Toronto Lower Don Lands Redevelopment | ?m | ?s | Waterfront Toronto

Re: East Gardiner �dea

Early comments:

None of the proposals seemed very realistic to me - huge amounts of earthwork, heavy reliance on landscaping, generally hostile to urbanity.

Re: East Gardiner �dea

My order of preference

1. River + City + Life (STOSS/Brown + Storey/ZAS)

Pros: River has a very natural feel and park and open area layout supports the design. The placement of sports fields north of the Gardiner makes good use of that space. I like the idea of improved connections with connections to the West Don Lands. The developable blocks seem large enough for an urban feel to be developed. The greenway ending with a marina basin and focal point seems like a nice touch.

Cons: Only one bridge to the area across the river and an underutilized Essroc Island makes the area seem distant and unconnected to the rest of the waterfront.

2. Wandering Ecologies (Weiss/Manfredi & du Toit Allsopp Hillier)

Pros: Large contiguous developable tracts of land will enhance the opportunity to create an urban feel. Seems the most artistic of the designs. Design of greenway has a nice river valley feel. Well connected to the East Bayfront.

Cons: River is not as natural and will likely have sedimentation issues. No additional connection to West Don Lands. Not sure the area north of the Gardiner is going to work well with the rail spur and Lakeshore left in their current location crossing through the area.

3. Port Lands Estuary (Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates/Behnisch Architects/Greenberg Consultants/Great Eastern Ecology)

Pros: Keating Channel has a nice urban feel. Additional bridges across the Keating Channel outlet connect the north development with the city. Good utilization of the land north of the Gardiner.

Cons: River feels artificial and the is too much space between developments. No emphasis on connections to West Don Lands. Green fingers will limit the urban feel.

4. Don Mouth Park (Atelier GIROT/Office of Landscape Morphology/ReK Productions)

Pros: The aquarium.

Cons: Thin tracts of development create a less urban feel and seriously lower the potential of the area.
Re: East Gardiner �dea

From the Globe:

Design competition to pick new look for the Don
Four visions for Don Lands unveiled; winner to be named by month's end



To some, the Don River has been treated like Toronto's back door, and a rather shabby one at that.

Now an international design competition, to go on public view on Monday at BCE Place, offers four different visions of the Don River as a new front door to the city's eastern waterfront.

The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, which yesterday unveiled the submissions of four designs for the lower Don Lands, asked bidders for "big ideas" on how to naturalize the mouth of the Don River as it flows into Lake Ontario and, just as important, bring the derelict Port Lands to life as an urban place for people to live, work and play.

"This should be the jewel of the harbour," said John Campbell, president and CEO of the waterfront agency, set up by the city, the province and the federal government to manage long-term renewal of lakefront lands.

A panel of judges -- architect and TWRC design review panel chairman Bruce Kuwabara, photographer Ed Burtynsky, architects Renée Daoust and Charles Waldheim, and structural engineer Morden Yolles -- will pick the winner by the end of this month.

But not all the pieces are in place. Much of the Port Lands, a future neighbourhood for up to 20,000 people beginning by 2010-11, is owned by the city or the province, with key parcels still privately held.

Mr. Campbell said his agency is in discussion with private land owners. "We want to make sure people are dealt with as fairly as possible," he said.

Other private holdings covered by the design competition include property owned by Home Depot, north of the Keating Channel and west of Cherry Street.

Home Depot wants a go-ahead from the Ontario Municipal Board for a hearing to redevelop the vacant land. But TWRC hopes the provincial agency will put off the request, given city and provincial interest in a far-reaching overhaul of the eastern end of the waterfront.

The four design teams were asked to free the Don River, which gets clogged with silt as it is forced into a sharp-angled turn into the Keating Channel.

The $80-million project is the focus of an environmental review expected to be completed in two years.

No less important is the transformation of former industrial lands in the Port Lands for several new riverfront neighbourhoods, new public transit lines along Queens Quay Boulevard and Cherry Street, and new bridges to the Port Lands.

The key question for the competition, says Christopher Glaisek, vice-president of planning and design for the waterfront agency, is, "How do you urbanize and naturalize at the same time?"

