This February, Build Toronto announced a shortlist of five teams of local and international architects, planners, and landscape architects, who had qualified for a competition to design a new civic centre for Etobicoke. The former city that makes up the west side of Toronto has been operating out of a complex on the west side of Highway 427 at Brunhamthorpe since 1957, and the City now wants to build a new centre in the heart of Etobicoke, and sell the existing site for for redevelopment.

Two days ago, four designs (a fifth team withdrew) were presented at the current Etobicoke Civic Centre to give the public a first look at what might be built where the six points interchange now lies. Where ramps now thread Kipling Avenue together with Dundas and Bloor streets, the 1960s car-culture road network is soon to meet the concrete crusher. To be replaced with a pedestrian-friendly pattern of roads, a true downtown may finally have a place to form in Etobicoke, and the new civic centre may just be the primer needed to turn on the taps here for more redevelopment. 

6 Corners Intersection reconfiguration, image courtesy of the City of Toronto6 Corners Intersection reconfiguration, image courtesy of the City of Toronto 

A set of criteria and objectives to be met were required from the competitors for the Civic Centre Precinct:

  • create a distinct identity for the growing community that has visual stimulation, and which is functionally integrated with different uses such as office, residential, retail, and recreation;
  • maximize amenity and beauty in the public realm and minimize vehicular impacts;
  • enhance pedestrian and cyclist movement in the area; and finally,
  • prioritize pedestrian connectivity. 

This article will provide you with an overview of the second presentation, with two more entries to follow soon.

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The second entry in the competition is by Diamond Schmitt Architects (DSAI) and Michael Van Valkenberg Associates, and was presented by David Dow of DSAI. This entry was guided by three principles the team pulled from the requirements set out for the Civic Centre Precinct, to establish how the design can best interact and respond to the site:

  • animating public space - importance of transparency, interaction and activity;
  • organizing principles - integration of a mixed use civic centre; and finally,
  • architecture and performance - fusion of building character and sustainability.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoRendering of the second entry of the Etobicoke Civic Centre, image courtesy of Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA

Beginning with the exterior public realm, the "green heart of the civic centre", as Dow called it, is centrally located within the civic space, creating an urban oasis that is bookended by the civic building on the north, east and west ends. The site is broken open at the southeastern end of the site, providing a direct path and viewpoint to the future park to be located southeast of the civic centre.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoRendering of the reflective seamless glass, image courtesy of Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA

Strong urban edges are established throughout the design of the building at street level, allowing for a defined sense of place. Furthermore, the corners have been designed to be accommodating and inviting, granting access to the green. A proposed linear market from Bloor to Dundas will further establish a sense of community to the site, while the differing levels surrounding the green will provide both a sculpture walk, fully accessible by ramps and elevators to cater all physical needs. This also brings in the "Dundas Steps", which will be a heavily animated feature for the winter months, providing for slopes people can use to toboggan, while others can skate at the green.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoRendering of the potential winter programming, image courtesy of Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA

A water feature will also add animation to the site, by way of jets that can be turned on or off when need be. The site will house the refurbished Westwood Theatre sign (all entries are looking to do this), paying homage to the site's heritage. Near the southeastern edge of the public space, a semi-circular green mound occupies the space. In the event of a concert or other festive activity being performed, this mound can move upwards, revealing a stage rising below grade. When finished, the stage moves back underground until the next time it is needed.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoRendering of the site, including the retractable stage, image courtesy of Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA

Where the green heart and civic building meet, a ribbon of seamless glass facades reflect its surroundings, intensifying the landscape throughout all four seasons. Inside is a multi-use space the Great Hall, from where everything can be accessed; both the extensive community facilities and civic office and function spaces.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoLayout of the Etobicoke Civic Centre, image courtesy of Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA

Central to it is the glass-walled council chamber. Located north of the green, the transparent walls encourage engagement of citizens with their local government. When needed, a switch of a button can turn the glass from transparent to opaque, creating a private setting. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoRendering of the Council Chamber, image courtesy of Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA

Tiered seating for the council chamber continues past the glass walls into the Great Hall where people can casually gather, or enjoy a performance.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoRendering of the Great Hall, image courtesy of Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA

The west side of the civic centre includes the recreational centre, while a library branch is included on the east side. Two retail spaces and a restaurant are placed to the south of the green, with the Dundas Steps situated just to the east.

Looking north to the Etobicoke Civic Centre, designed by Diamond Schmitt ArchiteLooking north to the Etobicoke Civic Centre, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and MVVA

The building itself is designed with a post-modernist influence, reflecting that of Etobicoke's past. Cladding includes photovoltaic panels on sloped piers, and separated into sections by horizontal friezes, all of which provide some shade on the windows to increase thermal performance. A series of staggered sky atriums are situated throughout the office floors, providing a meandering staircase to encourage active vertical movement by employees. The floor arrangement maximizes views to the east, west, south, and minimizing views over the yards of the low-rise neighbourhood north. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoScale model of the Diamond & Schmitt / MVVA design, image by Greg Lipinski

The scale model of the complex, above and below, shows the planned context into which the civic centre would be built. None of the other tall buildings in these particular images of the model have yet been built, or even submitted as development proposals. They all represent potential buildings on land unlocked for development by the removal of the Six Points interchange.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoScale model of the Diamond & Schmitt / MVVA design, image by Greg Lipinski

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, MVVA, TorontoScale model of the Diamond & Schmitt / MVVA design, image by Greg Lipinski

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A jury has been called to decide the winner of the competition, but we will tell you know more about that in a following article. The next entry will be reviewed on UrbanToronto tomorrow. In the meantime, the new Civic Centre dataBase file is now up and running with more high-res renderings of this design, including images of the recreation centre; you will find it linked below. You can weigh in with your thoughts on this entry in the comment field provided on this page, or join in the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum thread.