In our team's analysis of York Street Park, a series of questions arose early. What is the fundamental character and role for this park in an emerging neighbourhood in need of a park of its own? How will this park - a site that is related to the water, but not on it; connected to the downtown, but not in it - relate to a broader context of public spaces? What quality of open space or landscape was missing from the waterfront area? How might residents, local office workers and tourists be drawn to this park site, not because of a spectacular setting or iconic feature - but because it fills an intrinsic need.
What were the residents of this neighbourhood missing in their hyper-urban lives, if anything?
As designers do, we reviewed what metaphors the waterfront and the urban park might convey. Was it...
The Cottage on a Lake? The Suburban Backyard? The Country Retreat? We decided none of these things were quite right. People choose to live in a city - not because they want to get away from people - but because daily interactions with their neighbours, the cultural richness of the place, and the immersive sociability of urban life is what they seek. Why should we assume that the residents of Toronto's waterfront want to escape the city? Shouldn't we be trying to make the city so great that they want to stay? It is not an accident that we found ourselves thinking about the role of the neighbourhood park in Toronto:
A City of Neighbourhoods, and how York Street Park could accommodate the neighbourhood emerging on the doorstep of this site. Perhaps then, the solution should be to attract people with the best qualities of neighbourhood parks that Toronto has to offer, and then amplify the vitality, comfort and delight that these parks provide, in service to the distinct neighbourhoods and the daily life within it.
It is not an accident that we found ourselves thinking about neighbourhood parks while thinking about Toronto: a city of neighbourhoods.
- What if we distilled the qualities, characteristics and elements of the Toronto neighbourhood park into a highly urban, site-specific park prototype and infuse those qualities into a new urban neighbourhood?
- What if we created a park that showcased the life of Torontonians, allowing residents, workers, and tourists alike to immerse themselves in a park that is built to attract and magnify the activities that draw people together?
- What if we accommodated the hum of daily Toronto life that allowed a curious visitor to participate, to mix in and even masquerade as Torontonian?
- What if we encourage everyone to bring all the best qualities of Toronto into one place: a neighbourhood vibe, multicultural diversity, the aroma of good food, and a plethora of leisurely public activities?
- What if you could bring your own version of Toronto to this park?
Rather than focus on the relationship to the water's edge, York Street Park will function as a community hub, a park for the everyday, as well as a gateway between city and water. Its role isn't to add connective public realm along the edge of Lake Ontario, or to provide the panoramic view of the water, but to reach north and take inspiration from the neighbourhood parks on the other side of the Gardiner, and become a local, highly concentrated urban park for the 65,000 residents and countless office workers who live in the waterfront area. The comparisons to the diversity of Toronto's neighbourhoods, and the parks that serve them, mean that York Street Park is poised to take on a dramatically different but complimentary role than the park sites south of Queens Quay.
This proposal was informed by a very clear analysis of parks around the City of Toronto. The Jury appreciated the emphasis that the designers placed on the recreational needs of the neighbourhood. It was felt, however, that the park design was residual to the gesture of keeping the off-ramp as there was no change to existing formal configuration of the plan. The Jury felt that the contrast between the forested area and the bents led to a lack of integration of the two landscapes. Also, the amount of hard surface in this proposal was unnecessary and did not address the request for an immersive green experience.
(Excerpt from the jury's comments)
12 scanned / 12 viewable
- PDF presentation