TERRITORY, HISTORY, IDENTITY
A 21st century urban neighbourhood for Sudbury
Fashioned in the twentieth century from the interface of the Precambrian Shield and Canadians eager to build a community, Sudbury is a unique northern city. The shield holds valuable mineral resources which became the lifeblood of a vibrant city. A landscape shaped by weathered Precambrian rock outcrops and broad plains creates a unique urban landscape. As the essential infrastructure in the birth of the Canadian federation, the railway was key to the development of Sudbury.
This competition was an opportunity for our team to reflect on such issues as the evolution of a twentieth century industrial community, the effect of the automo¬bile and our reliance on fossil fuels on urban form, and how such a community can make a creative transi¬tion to embracing such challenges as climate change, social justice, food security, the effects of globalism, and the changing demographics of twenty-first century Canada. We were particularly interested in the idea that the most innovative post-industrial cities might be built on the foundations and traces left behind by twentieth-century industry. We hope our proposal will be a catalyst for furthering such discussions with local stakeholders and see our proposal as a support for de-bate, exchange, and a further creative process.
Our team was interested in the idea of territory and history in the shaping of Sudbury's identity. The idea of landscape as the progressive accumulation of nat¬ural and man-made traces on a site was the organiz¬ing principle of our proposal. We undertook a study of the existing urban landscape in order to understand the interaction of the various natural and man-made elements of the city. Sun, wind, vegetation, geology, topography, and hydrography were documented and studied. These were mapped with man-made ele¬ments such as transportation infrastructure and built form. The result was an understanding of Sudbury layered both physically and temporally. This method-ology was combined with an approach that embraced generational challenges on a global scale such as cli-mate change and access to affordable housing.
After mapping the empty lots downtown, an oppor-tunity was identified to infill these lots with office and commercial spaces for the transition of Sudbury to a twenty-first century city offering employment in inno-vative sectors of the economy. The existing rail yards were identified as an ideal location for the develop-ment of a medium density, ecologically friendly neigh-bourhood within walking distance of the revitalized downtown employment center.
The new residential development on the railyards is an extension of the existing Sudbury grid. Streets from the neighbourhood to the west of the railyards are ex-tended to connect to downtown and to knit together surrounding neighbourhoods. The orientation of the blocks on an east-west axis encourages passive solar heating with most windows on the south side and few-er openings on the north, east, and west sides. Sud-bury has many sunny winter days, and homes will be heated directly by the sun, greatly reducing the impact of energy use and reducing eliminating the depen-dence on fossil fuels.
Access to affordable housing is a generational chal-lenge for young Canadians and affordability is essen-tial to the creation of a vibrant neighbourhood. Equity in housing is a basic ingredient of social justice. Our proposal provides a diversity of housing types both within single blocks and across a variety of block siz-es and forms. The proposal provides for numerous forms of tenure, including rental, private ownership, and housing cooperatives.
Using the approximate dimensions of existing Sudbury residential blocks as a starting point, the urban con-figuration was optimized with the addition of laneways and the option of a second unit on each lot. These secondary units could include parking on the ground floor with living above or beside, or simply long-term parking for tiny houses with access to infrastructure and green space. The urban form and density encour-ages walkability, discourages reliance on the automo-bile, and allows for the potential of urban agriculture to insure a certain level of food security. Building heights enable passive solar heating for both the primary and secondary units. Locating primary residences close to the front of lots and planning for planted areas and street trees creates dynamic streetscapes and en-courages walkability with summer shade and winter sun. The sensual and experiential qualities of these streets and their ability to fully embrace the four sea-sons are essential to the creation of identity.
The footprint of a former rail-line was traced to devel-op a pedestrian and bicycle corridor linking to down-town, the new arts center and a linear park leading to Lake Ramsay. The rail-line located to the south of the site is redeveloped into a recreational park centered on the existing arena and sports fields.
Among the other strategies our proposal explores for the recycled downtown area are: mandating all com-mercial buildings to include infrastructure for rooftops greenhouses and winter gardens; the creation of mi-crobreweries and similar craft-oriented activities in recycled commercial buildings; the development of strategic planning and synergies between art galleries, community centres and other cultural infrastructure; and the restoration and conversion of religious spaces to new community uses.
Our discussions included other energy and food se-curity strategies on the scale of the city such as the repurposing the former mines as a heat/energy sink for winter heating and snow removal; the development of district energy systems for the downtown and the new residential development; the use of Lake Ramsay for summertime cooling using the model of Toronto's Lake Ontario; and imagining Sudbury as a hub for the provi-sion of food for other northern cities.
Sudbury is far from other urban centers and transport remains an important challenge. Planning for a future high-speed train station was an important part of our discussions.
The mixture of traditional and familiar housing typolo-gies and the streetscapes we have proposed offers an environmentally responsible downtown sector adapt-ed to the challenges of climate resilience, affordability, food security, social justice and housing equity. Sud-bury hopes to attract a diverse new generation of cit-izens and innovators who will transform the city. The variety of housing types, the revitalization of downtown and the strategies proposed will provide opportunities for a broad social spectrum.
As we have seen in 2020, global systems can fail, leaving places reliant on these large-scale networks vulnerable. A century ago, Sudbury developed quick-ly, embracing the innovative technologies of the time. Building on this tradition of innovation, our proposal for downtown Sudbury encourages a transition that per-mits certain levels of self-sufficiency in energy, food security and employment. The urban form is rooted in both the territorial and local landscape and celebrates the history, climate, and identity of this unique city.
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