Since mid-2021, Parks Canada has been putting together a plan for the development of a new Visitors Centre at Rouge National Urban Park, a 12,000-acre greenspace surrounding the Rouge River, covering portions of Scarborough, Pickering, and Markham. The last few years of ideation have culminated in a proposal that contemplates a single-storey building defined by an irregular Y-shaped footprint, crafted by the design team of Moriyama & Teshima and Two Row Architect, in a move that seeks to catalyze greater engagement of the visitors with the park. 

Partial view of the design of the single-storey Visitors Centre, image from submission to City of Toronto

The proposal envisions the site of the current Rouge Valley Conservation Centre as the ideal position for a more elaborate facility that can drive local tourism. Located at the address of 1749 Meadowvale Road, immediately to the east of the Toronto Zoo, the site is situated at the primary entry point to the Park. The existing Conservation Centre, a traditional two-storey farmhouse, would be retained as part of the project, while the lands located immediately to the south would see extensive redevelopment to erect the new Visitor Centre building as well as the creation of a number of landscaped outdoor spaces designed to accommodate family and recreational programming, and 227 new surface parking spaces. 

Site plan shows position of proposed building south of existing building, image from submission to City of Toronto

The design for the Visitors Centre structure is framed around the y-shaped floorplan, which is created by the intersection of three pentagonal prisms, each with different lengths, at a central point. While lacking any clear symmetry, the building’s three wings come together quite seamlessly to create an interesting spatial composition that interacts organically with the surrounding programming. 

While the massing is the apparent focal point of the design, a number of other feature elements shine in their own right. The building’s glazing system, for example, blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor space through the use of floor-to-ceiling windows along the northern elevation. 

Floor to ceiling glazing on north elevation blends interior and exterior spaces, image from submission to City of Toronto

Meanwhile, a blank wall condition on the west elevation is improved greatly through the selection of cladding materials, employing a charred wood panelling that is contextually fitting within the natural setting. Other cladding materials across the building include black-coloured aluminium siding, and cedar panelling for the soffits of the various canopy sections, while the roof is composed of PVC.

Black wall on west elevation features clean finish of charred wood panels, image from submission to City of Toronto

The architectural plans indicate that interior programming will be split between office space for Parks Canada and a gift shop in the northwest wing, washrooms and food offerings in the south wing, and a learning centre in the east wing. The central space however, will remain flexible for different kinds of programming, enjoying natural light from all sides as well as from above through the large triangular skylight. 

3D model of proposed building shows Y-shaped plan, image from submission to City of Toronto

The building itself is only half of the vision for the Visitors Centre though, as the proposal is rounded out by an extensive landscape plan presided over by Studio Ian Gray. Working in concert with the Y-shaped footprint of the building, the proposal envisions three different landscaped areas occupying the space around the building, as well as a larger multipurpose lawn and a First Nations circle both located further south. 

Landscaped outdoor space around the Visitors Centre, image from submission to City of Toronto

The different spaces surrounding the building are identified as the Participation Garden, Restoration Plaza, and the Food Terrace, and offer visitors a number of ways to enjoy the facility outdoors. Highlights of the landscaping plan include a number of sculptures by indigenous artists, a fire pit on the west side of the lawn, and an extensive arrangement of native plants including a total of 195 trees. 

Landscape plan demonstrates extensive planting proposed, with 195 trees, image from submission to City of Toronto

The proposal was first submitted to the City in July of 2022, with an application for Site Plan Approval, and was resubmitted with the updated plans in February. Approval would allow Parks Canada to continue their efforts to drive engagement with the expansive urban park, providing facilities that aim to improve the experience for families and indigenous peoples.  

UrbanToronto will continue to follow progress on this development, but in the meantime, you can learn more about it from our Database file, linked below. If you'd like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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