The City of Toronto has released its plan for new public space installations within the King Street Transit Pilot area, including the results of a design-build competition announced in the winter by Mayor John Tory to help activate the street and attract more visitors to support local businesses. Along with the previously planned installations from the City and local businesses, the design-build competition, titled Everyone is King, selected 12 winners from a total of 96 entries to build new public spaces and parklets along the busy street. Construction of these spaces has already begun, with most installations planned to be completed by the end of May, weather permitting.

In total, as many as 44 new public spaces will be installed along the stretch of King between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets. These include:

  • Two durable destination parklets, selected from the design-build competition;
  • 10 temporary public space installations, selected from the design-build competition;
  • 12 City-designed initiatives, which include bicycle parking corrals, trees, and Muskoka chairs;
  • Up to 16 cafe patios and three business-operated public installations, operated by the local businesses; and
  • Four student and recent graduate projects from a City of Toronto and Ryerson University Office of Social Innovation partnership called ShapeLab.

View of the intersection of King and Bathurst, image by Forum contributor peter.d.

Let's take a closer look at the winning competition designs that will shape King Street over the summer:

Parklet Winner 1: King Street Causeway

Location: South side of King between Blue Jays Way and John Street

Winning team: IBI Group in collaboration with PCL Construction

Description from the project team: The King Street Causeway is a durable destination parklet which celebrates the pedestrian experience along King Street. Comprised of interlocking hexagonal modules at varying heights, these formations accommodate a diverse program for both individuals and groups. During the day, it is a place for pedestrians to sit and relax while taking in the bustle of the city. By sundown, it becomes a beacon in the Entertainment District, catering to Toronto’s vibrant nightlife. The illuminated crystals have a dichroic quality, reflecting and transmitting an infinite colour spectrum. No two views are the same, creating a dynamic user experience while animating Toronto’s urban streetscape. 

Rendering of King Street Causeway, image courtesy of IBI Group.

Parklet Winner 2: Face to Face/Tête à Tête

Location: North side of King between Victoria Street and Toronto Street

Winning team: PLANT Architect Inc. (Lisa Rapoport, Christopher Pommer, Mary Tremain, Eric Klaver, Lisa Dietrich, Vanessa Sokic, Isabel Ochoa, Leela Keshav, René Fan, and Patricia Joong) in collaboration with Oriole Landscaping Ltd (Peter Guinane, Ianos Czika, and Stefan Fridfinnson)

Description from the project team: Face to Face/Tête à Tête creates a place for shared conversation along the street. With two unexpectedly long tables, flanked by continuous benches and wrapped with planting, this is a place for concentrated community conversation—animated inside the words Face to Face/Tête à Tête dynamically projected over all of the street furniture surfaces. The narrow striking blue and orange space promotes both intimacy within the bustle of King Street, and deliberately intensifies the conversation. Shaped like boomerangs, one table angles toward the street, and one toward the sidewalk, subtly inviting participants to the table angled to watch the passers-by on the sidewalk, or to hail to those on bike and streetcar. The table is a central focus recalling big family dinners—promoting larger collective/community gathering, yet the narrowness allows for individual occupation, co-working, musing, lunching, and dreaming. 

Rendering of Face to Face/Tête à Tête, image courtesy of PLANT Architect.

Public Space Winner 1: Asphalt Poetry

Location: South side of King, just west of Brant Street.

Winning team: Plant Architect Inc. (Lisa Rapoport, Christopher Pommer, Mary Tremain, Eric Klaver, Patricia Joong) in collaboration with Poet Ronna Bloom and Arrow Graphics & Signs Inc.

Description from the project team: Poetry needs to be read more than once. Read a little today, then a little more tomorrow. Read it all at once. Or savour only some of the words today, and another tomorrow. Read snippets while you are walking, while you are cycling, while you are on the streetcar, fleetingly. ASPHALT POETRY is both a ground mural and a performance collaboration. The poem The City (by Ronna Bloom) is presented on the ground – able to be read from the North and the South, at different speeds, words intermingling.

Rendering of Asphalt Poetry, image courtesy of PLANT Architect.

