Tag Archives: Toronto

Towards a Passive Architecture

This is an article I wrote for Canadian Architect magazine.

Residential designers across Canada are stretching to reach the low-energy metrics of the rigorous Passivhaus standard. Now, the standard is also stretching out to reach them.

The seeds of the modern passive house industry were sown in Regina in 1977. Prompted by the oil crisis, a team of researchers constructed the visionary Saskatchewan Conservation House—a home three times more energy-efficient than the average contemporary home, with no furnace. Unfortunately, the burgeoning Canadian interest in advanced building was curtailed after an abrupt drop in energy prices.

A decade later in Germany, the rigorous voluntary Passivhaus standard was born. In 1990, a group of designers built a row of townhouses as a proof of concept. The row homes encapsulated the standard’s core principles: super-insulation, extreme airtightness and use of passive solar techniques. Passivhaus mandates annual energy limits for heating and cooling (each 15 kWh per square metre of floor area), total energy consumption (120 kWh per square metre of floor area) and air leakage (0.6 air changes per hour). The resulting buildings use up to 90% less energy than conventional ones and require little or no additional heating, beyond that supplied by recycled air, occupants’ body heat, lighting and appliances. How specifically a building meets these performance requirements is up to its designers.

The Rainbow Passive House by Marken Design. Photo by Marken Design + Consulting

The Rainbow Passive House by Marken Design. Photo by Marken Design + Consulting

There are now estimated to be some 30,000 certified Passivhaus buildings worldwide. North American designers are among those that have taken on the challenge. One such firm, Vancouver-based Marken Design, has over a dozen Passivhaus projects completed or on the go. The success of its Rainbow Passive House in Whistler helped educate local residents and policy makers on energy-efficient design. It was inspired by a prefabricated model shipped from Austria and assembled for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and was the first Canadian-built project to be certified by the Passivhaus Institute.

Rainbow Passive House boasts a super-insulated, virtually airtight shell constructed with prefabricated panels by manufacturer BC Passive House.  The 16”-thick section comprises a 2” x 4” service wall nested inside a 2” x 10” structural and insulating wall. The exterior wall is filled with blown-in cellulose, and sheathed on the inside with oriented strand board that acts as both air barrier and vapour retarder. To minimize penetrations to the airtight barrier, plumbing and electrical are routed through the interior wall, built on site by the contractor.

South Surrey Passive House’s heavy-duty windows. Photo by Marken Design + Consulting

South Surrey Passive House’s heavy-duty windows. Photo by Marken Design + Consulting

The Passivhaus-certified home also includes multi-lock triple-pane windows, a 95%-efficient HRV that provides a complete air change every 90 minutes, and a ductless mini-split heat pump. The owners enjoy smaller energy bills, decreased noise and reduced maintenance. They’ve commented on indoor comfort—the consistent temperature and fresh interior air. Principal Alex Maurer credits these gains to Passivhaus’s proprietary design software, which uses thermodynamic modelling calculations to predict heat flow. This enables designers to fine-tune components to meet project design goals and energy objectives.

The firm’s South Surrey Passive House, completed in 2013, has not yet needed to turn on its heat. Photo by Marken Design + Consulting

The firm’s South Surrey Passive House, completed in 2013, has not yet needed to turn on its heat. Photo by Marken Design + Consulting

To keep costs reasonable, Maurer guides clients towards strategically investing in elements that cannot be easily updated in the future. His project budgets are weighted towards the building envelope. Flooring and countertop upgrades are deprioritized, and projects may include provisions for solar panels and greywater systems—to be added later on.

But it is not always easy to sell a stringent European energy standard to the Canadian market. In Maurer’s experience, the average Canadian tends to be happy with a “good enough” home and to overlook future savings in ongoing operational costs, as well as the health and comfort benefits of a highly energy-efficient home.

Solares Architecture co-founders Christine Lolley and Tom Knezic gutted a Toronto home and renovated it with Passivhaus principles. Photo by Carla Weinberg

Solares Architecture co-founders Christine Lolley and Tom Knezic gutted a Toronto home and renovated it with Passivhaus principles. Photo by Carla Weinberg

In other parts of the country, clients and architects may be keen on low-energy homes, but find it challenging to achieve the rigorous Passivhaus standards. Nonetheless, practitioners across Canada are integrating similar design principles and are conceiving of buildings as complex systems that integrate both envelope and mechanical components.

