Tag Archives: Toronto

Nuit Blanche: Toronto’s all-night exploration and celebration of art

Nuit Blanche_Toronto 2014

It is art, collaboration, dialogue, and discovery. For one night only this Saturday October 4th from sunset to sunrise, Toronto will once again become the hive of activity that is Nuit Blanche. City spaces and neighbourhoods will be transformed by temporary exhibitions, installations, design, film, performance, and live talks.

Nuit Blanche was conceived in Paris in 2002 in an attempt to make contemporary art more accessible and engage the audience to examine its impact on public space. Toronto was the first North American city to fully replicate the Paris model. The international success of the festival has expanded its reach to sleepless cities around the globe – from Riga to Melbourne, Kyoto to La Paz.

Now in its ninth edition, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche showcases more than 120 projects created by over 400 local, national and international artists. Below is a small sampling of what you can discover…

Piece by Piece

Clare Twomey

Installation 'Piece by Piece' by leading ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Installation ‘Piece by Piece’ by ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Internationally renowned for her interactive interventions in prestigious British and American museums, Clare Twomey creates a spectacular commissioned performative installation about making and collecting, to honour the Gardiner Museum’s 30th anniversary. Piece by Piece features an army of over 2,000 ceramic figurines – inspired by the Gardiner’s rare Commedia dell’Arte Harlequin collection – that demonstrate the conflicting emotions of everyday life. During the exhibition, her Canadian premiere, an on-site artist/maker will create more statuettes to add to the ever-growing ghostly white world.

The Garden of Renova

Luigi Ferrara and The Institute without Boundaries

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova_3Renova’s coloured and scented toilet paper line is the raw material in a temple-like environment reminiscent of a garden of earthly delights. Using the bathroom tissue over substructures, the installation features a labyrinth, hedges, poppies, garden ornaments, and a 3D-printed fountain. Creator Luigi Ferrara, Dean of the Centre for Arts and Design at George Brown College, and his team at IwB invite the public to interact with the paradise surroundings.

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova

LandMark

Multiple Artists

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-LandMarkCurated by Exhibit Change, LandMark is an interactive photographic installation focused on the dynamic nature of community engagement and city building. Large-scale photo essays showcased throughout St. James Park share stories of some of the city’s unsung heroes and reveal the many layers of Old Town Toronto’s history. The initiative seeks to strengthen community partnerships in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

Walk among Worlds

Máximo González

Walk among Worlds_2013-UCLAIn this immersive installation Argentine artist Máximo González explores the effects of light and lightness, while reflecting on the political divisions of the world. The piece is composed of 7,000 beach balls printed to resemble globes; each representing one million of the inhabitants of the planet. The globes, made of a petroleum derivative, require the introduction of human breath to give them their geoidal shape. They come in three different sizes, alluding to the concepts of “first” and “third world.”

Good News

Antoni Muntadas

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014_Antoni MuntadasBarcelona-based Antoni Muntadas is considered one of the pioneers of media art and conceptual art in Spain. This installation examines the duality of media as a source of information and an instrument of manipulation. The piece displays a wide range of headlines in order to incite the viewer into rethinking the meaning of the messages, creating a defiance in the uniformly constructed “media flow”. A stream of information engineered by advertisers is to be consumed as a whole.

Melting Point

LeuWebb Projects

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Melting PointIn the sound and light installation Melting Point, Fort York’s two south-facing cannons are stocked with “an artillery of glowing good feelings”, pouring forth “sparkling tributaries of light”. The work reflects on the drivers, both cultural and natural, that have shaped the historic site – a preserved battlefield surrounded on all sides by condominium towers, raised freeways and train lines. Accompanied by the immersive sounds of rolling waves and trilling harps, LeuWebb‘s project lays a defense against the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light.

Solar Dehydrator

José Andrés Mora

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Solar DehydratorToronto Hydro searched for artists to submit proposals for a contest to repurpose an old fridge, in support of their Fridge & Freezer Pickup program. Mora’s winning design, inspired by the appliance’s already existing insulation and components, transforms the refrigerator into a solar dehydrator.

Project REACH

Student artists from the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Project ReachProject Reach is a collaborative installation authored by students from 201 TCDSB schools across the GTA celebrating the value of charity and how it transforms lives. Visitors are greeted with hundreds of human hands – symbol of our ability to reach out and change the world. They beckon us to come closer to discover what these students want to communicate through personal messages, imagery, and found objects.

Implied Geometries

Valerie Arthur

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014-Implied GeometriesIn Implied Geometries, Valerie Arthur seeks to uncover the otherwise invisible characteristics of a place. By simultaneously recreating all of the flight paths in a series of tennis games it will reveal the space within the court as much more than an empty void. The court will become a web of movement and speed, exposing the underlying forces that truly define it and inviting the audience to experience moving through the courts in a new way.