Public Space Winner 2: #WouldYouRatherTO

Location: North side of King between Spadina Avenue and Charlotte Street

Winning team: Urban Minds in collaboration with All Custom Carpentry, RevelHouse Architecture, Hamann Engineering Structural Consultants Ltd, Rachael Ng Graphics, and Iris Li Graphics

Description from the project team: "Would you rather only have a spoon or a knife to eat with?” #WouldYouRatherTO is a physical-digital interactive art experience that brings people together through friendly banter. Answer a "would you rather" question by spinning one of the two-coloured buoys to the colour of your choice. Snap a photo and share your own question with the hashtag #WouldYouRatherTO for a chance to be featured next month. So, which one will it be, spoon or knife? Let us know at #WouldYouRatherTO at King and Spadina.

Rendering of #WouldYouRatherTO, image courtesy of Urban Minds.

Public Space Winner 3: The Spark

Location: South side of King between Spadina Avenue and Blue Jays Way

Winning team: Andrea Bickley, Edvard Bruun, Alex Flash, Alice Huang, Camille Kauffman, Michael Laanvere, Tudor Munteanu, Éamonn Pinto, Rebecca Shaw

Description from the project team: Get pedaling and light the Spark! This installation harnesses pedal power to illuminate the space. Through the power of their hands or feet, users will work together to bring the installation to life — creating a shared experience that can last as long as the users want. Only when all four bikes are in use will the full effect be revealed. The Spark facilitates random interactions between strangers, a shared moment of fun and reflection amid the busy pace of the city. This project hopes to inspire discussion about how our city is powered and how we can increase our production of clean energy. The Spark enhances the use of public space, even once the sun sets.

Rendering of The Spark, image courtesy of The Spark team.

Public Space Winner 4: The Present Moment

Location: North side of King between Charlotte Street and Peter Street

Winning team: Hello Kirsten

Description from the project team: The Present Moment is an invitation to pause in the midst of a bustling city. Beginning with an eye-catching road mural that draws attention away from inner thoughts and outer chaos, this installation invites those passing by to stop and relax in a country chair… observing the lively street and reflecting on the beauty and tranquility that can be found wherever we seek them, should we only pause for long enough to look.

Rendering of The Present Moment, image courtesy of Hello Kirsten.

Public Space Winner 5: Ziggy

Location: South side of King between John Street and Simcoe Street, adjacent David Pecaut Square.

Winning team: Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster; fabricated by Christine Dewancker and Naomi Soares.

Description from the project team: Tracing a line in space and presenting opportunities for open-ended exploration, ‘Ziggy’ is an invitation to linger on King Street. Simple and playful, this painted tubular steel frame is a ‘social infrastructure’ – a piece of urban furniture that provides potential shared moments. As an analog prompt in a digital age, this structure hopes to connect and bring people together.

Facing the street, the crown-like continuous zigzag provides a clear identity for 'Ziggy' with V-supports that open up to allow access on the sidewalk-side. The two sides are tied together by a series of occupiable bars at different heights, allowing people of different shapes and sizes to find their ideal place to lean on and hang out. The simplicity of 'Ziggy' is enhanced by the strong colour that ties it together and helps to claim the space while being light-hearted. As a sculptural armature ‘Ziggy’ is an open-thick boundary, a zone of possibilities that invites exploration and occupation.

Rendering of Ziggy, image courtesy of Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik.

Public Space Winner 6: Woggle Jungle

Location: South side of King between John Street and Simcoe Street, adjacent David Pecaut Square.

Winning team: VPA Studio (Victor Perez-Amado, Anton Skorishchenko, and Michael De Luca) in collaboration with Make Studio (Dina Sarhane and Mani Mani)

Description from the project team: Set within the heart of Toronto’s downtown core, the Woggle Jungle is a squishy mini-park amongst a forest of glass towers. Hundreds of colourful foam noodles are clustered together to create a cheerful and immersive environment that encourages play and relaxation in our city’s busiest district. Seating benches made from foam noodles are scattered throughout to create opportunities for rest and social interaction for adults and children alike.

Rendering of Woggle Jungle, image courtesy of VPA Studio.

Public Space Winner 7: Everyone is (a) Kid

Location: South side of King between John Street and Simcoe Street, adjacent David Pecaut Square.