For Toronto-based eco-residence specialists Solares Architecture, the significantly colder climate has made it difficult to reach certification. Still, each of their renovation and new-build projects presents an opportunity for the firm, led by principals Christine Lolley and Tom Knezic, to up its game. To achieve a more airtight building, far greater levels of insulation are needed, as are higher levels of workmanship, which challenges budgets. However, the rating isn’t the whole story for energy-conscious clients who are looking for long-term solutions that do right by the environment while balancing efficiencies with cost.

Lolley and Knezic’s own two-storey home exemplifies their commitment. After an extensive renovation, which they referred to as a “deep energy retrofit,” the detached home now consumes 84% less energy than before.

An open plan maximizes usable space in the compact home. Photo by Carla Weinberg

An open plan maximizes usable space in the compact home. Photo by Carla Weinberg

To create a much tighter envelope, they gutted the 450-square-foot enclosure back to the brick, then packed it with insulation and replaced old windows with new ones. Underpinning to create a basement apartment had a secondary benefit: the house now stands on a concrete foundation poured atop four inches of expanded polystyrene foam. For wall framing, 2” x 4” studs were placed an inch away from the brick, at intervals of 24 inches rather than the usual 16 to reduce thermal bridging. Four inches of spray-foam insulation was then applied for a total R-value of 27. The roof assembly now has an R-value of over 50, with six inches of insulation added to the top and lower-density foam applied between the rafters.

At high-performance levels, minimal heating and cooling input is needed to keep a house comfortable. When the family returned from a trip during a January of epic cold, it found the house had lost only four degrees. And when you don’t have space to waste, small systems are beneficial. A tiny combination boiler—no larger than a backpack—feeds the home’s three levels with in-floor hydronic heating and domestic hot water. By tying a ductless mini-split into the energy-recovery ventilation ductwork, they created a unified, consistent and quiet air-delivery system for both heat and air conditioning.

“It’s still challenging for people to make that conceptual leap; that their house should be airtight,” says Lolley. “It’s about controlling the airflow, not gaining air through cracks or up the sewer pipe. Without airtightness, insulation is useless. It’s like buying the best Canada Goose parka but not zipping it up.” After the envelope was in place, every leak was identified with an infrared camera and filled with acoustical sealant. The final air leakage rate of 2.08 air changes per hour is significantly better than the average Canadian home, which cycles through 4-6 air changes per hour.

Despite meeting LEED Platinum levels for airtightness, Lolley and Knezic’s  home doesn’t attain the Passivhaus standard for that metric. However, those elusive Passivhaus targets may soon become easier to reach. Passive House Institute US, an affiliate and Passivhaus certifier, is advocating for a departure from the European methodology.

Stuart Fix, an Edmonton mechanical engineer and President of ReNü Building Science, sits on the PHIUS technical committee. In Fix’s view, the vast majority of projects, particularly in cold Canadian climates, are discouraged by high-cost premiums associated with Passivhaus. Certifying every building, everywhere, to a set of European energy-performance standards is not optimal, he says. The German model was based on a more moderate climate, higher energy costs, and a base building construction of greater quality. PHIUS has proposed an adapted standard called PHIUS+ that takes into account specific North American climate zones and economic data to set more achievable targets. Their vision is for greater mainstream adoption in the industry, and for governments and municipalities to eventually integrate PHIUS+ into building codes.

A view of the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce in Edmonton, designed by Manasc Isaac Architects to Passivhaus targets, and supplemented with active solar components. Photo by Sonny Shem

A view of the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce in Edmonton, designed by Manasc Isaac Architects to Passivhaus targets, and supplemented with active solar components. Photo by Sonny Shem

Although single-family homes have been the stock and trade of the Passivhaus standard, the approach is increasingly being applied to multifamily, institutional and commercial project types. Fix drew on Passivhaus principles in consulting on a mixed-use commercial development in Edmonton: the recently completed Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce by Manasc Isaac Architects. Here, passive design techniques are supplemented with active measures such as a geothermal heating system and a 180 kW photovoltaic system. The result is a net-zero-energy building, designed to produce as much energy over the course of a year as it uses. Manasc Isaac will be seeking Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum certification for the project.

“Whether you hit the targets or not, there is real value in the Passivhaus Institute’s methodology,” says Fix. “Once informed by these techniques, no matter what your capital budget is, you can make the best use of that investment in energy efficiency. It’s just a question of how far you take it.”

