It doesn't look like much in most spots, but the strip of land underneath those hydro pylons runs over three miles across west Toronto. In some spots it is used as park; in others, parking. It is a disconnected mess, pieces separated by fences and grade changes.
But when Helena Grdadolnik of Workshop Architecture looks at it, she sees green:
Imagine our electricity infrastructure as a Green Line -- a continuous pedestrian and cycling link across the middle of the city and a public space and recreational amenity to the many neighbourhoods across Toronto that it links. We encourage multidisciplinary teams to propose bold ideas and practical solutions to address important issues such as alternative transportation.
In a city that is pretty short on vision these days, she has a lot of it, and has organized a design competition to "stimulate dialogue and action."
The ideas will not be built, but they are meant to get the communities who live, study and work near the site to start thinking about its future. Also, the intent is to demonstrate the value of creating a unified vision along the length of the entire hydro corridor, rather than to have this space develop in a piecemeal way.
The hydro right-of-way is next to a rail line, so it is regularly interrupted by dreary underpasses.
With the significant grade change created to get vehicles to pass under the tracks, there is a physical and visual break to continued movement along the Green Line at these eight moments. At Dovercourt Road, due to heavy traffic and problems with visibility, the intersection north of the underpass is particularly difficult to cross east-west for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
I have lived much of my life within a block of the proposed green line; I run on this section every day. It is hard to imagine that it could all be connected; there are so many competing interests, let alone fences and underpasses. And this is in Toronto, where nothing happens quickly except tearing up bike lanes and reversing plastic bag bans. But as John Lorinc notes in the Globe and Mail,
While such exercises often get bogged down in plodding public consultation processes, Ms. Grdadolnik sees the Green Line contest as a way to spark the public’s imagination and persuade the city to develop a master plan to guide future open-space investments. “If you have a plan,” she said, “at least you can be strategic.”
I hope architects, landscape architects and designers from around the world enter this competition; we could use some fresh ideas. Enter at Green Line Ideas Competition. There's prize money and it will be published in Spacing Magazine.