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Problematic Park Design - Why Some Parks Don't Work

Northern Light

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I feel like this is an appropriate thread to bring up the lack of public washrooms in parks, especially in the off-season.


Council recently voted down winterizing park washrooms:


I find the decision unfortunate.

Though; FWIW, plans for additional year-round washrooms are making their way through Parks internally; but they aren't public-ready yet.

It was entirely feasible to winterize some additional washrooms before fall; the decision not to support the motion was more political than anything.

*****

Something Parks could absorb in the meantime is modifying the hours of washrooms, both seasonal and year round.

They have washrooms that in winter actually have a posted 2pm closing time.

(That originates because many Parks staff are scheduled 7am-3pm); so the washrooms close 1 hour before end of shift for cleaning)

There's something oddly unreasonable yet quite recognizable where a service is built around what's convenient to provide; rather than what citizens want and need.
 

Aleksei

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Love this thread already.

It’s crazy how just a few tables and chairs can bring life to a park.

You really need a reason to go to an urban park. If you don’t have kids or pets there isn’t really other reasons then to do work or have a coffee
I think you might be wrong. There are plenty of reasons to go to an urban park. The purpose is a mental rest, entertainment, change of environment. So, you can play, read, walk, run, breath, enjoy, show yourself and look out for other people, date, study, and take sunbaths. It all depends on how a park designed and its accessibility.
 

Aleksei

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filling in a void by calling the space a park
Filling in a void with a desire to do the best but almost always fail due to a lack of understanding of what you are actually doing and for whom - that's the main architectural idea, I guess. What's more, are those light poles on the way. The feature is quite useful for those who drunk as a skunk...
 

Northern Light

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If you ask me, I think the adjacency of busy Front street does not allow you to feel 100% comfy, though that place looks pretty and can give a head start to many other hot spots in Toronto.

While I think many would disagree that this is a material issue............

Its worth sharing.......Front Street is likely to be narrowed by 1 lane, that is currently under study by the City.

This is something I happen to favour, but less for its impact on Berczy Park than on the south-side sidewalk, which, after expansion, may be able to support meaningful patios.
 

Aleksei

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There are ways to make the unconventional work.
I am wondering what is the target to make unconventional work? Is that a fad or going all out to find its own way of urban landscaping? If you look at any other conventional attribute of life, we will see changes in appearance, how it looks like, but not in the purpose of use. We don't start cooking in a bathroom and sleep underneath a bed. Why should we follow some unhealthy ideas and replace traditional recreational green nooks with disproportional piling up of concrete, steel, lack of aesthetics, peace, quiet, and additionally without entry gates, full of snags? Also, as people haven't started to walk on four limbs or enter the house through a window, I honestly don't see a faint reason to substitute grass with gravel or, even worse, limestone or overuse cement for park pathways.

What definitely strikes the eye is the height of the low branches of most of the trees and inconsistency and whim in seating design. Although, the musculoskeletal system of humans has not changed for a considerably long time. I can't say another way that those mini-parks designed not for humans or trees themself play the role of green color spots for those looking at them from above rather than aside. And this only proves that today's park design has lost its mean or not found a new look. Since the second half of the last century, it all around a consumer behind the car wheel, taking an elevator from underground parking to an apartment, rather than go out for walking or cycling. That's true. I am just thinking aloud. Trying to keep up with time, we shouldn't break apart foundations. We still should have the core. Some people are advocating a new tendency to establish many small parks as a part of an urban landscape which is a good thing, but that doesn't cancel a traditional thing - sufficient large green areas (conventional parks) in every part of a city.

Let me introduce myself shortly. I came to Canada in 2017. I studied Civil Engineering when I understood that something is wrong in a typical city design. I was really discouraged by not finding a single park in Toronto build with gravel pathways. Now we know many materials like recycled glass, resin bound gravel different from concrete but for some reason, we don't see new materials in use that much. I discovered my eagerness to contribute to changes in the local urban landscape. That is why I am interested in this topic and more. I hope to bring to the table practical things in the future, but I am still looking for the pathway. In my past, I visited most of the European capitals from Saint-Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm to London, Paris, and Rome. I saw beautiful parks and walkable places. At least I can compare.

I am not aware of the approval process for the park design of the city of Toronto yet, and I would want to find out and see what I can do to make the city more suitable for life. I really would want to explore the idea of can we, as a society of like-minded or interested people, do a thing practically to change the situation for the better.
 