Re: East Gardiner �dea

And Hume, from the Star:

The Lower Don's rise
The long-forgotten area around the foot of the Don is attracting attention from urban designers.
Where river meets lake is a forgotten bit of city. But four plans show how it could become one of T.O.'s most desirable areas
Apr 14, 2007 02:30 AM
Christopher Hume

Right now, the Lower Don Lands are little more than a forgotten part of the city people drive past on their way somewhere else.

But when – and if – the waterfront revitalization ever happens, it could be one of the most desirable areas of Toronto.

The potential is vast, just how vast comes clear in the plans submitted by the four finalists in the Lower Don Lands Design Competition. Organized by the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp., the contest covers a critical district of the city where the Don River empties into Lake Ontario, from the Parliament St. slip east to the Don Roadway.

This is where nature and urbanity meet, sometimes not very happily, and where the possibilities are most exciting.

All four teams picked up on that, and in its own way each re-imagines Toronto as a waterfront city, a place fully integrated with its environment.

The best of the quartet, from Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (New York), Behnisch Architects (Los Angeles) and Ken Greenberg (Toronto), would retain the Keating Channel but add a second waterway (an estuary) to the south. The channel, which replaced the mouth of the Don decades ago, would be lined with housing on both sides. The earth excavated to create the new estuary would be used to extend the Don Lands to the west and create a new park.

"The Keating Channel would become an urban channel," Van Valkenburgh explains. "Beyond that there would be a whole series of neighbourhoods and parks."

Practical and poetic, the scheme would be completed in six phases during the course of 20 to 30 years, which is why it has been designed for maximum flexibility.

A close second is the proposal from Stoss Landscape Urbanism (Boston), Brown + Storey Architects (Toronto) and ZAS Architects (Toronto). As team leader Jill Desimini says, "The idea is to bring the lake to the city, instead of bringing the city to the lake."

The group suggests a dramatic mix of wild spaces and highly urban housing complexes built around courtyards. The Don would turn west before entering into the lake, with a marsh that would accommodate the Don when it floods.

The group has also emphasized environmentalism and its expectation is that the Don Lands would be a net exporter of energy. Geothermal, solar and wind turbines would be used, making each building an energy generator. Given that there will eventually be 10,000 housing units on the 40-hectare site, that would be no mean feat.

The third team, Atelier Girot (Zurich), Office of Landscape Morphology (Paris) and Jurgen Mayer (Berlin), presented a plan based on the concept of "ecological fingers" – land and water – that would clasp like two hands in the area south of the mouth of the Don. Each finger would have a boardwalk lined with lowrise residential towers. The highlight is an enormous aquarium nestled around the Victory Silos at the foot of Parliament St.

"Our intention is to create a different relationship with nature," says Christophe Girot, "a new way of living with water. It will be a machine for living in the future."

This very thoughtful and visionary exercise might best be understood as a process designed to reconcile the environment with the natural world. It is more about establishing a set of conditions that would allow density to exist without harming nature.

The fourth offering, from Weiss/Manfredi (New York), du Toit Allsopp Hiller (Toronto) and McCormack Rankin Corp. (Toronto), intervenes minimally into existing conditions. The big gesture is the Don's widening as it turns west at the lakeshore. The east end of the Don Lands, directly south of the mouth, would become a large park with sports fields. It would also handle floodwaters and be lined on both sides by berms that could be installed with amphitheatre seating. Buildings would serve to define the open space.

It's worth noting all four schemes assume the continued existence of the Gardiner Expressway. Some of the participants were even referring to it as "heroic" and as the "main heritage element of the site."

Interesting how the raised highway has gone from something that must go to one that can be successfully incorporated. No doubt that will make drivers – and politicians – happy, but one wonders just how much better waterfront integration would be without it.

"I'm thrilled," says TWRC vice-president of planning and development, Chris Glaisek. "The entries are fantastic. There was some skepticism because there are so many elements."

All four entries – models, maps and drawings – will be on display at the BCE Place Atrium for eight days starting Monday. The teams will present their plans at a public session from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday evening.

The winner will be announced in early May.