A view of the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce in Edmonton, designed by Manasc Isaac Architects to Passivhaus targets, and supplemented with active solar components. Photo by Sonny Shem

A view of the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce in Edmonton, designed by Manasc Isaac Architects to Passivhaus targets, and supplemented with active solar components. Photo by Sonny Shem

Government, industry, environmental and consumer interests clearly intersect with the Passivhaus approach. However, there is more to be done in building up both the supply and demand side. Key to expanding a Passivhaus ethos in the North American market is educating prospective owners and occupants in the cost-benefit rationale. A developer might consider a Passivhaus agenda if homebuyers valued it. Commercial projects could benefit if the standard was adjusted in scope and benchmarks to set high—but attainable—goals for the Canadian climate.

Meanwhile, practitioners continue to push forward in integrating leading technology and design elements to create increasingly sustainable buildings. The 1977 Saskatchewan Conservation House was ahead of its time. Now, Canadian architects are determined to build on its legacy.

Stephanie Calvet is a Toronto-based architect and writer.

Advertisements

Moriyama & Teshima Architects imagine and re-imagine the Toronto Reference Library

This is an article I wrote for Canadian Architect magazine.

Toronto Reference Library, circa 1977. Photo by M&T Architects.

Toronto Reference Library, circa 1977. Photo by M&T Architects.

The Toronto Reference Library (TRL) is the flagship of the world’s busiest urban library system. Occupying over 416,000 square feet, it is a landmark situated adjacent to one of the city’s liveliest intersections—Yonge and Bloor—at the junction of two subway lines. The TRL opened its doors in 1977. Designed by architect Raymond Moriyama, the robust five-storey building was clad in red brick, its mass scaled back by terracing the façade along the diagonal. Bands of mirrored glass suggested an inner world within. The narrow corner entrance, flanked on two sides by a colonnade, drew patrons into the building’s soaring interior. With escalating demands on the library system, the TRL recently completed an extensive five-year phased revitalization led by Moriyama & Teshima Architects, though its cofounder Raymond has since retired.

The renewal of the TRL presented an opportunity to create a library of the future for Torontonians: a technologically advanced public space to meet a growing need for innovation, research and collaboration. Outreach strategies include an expanding range of programming. Here, you can take a workshop, get a flu shot, publish a book, or make a 3D-printed model.

“The key,” says Raymond’s son Ajon Moriyama, who was partner in charge of the revitalization (he has since left the firm), “was creating as much flexibility—physically, operationally and socially—in the space as possible.”

A view of the extensive renovations made to the Toronto Reference Library by Moriyama & Teshima Architects.

A view of the extensive renovations made to the Toronto Reference Library by Moriyama & Teshima Architects.

The building buzzes from top to bottom. It is centred on a vast tiered atrium inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The interiors are bright, airy and uncluttered. Over the last five years, a series of interventions were thoughtfully integrated: a refurbished gallery, a freestanding theatre, a cultural and literary salon seating 600, enhanced spaces for quiet individual study and group work. A double-height rotunda dedicated to special collections reinterprets the romantic feel of old libraries with a distinctly modern material palette of concrete, titanium and dark wood. Each venue provides opportunities for people to meet, interact and exchange ideas.

Special Collections. Image courtesy of the Toronto Reference Library.

Special Collections. Image courtesy of the Toronto Reference Library.

While the TRL’s role as a social gathering place grows, the written word still lies at its core, both in physical and digital form. Over four million items reside on site—novels, periodicals, films and maps. The building employs concealed mezzanines to maximize overall storage capability, amplified through the use of space-saving compact shelves. Open-plan layouts were rezoned for easier self-navigation; stacks were reconfigured to facilitate research. The library continues to explore and adopt emerging technological tools to better monitor collections and support learning and discovery.

Beyond the rows of books and computers are labs and maker spaces—means by which the TRL helps drive digital literacy through experiential learning. Access to laser cutters and audio mixers turns patrons from content consumers into creators.

Toronto Reference Library

Toronto Reference Library, circa 2014.

Toronto Reference Library - Rendering from original proposal. Image courtesy of Unbuilt Toronto 2.

Toronto Reference Library – Rendering from original proposal. Image courtesy of Unbuilt Toronto 2.