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Aleksei

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Regrettably, we also have gh3 which helped give us 2 of the parks in this thread whose design I have eviscerated.

June Callwood and Wellesley-McGill. (the latter also involved the late Ms. Oberlander whose involvement here I find difficult to fathom given the design fail of the space)
What if suggest a redesign of June Callwood's space? I read through the gh3 website about that park. It is a way sophisticated but absolutely far-fetched idea to shift vertical acoustic voice diagram onto the plan without a lot of caring whether normal people will wish to jump in those voice's labyrinths. Without reading the full explanation of the design idea previously, it is hard to feed hopes that the one inside the park will automatically understand and enjoy the conception. The conception that once again more or less visible only from above. So, that job had done for design's sake, not for convenient people. But even so, how to explain the location and orientation of light poles and benches?

One of the improvements I would suggest is to ban Gzowski Bulevard from cars or even turn it entirely into pedestrian mode.
 
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Northern Light

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I am wondering what is the target to make unconventional work?

My purpose in stating that was........

That I have posted that their are understood guidelines/rules/conventions in park design which tend to work well.

Whether that's highly visible entrances, some sort of program; not over programming, proper orientation of paths and designs (follow desire lines, facilitate short cuts etc.) or any other number of things.

Having said that; there are, from time to time people who want to try something different; and it can work.

One example I afford is Village of Yorkville Park; and another is The Music Garden on Queen's Quay.

Both of these Parks are good designs, attractive and enjoyable and popular.

Both don't follow 'convention' in the way they are laid out.

Yet, in both cases you can see how designers 'bent the rules' rather breaking them; how they mitigated their unusual choices.

In the case of the Music Garden, many of the paths are circuitous rather than linear. But not only are they beautifully landscaped and enjoyable to walk; little cross-cuts and exits have been built into the path system so that those wishing to escape the maze may do so. While the choice of plants, use of seats, rocks and other fixtures discourage people from cutting across the planting beds.

In the Village of Yorkville Park, the space is laid out as a series of rooms; almost an art gallery of mini-landscapes.
In general, I would discourage this type of design as most of the time, people don't enjoy parks laid out in this manner.
But here, there was again thought; thought on how to create little paths into and through the various rooms; a use of creative lighting, water features, seating, flowers, and tables on bring people into the space.
The rooms aren't merely passive; but interactive. Put simply, the unconventional was made to work.

June Callwood is one but, atrocious, example of the unconventional going horribly wrong; but also terribly execution of an already execrable concept.

Put simply if you want to 'break the rules' you have to have a good design reason to do so; and you need to understand how people will react to and make use of your design; and then engineer in what mitigation measures may be necessary.

It can be done; it usually is not.

We don't start cooking in a bathroom and sleep underneath a bed.

LOL, I don't think even gh3 went that far. They meant the park to be appreciated surely. They did include conventional benches, they did include lights; there are trees etc.

What they did though was a terrible job on the details from material selection to execution; and they broke good design conventions w/o any obvious, logical reason; and didn't really anticipate (I assume) how this would adversely affect people's opinion of their design.

Why should we follow some unhealthy ideas and replace traditional recreational green nooks with disproportional piling up of concrete, steel, lack of aesthetics, peace, quiet, and additionally without entry gates, full of snags? Also, as people haven't started to walk on four limbs or enter the house through a window, I honestly don't see a faint reason to substitute grass with gravel or, even worse, limestone or overuse cement for park pathways.

I would generally agree w/the above. I clearly disagree w/the use of gravel and limestone screening here; it lacks no obvious purpose, and its both unattractive in appearance and unpleasant to walk on (particularly the gravel)

What definitely strikes the eye is the height of the low branches of most of the trees and inconsistency and whim in seating design. Although, the musculoskeletal system of humans has not changed for a considerably long time. I can't say another way that those mini-parks designed not for humans or trees themself play the role of green color spots for those looking at them from above rather than aside. And this only proves that today's park design has lost its mean or not found a new look

In the case of this park, I agree. But if you read through the thread, you'll see a few examples of great park design from recent years as well. We shouldn't lump all contemporary design together.