Re: East Gardiner �dea


For the record, I think the STOSS/B+S/ZAS proposal is the best of the lot as well; though I have some reservations with regards to the design of the urban blocks.

Re: East Gardiner �dea

I also like STOSS/B+S/ZAS the most, the main issue being the island, but that may also be an opportunity to have something interesting and iconic with the bridge as long as cyclists and pedestrians are taken into consideration properly.
Re: East Gardiner �dea

It's worth noting all four schemes assume the continued existence of the Gardiner Expressway. Some of the participants were even referring to it as "heroic" and as the "main heritage element of the site."

Interesting how the raised highway has gone from something that must go to one that can be successfully incorporated. No doubt that will make drivers – and politicians – happy, but one wonders just how much better waterfront integration would be without it.

Though note which part of the Gardiner is being hailed--the part most likely to be kept as a freestanding sculpture, should the rest be demolished...
Re: East Gardiner �dea

Loads of people at BCE Galleria last night for the presentations.

One of them, Atelier Girot, provided us with our first Reely Reely Big Aquarium sighting of the year. All those buzzwords - green, environment, ecology etc. - but they want to trap thousands of poor little fishies in a great big architecturally significant building.
Re: East Gardiner �dea

Why is it that these competitions always bring out the wackiest groups? I'm waiting for the day we get a proposal from Alsop that involves raising the river into a giant aqueduct on stilts...
Re: East Gardiner �dea


Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing Alsop elevate the DVP on OCAD-like coloured toothpick stilts. Or the Gardiner.

Re: East Gardiner �dea

I've just had a chance to look at the Brown+Storey et al proposal, but I'm really unimpressed with the built form. They seem to do a terrible job of addressing all of the waterways, particularly the shipping channel. Instead of a continuous, pedestrian friendly street wall, they have haphazardly arranged towers in a park. The shipping channel promenade even goes through a tunnel under a building.

I like the MMVA design better. It seems to have a better chance to create walkable waterside strips that are so successful in other cities and simply don't exist in Toronto. The parkland are is still vast, however, and I question whether that much green space is necessary, along with the Don River Park, Commissioners Park, Lake Ontario Park, Ashbridges Bay waterfront, the Toronto Islands, and all of the Central Waterfront and East Bayfront parks.

The Weiss/Manfredi design is sort of interesting, and the new Christie Pits is kind of a neat touch. Unfortunately, I think it also does a very poor job of relating the city to the water. It seems to prefer separating all urban uses from all water, believing that the water is somehow abused if it isn't surrounded by parkland.

The Girot design is attractive, but it still divides the area up into blocks far too small to achieve critical mass. It also seems to feel the need to line the ship channel with a very wide grass space. I think that Toronto will have plenty of grassy waterfront space, but a dire shortage of urban space around the water. The ship channel is a uniquely ideal spot for the latter.

All of these designs seem to make the Commissioners Park rather superfluous. It was supposed to be the park centrepiece of the port lands, but now all the designs place parks which are at least 5 times the size right next door.
Re: East Gardiner �dea

Well, not really. Commissioners Park would be at least as large as any single patch of park in any of the plans. But the point is that all four of the plans eliminate Commissioners Park and place its facilities elsewhere.
Re: East Gardiner �dea

I know, and I prefer the new locations for the most part, but I still think that it's far too much naturalized parkland when combined with the Lake Ontario Park and Don River Park. I would add that all the proposed parks are significantly larger than Commissioners.

Anyway, I'm even more convinced that the MMVA plan is the best. I love how it relates to the Keating Channel, making it an urban waterway, and I think that the single large park makes it less of a barrier. The park even narrows at Cherry Street to make for a bit less dead space.

I like the Brown and Storey green bridge over to the West Don Lands and the railyard cafe, but I think that the green fingers chop the neighbourhood into little chunks that wouldn't have the critical mass to succeed. I definitely hope that the buildings won't appear as they are in the plan if they are chosen. They're towers in a park, especially along the ship channel, and they don't seem to do much to front on any of the waterways. I fear that they will be built since they seem to follow the Toronto pattern of tall condos with little podiums.

I just noticed that Hume prefers the MMVA plan. I must say that I agree with his points this time.