesters sat in the bike lanes as scrubbing machines approached and attempted to go around them, but a game of leap-frog commenced as protesters again moved themselves down the road ahead of the machines. Removal of the lanes continued again today and currently the dispute remains unresolved. Unable to work at night—due to noise restrictions—the scrubbing crews must complete the removal during the day. Police were on site today in an attempt to usher back protesters and allow the work to continue. One man was reportedly arrested and taken into custody this afternoon as the protest continues. The scene has been carefully observed from coast to coast in the United States as bike advocates worry of potential bike backlashes in local politics. New York has already gone through a lengthy fight over bike lanes installed by Mayor Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan along Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and many observers are closely watching political views as the city prepares to elect a new mayor next year.
Starchitects are descending on Toronto. First it was Frank Gehry with his plan for three 80-story skyscrapers on top of an art museum, and now Norman Foster with a massive plan to redevelop the Metro Toronto Convention Centre area adjacent to the CN Tower and Rogers Centre Stadium. Developed by Oxford Properties Group and dubbed Oxford Place, the plan calls for upgrades to the current convention center and four new towers for housing, office space, a hotel, and a casino surrounding a five-and-a-half acre park spanning a railroad. An Intercontinental Hotel on the northeastern corner of the site would be demolished and replaced by two large towers containing a combined 3.1 million square feet of office and residential space atop one million square feet of retail and a massive 4,000-car parking structure. While site renderings are marked as illustrative massing diagrams, some have noted the resemblance of the two towers to Foster's proposal for the World Trade Center, nicknamed the "kissing towers." Overall, Oxford Place's 7.35 million square feet is expected to cost $3 billion, but is contingent on approval of the casino. The City of Toronto must give the final go-ahead before the casino can move forward. [Via Urban Toronto.]
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A sales center on Toronto’s west side shows off a multifaceted approach to fabrication.The new Studio On Richmond condominiums are located in the middle of Toronto’s Entertainment District, an emerging cultural area around Queen Street on the west side. The 31-story building, designed by Toronto-based Quadrangle Architects, includes 8,000 square feet of space that the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) will use as a public art gallery and café. The condo’s 2,950-square-foot sales center needed to reflect the area’s artistic vibe, so interior design firm Mike Niven Interior Design turned to Eventscape, a custom architectural fabricator also based in Toronto, to build a collection of faceted, folded elements to reflect the neighborhood’s personality and inspire potential condo buyers. Each of the presentation unit’s elements—a seating niche, a faceted millwork wall, a reception desk, a folded screen, and geometric ceiling and wall panels—called for a different fabrication technique, and each was made of a different material. Because all of the pieces required exact joints with even reveals, the team began with 3-D design and engineering drawings to determine the size and shape of each piece. To create a cave-like seating area at the center of the space, the team built CNC-routed ribs to define the installation’s profile and provide support horizontally and vertically. Next, CNC-milled templates were used to miter-cut foam that was then covered in bright red wool. On the opposite side, the 17-foot-long curved and faceted shell of the niche is composed of CNC-cut MDF panels coated in high-gloss white lacquer and attached to the frame with small hinges. A reception desk is composed of these same triangular shapes, but in polished stainless steel. The designer envisioned a large screen wall that would form one side of the entrance to the condo’s model suite. Eventscape created the structure by laser cutting long, V-shaped pieces of steel made by brake-forming, a process by which a sheet of metal is bent along a straight axis. Each of the screen’s bolted connections is unique. And because of the unit’s standard double-door entrance, the entire form had to be assembled on-site. A series of angled planes made with white upholstered aluminum frames decorates the sales unit walls and ceiling. To achieve a look of randomness, the team used tilted brackets, adjustable mounting hardware, and aircraft cable to secure the panels. Mirroring the installation’s faceted shapes, a rainbow-colored string art wall stretches the length of the unit. OCADU student artwork decorates this wall as well. Enlarged portions of these pieces are also affixed to some wall panels, a colorful signal of the building’s hope of becoming a local institution.
Toronto's Ryerson University announced plans this week for a bold Student Learning Center designed by Oslo-based Snøhetta and Zeidler Partnership Architects of Toronto. The 8-story structure will mix passive and active academic uses with street-level retail and will serve as the university's front door on busy Yonge Street. The buildings predominantly regular form clad in richly patterned glass has been chipped away at the corners and lifted above the street to provide a more dynamic shape. The main entrance plaza is marked by a similar chipping gesture marked in blue glass leading into a soaring multi-level lobby. Patterns on the glass curtain wall will filter the light quality inside the building. At the core of the building's design was the interplay of introverted study and open collaborative spaces. "The notion that learning is a static, solitary activity is outmoded," said Craig Dykers, Snøhetta co-founder, said in a release. "While it remains important to find places of introspection, it is also vitally important to create places where people can more actively seek knowledge, where social connections can intertwine and where all forms of activity, quiet and loud, can find a suitable home." Expected to earn LEED Silver certification, the Student Learning Centre will feature such sustainable elements as a green roof. The building is scheduled to begin construction later this year with an anticipated completion date in the winter of 2014.