Let me introduce myself shortly. I came to Canada in 2017. I studied Civil Engineering when I understood that something is wrong in a typical city design. I was really discouraged by not finding a single park in Toronto build with gravel pathways. Now we know many materials like recycled glass, resin bound gravel different from concrete but for some reason, we don't see new materials in use that much. I discovered my eagerness to contribute to changes in the local urban landscape. That is why I am interested in this topic and more. I hope to bring to the table practical things in the future, but I am still looking for the pathway. In my past, I visited most of the European capitals from Saint-Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm to London, Paris, and Rome. I saw beautiful parks and walkable places. At least I can compare.

Welcome to Urban Toronto @Aleksei. Don't let a few badly designed Parks discourage you, there are many wonderful parks in Toronto too. Though certainly we all want to see mistakes corrected, and like mistakes avoided in the future as Toronto's parks system is added to; or renewed.

I've done much travelling myself. But have to have the privilege of visiting St. Petersburg. ( I can compare Toronto to Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, and a long list of other places. Though I don't I've referenced an international comparison in this thread. Perhaps that time may come.

I am not aware of the approval process for the park design of the city of Toronto yet, and I would want to find out and see what I can do to make the city more suitable for life. I really would want to explore the idea of can we, as a society of like-minded or interested people, do a thing practically to change the situation for the better.

The process varies widely.

But in general; new and substantially refurbished parks are the subject of public consultation.

Sometimes these parks projects are managed by outside designers (not City staff); sometimes, smaller projects are handled by the City's own landscape architects.

If you consult this page:


You will see links to 'new facilities', 'facility improvements (renovation, refurbishment, expansion etc.) and Plans.

Follow each of these links to a list of individual projects, and click on those in which you have an interest.

Most will have some type of design idea posted and an opportunity for public input. Assuming the construction tender has not yet been issued, even if the consultation is closed, you can usually submit a comment for consideration via email.
 

Northern Light

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What if suggest a redesign of June Callwood's space?

The park is getting a re-do.........it will be less bad; but not as good as it could or should be; as they are trying to 'save' the existing design. This is really a case for starting over completely.

One of the improvements I would suggest is to ban Gzowski Bulevard from cars or even turn it entirely into pedestrian mode.

This appears to entirely feasible as I don't see any loading or parking access off the street.

At the very least the street would benefit from narrowing; and being integrated w/the design of the park (use of similar paving materials, and landscape treatments (though please lets not match anything to the existing June Callwood)
 

Aleksei

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Will there be a critique of Claude Comier’s Berzy Park? ;)
I have been on the site tonight. It was a convenient time at the end of a regular day. Neither sun falling behind Yonge street, crowd of managers at their lunchtime, nor cut-off water in the fountain could mitigate drawbacks if they were there.

What I have noticed ...or what I would add very likely to the picture are...more floral decoration (absolutely generously), more warm and bright colors. Is the Canadian midsummer coming or not?

The same as those that are already there on the light posts, but make it pervasive where possible, more noticeable. Can the thoughtful floral decoration really spoil anything?

For instance, below, you can see a sample of what the floral decoration would be quite felicitous.

Have anybody heard about washing the streets with shampoo? I am not calling out to start washing the streets but the essential squares with interesting floor decor could be subjected to washing.

By the way, marble or granite is an excellent material for paving such places as Berczy Park. I even keep wondering why the designers ignored marble or, at least, marble insets. Although, I can exaggerate unconsciously.

And what strikes the eye this time is the benches.
They are well designed and stay in the right places but look a bit worn out, untidy. I am not aware of what is the exact reason for that deterioration, but my assumption is that the choice of wood or, perhaps, the way of treatment of wood should be different.
Maybe the city is planning to refresh those benches? I know that the good way to do that is a season coloration but not sure if it is in local traditions or comes across to the park design. I think natural wood should be used for the benches.
Then the other way to increase durability is to use natural wood passed through a chemical treatment to prevent the outward appearance decay under the solar, wind, and freeze/thaw cycles impact.

What's more, it dawned on me that the lighting design is not 100% mutch the surroundings. It seems stuck somewhere in between centuries, neither contemporary nor heritage. Lightning and the appearance of lightning devices are a crucial part of any street design. I presume that such a professional as Claude Cormier should know that. Every man to his taste, but if we talk about the style of the square, then double-arms lamp posts would fit better from my standpoint.