The library’s re-envisioned design recalls Raymond Moriyama’s visionary initial design concept of a glass box, which the City dropped in favour of a brick-clad volume. The revitalization provides a more open and transparent interface with the street: a reading lounge invites glimpses in, a bustling café entices passersby. The formerly dark, deep entrance now takes the dynamic form of a rotated glass cube. At night, it appears as a glowing beacon. The building reclaims its corner site, its evolving mix of paper and pixels drawing from—and contributing to—the downtown milieu.

Stephanie Calvet is a Toronto-based architect and writer.

Vertigo – without ever leaving the ground

Photos by Tom Ryaboi.

Rooftopping_1

this is not Toronto

20140508093046_1f9a9387_2

Blursurfing photoblog_Tom Ryaboi

Not many of us yearn to experience the literal ‘life on the edge’. Toronto-based photographer Tom Ryaboi does. He stealthily climbs to the uppermost reach of skyscrapers to capture some pretty incredible cityscapes. His (mostly clandestine) ‘rooftopping’ exploits have taken him across the globe. His images present an entirely new perspective on urban photography.

Absolute World_Mississauga towers

Tom Ryaboi_enter the dragon

Rooftopper_Tom Ryaboi

TO-Aura

Tom Ryaboi_photo

Tom_Ryaboi-HK

Shots from Toronto, Chicago, and Hong Kong – cities that know a thing or two about towers – are on display at the Canary District Presentation Gallery in Toronto. Paired with Tom’s photography is another vertigo-inducing work named “Aletide”, as part of an exclusive art exhibit called Cities of the Future.

“Aletide”, an audiovisual interactive installation by Italian artists Fabio Giampietro, Ilaria Vergani Bassi, and Paolo Di Giacomo, comes to Toronto from Milan where it was first exhibited last year. The trio collaborated with composer Alessandro Branca to create a sensory artwork that recalls our first childhood experience on a park swing – but amped up. The swinging movement, surrounded by oscillating visuals and wind-like sounds, according to observers’ first comments, “feels like soaring over a concrete and glass canyon.”

Riding Aletide, an interactive swing with vertiginous qualities. Photo by Ilaria Vergani.

Riding Aletide, an interactive swing with vertiginous qualities. Photo by Ilaria Vergani.

Aletide – Interactive installation from Paolo Di Giacomo on Vimeo.

The photographs are on view from October 18th-30th at the Canary District Presentation Gallery at 398 Front Street East in Toronto. For more information see www.CanaryDistrict.com.

Recalling Lake Ontario’s lost edge with steel and grass

A version of this post appeared in the October 10th edition of The Fort York Foundation’s website. For more information, see www.fortyorkfoundation.ca/.

The much-anticipated Fort York Visitor Centre is now open – to positive reviews.

The long, linear building recreates the lakefront bluff that defined the Fort’s 19th century geography and has taken root below the hulk of the elevated Gardiner Expressway. Its main exterior façade is composed of a sequence of monolithic weathered steel panels and a ”liquid landscape” of meadow plants, aligned with the contours of the original shoreline. The Visitor Centre inhabits the space behind this industrial escarpment, partially buried under the Commons. It is an ingenious approach to working with the landscape as a form of historical narrative.

Forecourt space will be planted in tall grasses with boardwalk circulation routes, recalling the original lakeshore landscape. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Forecourt space will be planted in tall grasses with boardwalk circulation routes, recalling the original lakeshore landscape. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The building is a joint project by Vancouver’s Patkau Architects and Toronto-based Kearns Mancini Architects – the result of an international competition held in 2009.

There is a remarkable similarity between the winning competition drawings and the final building. This is rare. Although the project underwent a comprehensive value engineering process, the original concept was not diminished nor was a more conventional approach to design taken.

Conceptual Sketch of the steel escarpment. Image courtesy of the project team.

Conceptual Sketch of the steel escarpment. Image courtesy of the project team.

The ‘fortified’ edge of the site is defined by steel panels. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The ‘fortified’ edge of the site is defined by steel panels. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings - Perspective

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings – Perspective

The most significant change was in the superstructure –the “Ghost Screen”– a self-supporting layer that proved to be expensive and difficult to turn into an implementable piece of construction. Without compromising the essential imagery, the screen is (re)presented instead as a semi-translucent cast glass channel wall, which defines the building’s uppermost volume along its length. “We decided to get more pragmatic about it”, says Patricia Patkau. “I think in some ways the project may have benefitted from that.”

A very rich landscape idea was presented as part of the winning submission, reflecting the historic harbour and telling the story of the site. Budget constraints, however, made certain key features undeliverable. These enrichments can be added as more funding becomes available.