Winning team: Anthony Renditya, Chelsea Alexander, Ian Kendall, Iva Mihaylova, Jeffery Kwong, Katrina Beaudette, Krysia Bussiere, Ryan Guiricich, Sam Spagnuolo

Description from the project team: Amidst the busyness of King Street, it’s hard to remember a simpler time…Everyone is (a) Kid aims to engage the child in all of us to rediscover King Street. Every kid needs a place to play and every adult needs a place to feel like a kid again. Everyone is (a) Kid integrates a light-hearted splash of childhood into the public realm. Through a simple medium – milk crates, the Lego-inspired form offers a place for relaxation, wonderment, and exploration… whether you are savouring a fresh brewed coffee, basking in the sun at lunch, or hanging out with your kids on a Saturday afternoon. The burst of golden yellow in the daytime, or softly filtered by the street lights in the evenings, will create a destination for all to enjoy and a bright moment in everyone's busy life on the busiest streetcar route in the city.

Rendering of Everyone is (a) Kid, image courtesy of Everyone is (a) Kid team.

Public Space Winner 8: WATCH YOUR STEP!

Location: South side of King between Yonge Street and Victoria Street

Winning team: Stephanie Boutari

Description from the project team: WATCH YOUR STEP! is an abstract geometric road mural composed of brightly coloured triangles that appear to fold in and out of the road’s surface. The tiled format of the design takes its cue from concrete pavers – a ubiquitous and often unremarkable material. Here, the use of colour visually transforms an ordinary two-dimensional surface into a three-dimensional one by creating a sense of movement and visual depth.

Rendering of WATCH YOUR STEP!, image courtesy of Stephanie Boutari.

Public Space Winner 9: The King \ St

Location: North side of King between Toronto Street and Church Street

Winning team: BRENS North America in collaboration with O2 Planning + Design

Description from the project team: The King \ St exhibits the city's first modular urban green park, showcasing a unique material made from recycled automotive textile waste and enabling real grass to grow. Pockets of occupiable spaces are created from individual letters that collectively spell out “KING ST”. These letters are highlighted in bold yellow, creating a vibrant place-making sign when viewed from above. At ground level, the letters act as "rooms" with seating and benches of various heights as well as places to relax on the newly formed grass. Users can also charge their phones using Canada’s first smart bench while enjoying the space. The benches have a Photovoltaic (PV) panel on the top so that it is fully self-sufficient and does not require power. With its high water retention, load bearing capacity, and thermal and acoustic insulating properties, this recycled growing material (STERED) has great potential for urban environments.

Rendering of The King \ St, image courtesy of BRENS North America and O2 Planning + Design.

Public Space Winner 10: King's Buried Treasure

Location: North side of King between Church Street and Jarvis Street, adjacent St. James Park.

Winning team: Karen Roberts in collaboration with Cindy Scaife and Marg Cresswell

Description from the project team: During the formative days of Toronto, multiple creeks traversed the land along King Street from Bathurst to Jarvis. Cathedral Creek flowed through St. James Park beneath the site of The Cathedral Church of St. James, from Jarvis and King to Church and Adelaide. At least 8 more creeks crossed King Street. They are now buried or dried up. This road mural depicts a stream, edged with rocks, pebbles, mud and brush, resurrecting the lost creeks of King Street. It will be painted in blues, greens, browns, greys, white and reds. The mural meanders along the public space, adding colour, beautifying the street and providing an infusion of nature in the heart of downtown. Animal footprints will be painted onto the road using a super hydrophobic solution. This animated feature will be invisible in dry weather and visible when it rains. Horse, deer, moose, rabbit, fox, beaver, racoon, squirrel and bird tracks will surround the stream when wet. As the sun shines and dries the sidewalk, their existence will fade from sight, just as the creatures did. The ghostly images will encourage passersby to return during wet weather. The audience can test their knowledge in identifying the animal tracks.

Rendering of King's Buried Treasure, image courtesy of Karen Roberts.

The King Street Transit Pilot runs until the end of 2018, and most public space installations and parklets will remain for the full duration. The City of Toronto stresses that, as it was before, King Street will remain open to vehicular traffic, with designated pick-up and drop-off locations for drivers and loading maintained along the full length of the pilot.

As the warm weather has finally arrived, head down to King Street and check out the installations as they are completed, and enjoy one of Toronto's most important streets as you've never seen it before!