To sum up, there is a general impression that someone saved a dollar on decorating materials or maintenance... The dogs are lovely. )


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Aleksei

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Whether that's highly visible entrances, some sort of program; not over programming, proper orientation of paths and designs (follow desire lines, facilitate short cuts etc.) or any other number of things.
Nevertheless, current hot weather confirms the rule of thumb - most parks (I would suggest up to 85% of parks' area) should be simply conventional. People don't need stones, concrete, and steel that much. They need grass, tall trees' shadows, and a place and space to play. They need grass to trample, sit, lay, play sports and walk over it. No fences. If we need to rename half of the parks for "playgrounds" to do it, that needs to be done. That is all. Let's say, as long as at least five months of the year weather let people sit on the ground, 45% of the parks' land should be playgrounds. Other 40-45% classical, seasonal, and special (thematic - floral gardens, entertainment, ). And only 10% given for the designer's experiments with the mandatory green parts. All of them should contain children's facilities. There should be a limitation of the minimum park (playground) area, say, 1.5 acres.

Now, we have neighborhoods without notable open recreational green spaces on the area approx. 2000-2500 sq. acres. (Caledonia - Carlton Village - Hillcrest Village). The city has a plan of halfway and quarter-way measures instead of step up and invests to redeem the land of 6-8 adjacent parcels, plant trees, and arrange in the same fashion 3-4 small size parks and playgrounds and undertake adequate measures to build in 5-10 years one large park with the square of 25 acres. As there are no open water spaces it could be working a year-round water park in the best-case scenario.

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Northern Light

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.....They need grass to trample, sit, lay, play sports and walk over it. No fences. If we need to rename half of the parks for "playgrounds" to do it, that needs to be done. That is all. Let's say, as long as at least five months of the year weather let people sit on the ground, 45% of the parks' land should be playgrounds. Other 40-45% classical, seasonal, and special (thematic - floral gardens, entertainment, ). And only 10% given for the designer's experiments with the mandatory green parts.

You certainly have strong opinions and a desire to be prescriptive with them. Which is fine. But I'm not prepared to endorse the above; if only because I find it too specific. I'm also not sure any city in the world achieves the above.

All of them should contain children's facilities.

Here, we 100% disagree. Toronto has over 1,200 parks. Many of which has space for children that is terrible; because the space is too small.
Certainly we should have a larger number of parks with space to play and formal playgrounds ( though very few cities have more than Toronto).
While I agree that some neighbourhoods need more; and many need better, larger play areas than what they currently have.
That shouldn't come from trying to squeeze in a play area where there is no room. Better not to do something, than to do something badly.

There should be a limitation of the minimum park (playground) area, say, 1.5 acres.

What would you do with the over 100 parks Toronto has that are, in their entirety, less than 1.5 acres? Berczy Park, is 0.89 acres!

Now, we have neighborhoods without notable open recreational green spaces on the area approx. 2000-2500 sq. acres. (Caledonia - Carlton Village - Hillcrest Village). The city has a plan of halfway and quarter-way measures instead of step up and invests to redeem the land of 6-8 adjacent parcels, plant trees, and arrange in the same fashion 3-4 small size parks and playgrounds and undertake adequate measures to build in 5-10 years one large park with the square of 25 acres.

While I favour the idea that more large parks would be ideal; and that expansion of existing parks, rather than creating small, less usable spaces should be a point of emphasis......
By and large, this will not happen; and certainly not at the scale of 25 acres with any frequency.
Land value is key here, depending in the area of the City, 25 acres could set you back anywhere from a low of 75M to a high of more than 3B.
That's just for land acquisition, not development; and just for one park.
That's before factoring in the political angle of homeowners or businesses that would face expropriation.
There are absolutely cases to be made for doing just this; but it will not be a routine strategy across the City.

As there are no open water spaces it could be working a year-round water park in the best-case scenario.

A water park?

What do you mean?
 

Aleksei

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I'm also not sure any city in the world achieves the above.
Unfortunately, Toronto occupies the second half of the list of world megapolises ranked by a percentage of public green space. So, there is something to improve yet.


That shouldn't come from trying to squeeze in a play area where there is no room. Better not to do something, than to do something badly.
Ok, I believe kids will be happy if we do not include their playgrounds in public green space. Let them have their own standard per capita. Then we can deal with many of those parks with an area of fewer than 1.5 acres.

There are absolutely cases to be made for doing just this; but it will not be a routine strategy across the City.
The city should somehow find a way to correct planning mistakes of the past. I guess if to ask homeowners in the vicinity about the future development of a park area, then most of the neighborhoods will support the idea as the proximity of the green area will affect the cost of their houses. Alternative apartments in a couple of newly built just behind the corner condos will solve the problem of those who have to pull up their roots.
 
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