Fort York Visitor Centre –Transversal section through the building and site.

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings – Cross section

To complete the weathered steel façade, an additional 37 inclined panels need to be installed. This extension of the wall from the east end of the Visitor Centre would demonstrate how the natural escarpment contributed to the Fort’s defences. As part of the liquid landscape, expanses of softly moving grasses will continue all the way along this steel edge, creating the illusion of the lake that, until the 1850s, came right up to the Fort itself. A series of illuminated raft-like objects and boardwalk circulation routes will help recall the former presence of the lake.

The full master plan also calls for a large terrace –”Events Dock”– reaching out into the liquid landscape. This will be the site for a slew of activities and here, at its highest elevation 20m up, the massive concrete and steel overpass will act as a huge covered canopy. (Just this past weekend, it was the site for a video installation during Nuit Blanche.) Imagine art installations hanging from its underbelly, and space for theatre, for concerts, and for kids to play. This is where the Fort York National Historic Site welcomes the modern city with diverse large-scale public events.

The new urban plaza will transform the previously derelict and underused space into a bright, new, urban neighbourhood amenity. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The new urban plaza will transform the previously derelict and underused space into a bright, new, urban neighbourhood amenity. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings - Perspective

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings – Perspective

“There is a long list of enhancements that are not essential to the scheme but will make it richer. We hope that, over time, they can be phased in,” says John Patkau. After all, these details are the elements that we interact with most closely – they are the parts we see and touch.

The main façade of the visitor centre recreates the original escarpment and presents a strong elevation along Fort York Boulevard. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The main façade of the visitor centre recreates the original escarpment and presents a strong elevation along Fort York Boulevard. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings – South Elevation

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings – South Elevation

The building is the result of a collaborative partnership between two innovative firms. It is not always obvious how two design firms can act as a team. In this relationship, there was no ‘master sketcher’, no single person taking the lead. The idea of the architect as solitary genius is outdated. Instead, it was a discussion, a conversation at all stages. “It’s two complimentary, compatible design firms that are able to work together”, says Jonathan Kearns. “It’s almost like having a built-in peer review. We have a shared understanding and common goals.” Toronto-based landscape architecture firm Janet Rosenberg & Studio was also an important part of the discussion.

The Fort York Visitor Centre will help Torontonians engage in the history of this site and the city. The designers, City of Toronto Culture, and community partners are committed to seeing some of the important missing elements that were described in the competition come to fruition. It’s just a question of when. The Fort York Foundation will continue to campaign and will need your support to realize this vision.

The canopy of the Expressway produces a huge, covered urban space for community events and programming. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The canopy of the Expressway produces a huge, covered urban space for community events and programming. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The project's main façade is intimately interwoven in alternations of transparency and solidity. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The project’s main façade is intimately interwoven in alternations of transparency and solidity. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Stephanie Calvet is a Toronto-based architect and writer specializing in architecture and design. For over a decade she worked in architecture and planning firms in Boston, designing projects in the hospitality, multi-unit residential, education and healthcare sectors. In addition to consulting, she writes for the popular press, trade publications, corporate organizations, and academic journals.

An Urban Forest: June Callwood Park Opens in Toronto

A version of this post appeared in the October 6th edition of UrbanToronto.

Shadowlands Theatre performers take visitors on a journey through June Callwood Park. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Shadowlands Theatre performers take visitors on a journey through June Callwood Park. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

There’s a new kid on the block. And it’s kid-friendly too. On Saturday October 4th, Fort York neighbourhood residents and those from beyond gathered to welcome a much-anticipated public space at its heart: a new urban park with a richly varied forest and striking pink covering. June Callwood Park injects colour and a dose of street life into the urban landscape.

The festivities celebrated the opening of the park and the legacy of June Callwood, one of Canada’s leading social activists who passed away in 2007. Coinciding with the kick-off of the all-night art crawl Nuit Blanche, City of Toronto officials in partnership with the Garden Club of Toronto welcomed the gatherers. Following a short speech by Callwood’s daughter, author Jill Frayne, and an appropriately floral ribbon-cutting ceremony, local art group Shadowlands Theatre engaged the crowd in a performative experience, leading visitors through an interactive tour of the park’s features.

Exploring The Maze with Shadowlands Theatre performers. Photo by Craig White.

Exploring The Maze with Shadowlands Theatre performers. Photo by Craig White.

