Toronto's Underpass Park "Will Change The City Forever"


Images credit Waterfront Toronto

New York has the High Line, an industrial relic that has been turned into an urban wonder. Everybody is trying to imitate its success; the normally sensible architect Les Klein even proposed building a knockoff on top of Toronto's Gardiner Expressway. Fortunately, reason and originality have prevailed, and Toronto is getting a clever park that is built under the expressway.

Toronto Star architecture critic Chris Hume says it " will transform the lower east side of Toronto, and with it the rest of the city."

Elevated expressways are right up there on the list of most effective city-killers, but here at least the space beneath Toronto's infamous raised highways will be transformed into something open, accessible, usable, and even enjoyable.

That's a lot to ask, but Vancouver landscape architecture firm Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg has devised a program of sports courts, cafes and wooden strips that rise out of the ground to become benches. Not surprisingly, lighting will feature prominently in the new facility, part of an effort to make up for the lack of daylight.

"This is transformative," declared federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. "It's important not just for Toronto, but for Canada."


It certainly is a transformation; here is the before picture, with Ben Kutner's Cube buildings in the distance. They were modelled on Piet Blom's 1984 Cubic Houses in Rotterdam,

And alas, it appears that they didn't make it into the "after" rendering. But nonetheless, this park could have the kind of influence in this former industrial wasteland that the High Line did in the meatpacking district of New York, if Mayor Quimby and his monorail- obsessed brother don't manage to kill it all. More in the Star

Meanwhile, in the west end of Toronto, The Patkau Architects are building a visitors centre for Fort York almost under a section of the highway that is almost cathedral-like in its grandeur. It is really getting interesting down there.

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Tags: Toronto