With a new subway station opening at Highway 7 and Jane in less than a month, and high-rise developments popping into the skyline of the suburban city north of Toronto, the City of Vaughan is embracing urban-friendly planning principles. The annual Vaughan Urban Design Awards emphasize how design can better connect people and places in the fast-growing city. This year's awards were handed out on November 15th at Vaughan City Hall, at a gala celebration sponsored by Carpenters' Union Local 27, with Dialog's Antonio Gomez-Palacio serving as MC.

Projects in Residential, Commercial, and Transportation categories were all represented. A jury of industry professionals and experts judged this year's nominations, consisting of David Leinster of The Planning Partnership, Harold Madi of Stantec, Les Klein of Quadrangle, John MacKenzie of the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority, and Anne McIlroy of Brook McIlroy. Recipients were selected based on a variety of criteria including architecture and landscape design, public realm contributions, preservation of heritage architecture and cultural landscapes, the promotion of walking, cycling, and transit use, sustainability, and design for wellness, social equity and universal accessibility.

An Award of Excellence was handed out to SmartREIT and SmartCentres' new KPMG Tower, the first office building to be completed in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. The Diamond Schmitt-designed tower rises 14 storeys and features landscape design by Montreal-based Claude Cormier + Associés Inc. The jury was unanimous in praising the project’s height and materiality as well as the design of the development’s public realm.

Vaughan Urban Design Awards, 2017KPMG Tower and public realm, image courtesy of City of Vaughan

A second Award of Excellence was won by the team of ZAS Architects and FORREC/Scott Torrance Landscape Architect for their new Vaughan Civic Centre Resource Library, a new two-storey Vaughan Public Libraries location at 2191 Major Mackenzie Drive West. The jury noted the project as a great example of public architecture, with "significance at both the City and community scale." 

Vaughan Urban Design Awards, 2017Vaughan Civic Centre Resource Library, image courtesy of City of Vaughan

Three Awards of Merit were handed out.

One was received by the team of AECOM, IBI Group, and Parsons, recognizing Metrolinx's new Highway 7 West Rapidway/VivaNext line from Bowes Road to Jane Street. The project drew a positive response from the jury for setting an example of collaboration and investment between multiple levels of government, and for acting as a catalyst to bring together communities. The project's design was also praised for making public transit infrastructure “cool and hip.”

Vaughan Urban Design Awards, 2017Highway 7 West Rapidway, image courtesy of City of Vaughan

Another Award of Merit recipient was the team of Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, Jablonsky AST and Partners, ERA Architects, Novatrend Engineering Group, Ferris + Associates, and Esqape Design for their work on the Minto WaterGarden project at 7608 Yonge Street. The jury commented positively on WaterGarden's mid-rise scale and efforts to incorporate an existing heritage building, streetscape improvements, and courtyard amenity space, despite concerns about the development's struggles in creating a successful retail and pedestrian environment.

Vaughan Urban Design Awards, 2017Minto Water Garden, image courtesy of City of Vaughan

The team of SRN Architects, Landscape Planning, and RJ Burnside & Associates were also presented with an Award of Merit for Wycliffe Homes' Woodbridge Fairground Lofts project at 8161–8177 Kipling Avenue. While the jury saw room for improvement regarding the project's architectural expression, Woodbridge Fairground Lofts was praised for its scale and effort to integrate existing heritage homes, and the creation of a central open space that obscures the project's parking component.

Vaughan Urban Design Awards, 2017Woodbridge Fairground Lofts, image courtesy of City of Vaughan

"City-building is about creating a sense of place through thoughtful and intelligent planning. As Vaughan continues to transform, it is important to recognize how physical structures and public places intersect to provide a meaningful experience," said Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua. "The 2017 Vaughan Urban Design Awards symbolize our commitment to excellence and innovation, and acknowledges the contribution made by individuals and businesses that embrace the present while remaining historically significant in the future. I offer my congratulations to the winners and participants for achieving the best in urban design, architecture, landscape architecture and environmental stewardship.”

Let us know what you think about this year's winners in the comment section provided at the bottom of this page.