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.

Earlier this week, 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 final presentation, soon to be followed by a wrap up of all the different entries.

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The fourth team to present was Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen with Adamson Associates Architects, and PMA Landscape Architects. Representing the team was Louis Becker of Henning Larsen, beginning a discussion of Toronto's climate patterns, and how this would play a key role in designing the new Etobicoke Civic Centre (ECC). 

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoRendering of the site, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

Becker started off with studies showing Toronto as typically a cold climate 60% of the year. Cold winds come from the west, while coming in from the north during the summer. Understanding these factors ultimately played a key role in the design and massing of the site, with the idea of creating a structure that would best combat this issue. As such, instead of creating only one building with one square, the team decided to create a series of squares elevated to not only to block out winds, but allowing space for programming throughout the site. The tallest blocks are located to the northeast of the site, while the lower blocks on the west reflect that of the low scale residential area. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoRendering of the site looking northeast, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

One example that Becker provided regarding massing placement, is if the blocks are positioned strategically around the public realm, it is possible to create 30-50 extra days a year of outdoor comfort. The example showed the northeast and southeast ends of the site, where winds are at their strongest, at temperatures of 10 and 4 degrees Celsius, while in the central square, the temperature can remain constant at 18 degrees C. When designing a public realm, creating a thermally comfortable ground zone can be achieved with thoughtfulness.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoView from the public roof terrace, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

It was elaborated that there are eight parameters that influence human comfort levels. Using these eight parameters to carefully structure or influence a design can significantly increase outdoor comfort levels, and extend the length of time that comfort is available. These parameters include infrared radiation; direct radiation; diffuse radiation; temperature; humidity; clothing; activity; and wind.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoEast elevation of the site, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

The civic space has been designed with differing heights and volumes containing all the various uses excluding the office space. This enables easy accessibility to the rooftops, animated as either breakout spaces or playgrounds, while the angled roofs allow for an integrated railing system. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoRendering of the public realm, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

The civic centre's main entrance is just north of the civic square, with doors to the interior atrium below the cantilevered council chamber. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoRendering of the council chamber, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

The pool, gym, library and daycare are all situated around the square, creating a highly animated facade on the first three levels.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoRendering of the recreational swimming pool, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

The building volumes themselves provide energy efficient facades, while the three blocks along Kipling and three along Bloor pay homage to the Six Points interchange that this complex will replace. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoWinter rendering of the site, image courtesy of Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA

In addition to the optimal climate conditions of the civic square, the team has studied various programming activities such as having a weekly farmer's market, festivals, concerts, movies, and even yoga events. Dense trees are positioned near the southeast to mitigate traffic noise from Dundas Street, while also providing shade and a buffer during the summer months. Overall, this plaza represents the place where the civic centre brings people together.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoScale model of the Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA designed site, 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 the first two 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. One building in the lower right of the last image does exist already.

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoScale model of the Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA designed site, image by Greg Lipinski

Etobicoke Civic Centre, Adamson Associates, Henning Larsen, PMA, TorontoScale model of the Adamson Associates/Henning Larsen/PMA designed site, 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. 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.