The park is located amidst a quadrant of tall condo buildings on a wedge-shaped corridor spanning from Fort York Boulevard to Fleet Street. It is a key element in reconnecting the Fort to the Lake Ontario shoreline, which has incrementally moved south with infilling over the decades. The area has seen rapidly increasing residential density —including a growing number of kids— and, most recently, has garnered additional attention with the unveiling of the Fort York Visitor Centre.

Dedicated in 2005, the new 0.4-hectare park honours Callwood’s role in the development of social aid organizations and her fervent championing of children’s causes, through its design and art installation. The design, by Toronto-based multidisciplinary firm gh3, was the result of an open, two-stage international competition, which included extensive public consultation led by the City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation division.

Landscaped site plan of June Callwood Park. Image courtesy of gh3.

Landscaped site plan of June Callwood Park. Image courtesy of gh3.

It was a visual representation of the words of Callwood that formed the basis of the winning design. During one of her final interviews she was asked if she believed in God or in the afterlife. Her response, “I believe in kindness,” is a physically mapped voiceprint whose undulations create a path running north to south through the park, with an abstract geometric pattern of clearings within the groves. It is a contemporary urban vision of a park and garden.

The $2.6-million park includes an ephemeral reflecting pool, granite paving and benches, pole lighting, classic wooden park benches painted pink, and bright pink rubberized benches and surfacing. The forest is planted with over 300 trees, including plantings of native Canadian tree species, a sampling of the specimens that would have dotted the shoreline at the time the area was settled.

The starting point of the design takes a voice sampling of Callwood’s own words physically mapped onto the site. Image courtesy of gh3.

The starting point of the design takes a voice sampling of Callwood’s own words physically mapped onto the site. Image courtesy of gh3.

The park is loosely divided into six clearings, each with its own unique spatial character: the Puddle Plaza is made up of depressions that collect rainwater to create splash pads; the Ephemeral Pools act as a splash pool in the summer and a mist garden in the fall; a hedge Maze; the Pink Field boasts a wide rubberized play surface; the Puzzle Garden features a series of maze-link benches; and, the Time Strip Gardens borrow from a variety of native landscape and European settlement themes. A lone apple tree —the Callwood Tree— stands at the point where all of the park’s paths converge. The park is a series of gestures that reads at the neighbourhood scale, and at the human scale.

View northward through June Callwood Park. Ephemeral Pools at the forefront. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

View northward through June Callwood Park. Ephemeral Pools at the forefront. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Granite pavers, trees, plantings, and fine gravel at June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Granite pavers, trees, plantings, and fine gravel at June Callwood Park. Image by gh3.

Callwood had envisioned this park for toddlers and their caregivers. The new park’s spaces are open to a broader array of experiences and ageless activities that could range from tai chi by the mist garden, hide-and-seek in the maze, and lunch among the poplars. There is no grass. The cushioned rubberized surfacing in bright pink makes for an especially inviting playground for kids.

As a complement its sound-inspired layout, the park integrates a permanent sound installation – Toronto’s very first – by Douglas Moffat and Steve Bates of Montreal who work together as soundFIELD. The artists derived the concept for the innovative sound work, entitled OKTA, from Callwood’s own experiences of gliding through the clouds: “Flying is like entering another dimension where your body becomes flexible and gravity lets go. I once flew through a cloud – I thought it would be warm and fluffy, but it was ice cold. In the sky there are always discoveries,” said Callwood.

OKTA is an installation where multiple points of sound are distributed across the site.

OKTA is an installation where multiple points of sound are distributed across the site.

A sensor aimed at the sky reads current cloud cover. The shifting shape and movement of clouds overhead triggers the sounds released across a field of 24 sculpted sound-columns, creating an ever-changing experience for the listener.

Good planning ensures good interaction between public space and the diverse nature of public life. The site, which until recently sat empty, was revitalized using open space as a physical framework and shifts from being a transit street to a destination. By inviting social, recreational and meditative activities, Fort York’s new neighbourhood park creates space to foster positive relationships and healthy lifestyles while also providing long-term environmental benefits.

The rubberized Ure-Tech surfacing is soft, anti-slip, self-draining, and accessible. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The rubberized Ure-Tech surfacing is soft, anti-slip, self-draining, and accessible. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Snippets from the evening can be seen below.

Stephanie Calvet is an architect and a writer specializing in architecture and design. She can be found at www.stephaniecalvet.com