Green Dreams for Toronto's City Hall


image from Daily Dose of Imagery

Every third postcard of Toronto is of our iconic City Hall, product of an open international competition won by Viljo Revell, and including a magnificent public square. In the 40 years since it opened there have been changes and some deterioration, so a new competition was held, with the final four just revealed. The square is beloved by architects and a work of genius, so it is not surprising that it is treated reverently, and most of the schemes seem more interested in restoring it than changing it significantly. Since it is part of our lives, it is perhaps understandable that the most radical scheme was prepared by a New York architect who did not have the emotional baggage of the others. However they are all very green and full of ideas. We defer to Christopher Hume of the Star for the explanations and criticism.Plant Architects (Toronto)

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"This elegant and subtle scheme envisions the raised podium as a lawn and sculpture garden. On the east side of the square, where the ramp leads up to the podium, there would be a small outdoor eatery – Café Revell – and a new tree canopy along the neglected Bay St. edge. Much energy has been focused on the "Queen St. Forecourt," which would consist of a dense planting of trees along Queen as well as new seating and lighting. A permanent stage with change rooms, etc., a half-level below street, would be added as would a new restaurant west of a "skating support pavilion," both on an axis with the skating rink. These new structures would be connected by the raised walkway on the west side of the square."

Baird Sampson Neuert
(Toronto)

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"Perhaps the most overtly environmental of the submissions, it proposes the podium become a green roof where rainwater is collected and filtered. The raised walkway would be transformed into a "watergarden promenade that serves as an aqueduct for irrigating linear planters and for conducting water to cisterns at the east and west sides of the square." Photovoltaics and wind turbines would also feature prominently. Again, the west edge would be turned into a large green area, with trees, a pool and the new Peace Garden. The team also suggests a large, transparent "meeting place pavilion" for the west side of the square."

Rogers Marvel (New York)

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"The big gesture in this proposal is a raised woodland/meadow that would extend almost from Queen to the north end of city hall. Planted with trees and flowers, it would form the roof of a glass-enclosed public room, complete with fireplace, that overlooks the existing skating rink/reflecting pool as well as a new, smaller pond to the west. The podium around the circular council chamber would also become a meadow and the Peace Garden moved west."

Zeidler Partnership (Toronto):

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"The loudest of the quartet, the highlight of this scheme is a raised garden that undulates as it moves along the west side of the square by Osgoode Hall. It culminates at Queen as the roof of a two-storey glass-enclosed restaurant. The entrance on Queen would be brought to life with a "moveable garden," a grid, of large, 2.4-metre-by-2.4-metre, concrete planters. The walls of the raised walkway that runs along Queen would be replaced with glass to allow a greater sense of connection and better views in and out. The proposal also suggests a new glass entrance at Queen and Bay. And that obtrusive ventilation shaft that now extends along Queen would be replaced by a series of vertical funnels that would be as sculptural as they are utilitarian."

We were very attracted to the Marvel scheme, primarlily because the space to the west of the collonade has always been separated and although this walkway has historically enclosed and defined the square, on this side it just an impediment. A bold move, but perhaps too bold as the new undulating wall impinges on the square. (read more commentary at ::Spacing Wire and ::Reading Toronto. Good coverage as well at ::Torontoist.

Tags: Toronto