Toronto Architect Proposes Greenwrapping Elevated Highway

In Seoul or San Francisco, they took down their expressways. In New York, they built the High Line on top of an abandoned elevated rail line. In Toronto, they don't have the guts to tear down the Gardiner expressway, so architect Les Klein has come up with the typical compromise solution: Put a High Line on top of the expressway.

Klein states the obvious to Paige Magarrey in Azure:

"Once you tear it down, it's gone."

Well yes, that might be the point. But Klein says if we keep it we might have both a better highway and a park.

Accessed via stairs and ramps at all intersections, the Green Ribbon would also have elevators and concessions at the busier junctions. From melting snow to lighting, the whole project would be self-powered by wind turbines and photovoltaic systems lining the whole seven kilometers.

Klein knows all the green arguments.

The most green thing you can do is not sending something to a landfill," he says, adding that the amount of energy required to dispose of all the rubble would be staggering.

Meanwhile, the Green Ribbon could decrease the heat island effect in Toronto, while adding green space and giving the people living around it a completely different kind of view. But most importantly, he says, a concept like this stops the city from making a decision that it's not ready to make yet. "Once we take down the Gardiner, it's gone for good."


Klein then takes a huge leap and calls the Gardiner a heritage structure.

"It's time to think about the Gardiner in a different way," he says. The Green Ribbon is intended to get Torontonians reflecting on what the Gardiner once was — and what it could be in the future. "Cities are often judged by how they treat their heritage," he says. "40 years ago, the Gardiner was a symbol of progress, a symbol of success, a symbol of power. You can't just snap your fingers and say 'that doesn't matter.'"

Sometimes you can. Sometimes you just have to look past the solar panels, wind turbines, bicycle paths and even invocations of minimizing waste and point out that it is a highway full of cars that are being dumped into downtown, not a heritage structure. Greenwrapping it doesn't change that.

More in Azure and National Post
More on elevated highways:
Removing Highways Can Reduce Traffic Jams
Ten North American Freeways Without Futures
Toronto's Becel Ride for the Heart

More on Greenwrapping, the art of taking something completely offensive and making it less so by covering it in a green roof and adding turbines and solar panels.
Arquitectonica Greenwraps a Parking Garage
Are Green Roofs the New Mirrored Glass?
Greenwash Watch: Greenwrapping: Solar Panels on a New Gas Fired Generator

Tags: Architects | Toronto | Transportation | Urban Life

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