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.

Yesterday, 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 first presentation, with more entries to follow soon.

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The first team to present was Moriyama & Teshima Architects in collaboration with MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA), and FORREC's Landscape Architecture Studio (known for designing theme parks). Their plan for the new civic centre hub hosts several different uses, including new offices, a new council chamber, a recreation centre (gym, swimming pool, running track likely to be run by the YMCA), a library, a daycare, and a public plaza and green space.

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoRendering of the Etobicoke Civic Centre, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoFloor plans of the civic building, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects

They intend that the Etobicoke Civic Centre encompass the following traits:

  • be designed as a landmark within the Precinct; provide outdoor civic space that is the central node for civic celebrations and social activities;
  • the co-location of civic services and community partners in the creation of a new civic hub;
  • provide for easy access to the Kipling TTC station, in addition to other public transit;
  • allow for pedestrian amenity features;
  • have strong connectivity to the surrounding community; and finally
  • all servicing including parking to be located below grade. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoWinter rendering of the new Etobicoke Civic Centre, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects

The design seeks to achieve several sustainability goals. These include

  • the provision of a 5 per cent on-site renewable energy (which could be geothermal, solar thermal, or solar photovoltaic (PV));
  • meet Tier 2 of the Toronto Green Building Standard; and
  • compliance with the City's green roof policy, specifically for municipal buildings. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoRendering of the Etobicoke Civic Centre, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects 

Speaking about the project were Carol Phillips, partner at Moriyama + Teshima, and Robert Allen, partner at MJMA. They stated that the purpose behind their design translates to four key components:

  • creating a model for a healthy city;
  • prioritizing the pedestrian realm;
  • heal and expand the site; and finally
  • provide a distinct identity for Westwood. (The Westwood theatre stood for many years at this site, and the teams have been asked to perpetuate the identity in the development.)

One of the M+T/MJMA/Forrec objectives is to create as much green space as possible in the design, with 135 trees planted on the site. This factors into the building design, compacting its footprint to create a tall, thin tower. The tower itself features photovoltaic panels on its exterior, and is clad in curtain wall and light champagne-coloured aluminum panels. In the Council Chamber, the lower walls can be retracted to open the space and allow for a staging area.

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoThe Council Chamber set up for a session, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoThe Council Chamber set up for an event, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects

The structure of the tower allows for a maximum of sunlight to reach the landscaped grounds while minimizing shadow impacts. The site can be accessed through its northeast and southwest corners, while a 560-metre walking trail contributes to outdoor exercise and relaxation. Come the winter months, Phillips said "When the civic centre goes quiet, it's the park that comes alive", referring to planned winter programming, such as a skating trail, and a hill which can be used by tobogganers or even skiers. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoRendering of the outdoor public space, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects

Architectural features of the tower include the northwest and southeast corners to feature what the designers call "breathing rooms". These rooms are planned to be 3-storey atriums, allowing for wellness, a space for collaboration, and plenty of natural light through the energy efficient glazing system. 

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, TorontoRendering of the 3-storey breathing room atrium, image courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects 

Phillips ended the presentation by saying, "We present to you a vision for a healthy urban future". 

On view at the event was a model of project dropped into a concept plan for the area. (Most of the tall buildings seen in the images below do not yet exist, but will be encouraged through new zoning.)

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, Toronto3D model of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects-designed plan, image by Greg Lipinski

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, Toronto3D model of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects-designed plan, image by Greg Lipinski

Etobicoke Civic Centre Precinct, Moriyama & Teshima, MJMA Architects, Toronto3D model of Moriyama & Teshima / MJMA Architects-designed plan, 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.