Nathan Phillips Square is an integral part of life in Downtown Toronto. For decades Torontonians have congregated in front of City Hall to do everything from ice skating to watching a fireworks display. Being a beacon for tourists and locals alike, it was welcome news when the City announced a winning team to revitalize the aging landmark for a new generation… but that was back on March 8, 2007, 6 years ago now, and there is still much to complete.

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoToronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau

Perkins+Will and Plant Architect Inc. were selected from over 48 submissions taking part in an international design competition to modernize the square and surrounding infrastructure. Though the design and historic sensitivity of the plan were lauded, the implementation of the project has since been plagued by lengthy delays and an ever inflating budget.

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoFountains near the centre of the square, image by Jack Landau

Despite the financial setbacks and the persistent eyesore of fenced off areas and idling pickup trucks, the revitalization's positive effects on the square are already being noticed by visitors. The recently-opened skate pavilion drew in record crowds over the winter months; while the nine new waterjet fountains provide pedestrians with the opportunity to cool off during the square’s blistering heat in the summer.

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoNew skate pavilion at Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau

Perhaps the most visually striking upgrade completed so far, the new stage on the west side of the square, is a fitting 21st century interpretation of the optimistic 1960s-era modernist design principles that made the square famous decades ago. When not in use for performances, the stage, which consists of a fritted glass roof resting on angled steel frames, doubles as a grand staircase leading up to the elevated walkways which flank the perimeter of the square.

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoNew permanent stage at Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau

Immediately between the stage and the skate pavilion, six young trees have been planted to provide future shade for those passing through. 

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoTrees along the western edge of Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau

As inhospitable for plant growth as the surroundings seem above ground, the following photo, taken in September 2012, gives us an idea of the measures taken below the pavers to ensure the success of the plantings, where soil beds will give the trees' roots plenty of room to spread..

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoView of the same area last September before the trees were planted, image by Jack Landau

Although the public’s response to the aforementioned upgrades has been overwhelmingly positive, work on certain key elements of the square still lag far behind the original schedule. The reflecting pool/skating rink below the famous Freedom Arches sits dry for the moment as crews work on upgrading pipes below the square’s sun bleached concrete tiles.

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoOngoing work to the immediate north of the Freedom Arches, image by Jack Landau

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Perkins + Will, Plant, TorontoReflecting Pool sitting dry, image by Jack Landau

With full completion of the project now pushed back until 2014, we anxiously await the day that we can reclaim our revitalized landmark from construction crews. Until then, please visit the associated dataBase page, linked below, for additional information and renderings.  Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the related forum thread, here, or voice your opinion in the comments section provided below.