Wisdom of the North: Moose Cree and Attawapiskat

Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Johan Hallberg-CampbellThis exhibition presents a photo essay documenting the time artist Johan Hallberg-Campbell spent alongside the Canadian Red Cross, photographing volunteers working in the communities of Moose Cree and Attawapiskat. These images include engaging large portraits, vast landscapes and touching personal moments captured by one of Canada’s leading photographers.

Global Rainbow

Yvette Mattern

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Global RainbowThe high specification laser light projection Global Rainbow will blaze through Toronto’s night sky. From Chinatown to the CN Tower, it will cast beams of colours up to 60 kilometres. Created by New York- and Berlin-based artist Yvette Mattern, it has been displayed in cities around the world since 2009. It literally “paints the sky” with seven simple but distinctly powerful lines of colour representing the rainbow spectrum to create an artwork that is performative, sculptural, painterly, and minimalist in form. As a powerful and luminescent symbol of peace and hope, it embraces geographical and social diversity.

June Callwood Park

gh3

Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Amongst Nuit Blanche’s one-night-only discoveries is the opening of a new permanent space in the city, the June Callwood Park. The gH3-designed park slots trees in amongst pavers, garden strips, and high-tech cushioned pink surfaces all laid out in the waveform of journalist and activist June Callwood speaking the words “I believe in kindness.” Montreal artists Steve Bates and Douglas Moffat created the accompanying sonic public art installation, OKTA, transmitted by speakers arrayed throughout the grove.

This year, organizers have expanded the event into new neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, Fort York and Roundhouse Park. The festivities kick off at 6:53pm. For the full schedule of events, see www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca

Toronto’s Fort York Visitor Centre Opens

A version of this post appeared in the September 19th edition of UrbanToronto

Entry to Fort York Visitor Centre, framed by a weathering steel panel façade. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Entry to Fort York Visitor Centre, framed by a weathering steel panel façade. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Official Opening of Toronto’s Fort York Visitor Centre was held today. By most definitions, the city’s newest attraction, which is embedded into the ground, makes a bold statement whilst being minimally intrusive. The project is the result of a collaborative partnership between two design firms, Patkau Architects, an innovative studio based in Vancouver, and local associate architects Kearns Mancini.

“Right from the beginning, my feeling was that it could not be a little building sitting here because it would just look trivial beneath the Gardiner,” says architect Patricia Patkau. “Somehow it had to take on a different persona, like a landscape. It needed to be something of great scale, but without the height.”

Fort York Visitor Centre below the Gardiner Expressway. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre below the Gardiner Expressway. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The north façade of the Fort York Visitor Centre with the Gardiner Expressway above and behind. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The north façade of the Fort York Visitor Centre with the Gardiner Expressway above and behind. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Built in 1793, Fort York, now a National Historic Site, is known as the location where the Battle of York came to its violent climax in 1813 during the War of 1812. Today it is home to one of the oldest collection of fortifications in Canada, enclosing the country’s largest collection of 1812-era military structures within its defensive walls. Where the Fort is powerful in its history, it is not in its physical presence. Characterized by low-lying buildings, on a site landlocked between roadways and rail corridors, it has been almost invisible to passersby. Many Torontonians are not even familiar with its existence.

The Visitor Centre now changes this balance. Located on Fort York Boulevard, almost immediately below and just north of the elevated Gardiner Expressway, it acts as both a gateway and an interpretative hub for the entire 43-acre Fort York National Historic Site, considered the birthplace of Toronto. The new building is itself a key component in the ongoing restoration and revitalization of the city’s founding site, which includes not only the seven acres within the Fort’s walls but also the archaeological landscape, Garrison Common, Victoria Memorial Square, the Fort York Armoury and Garrison Creek parkland to the east. For the architects, the building was not simply seen as a Visitor Centre but an opportunity to provide a sense of connection both historically and physically with other parts of the site.

The Visitor Centre's interpretive function is a key part of a plan to revitalize the entire 43-acre historical site.

The Visitor Centre’s interpretive function is a key part of a plan to revitalize the entire 43-acre historical site.

The 27,000 square-foot Visitor Centre provides Fort York’s first secure exhibit space and enables the display of artifacts from the City’s collection that tells its 200-year story. Its green roof is an extension of the Common. Ground-embedding the building made it sustainable from an energy perspective and easier to develop as a Class A museum-quality interior: well insulated and unaffected by daylight. Toronto exhibit designer Reich + Petch also had a hand in shaping the environment, which includes a 2900 sq. ft. exhibit gallery; a climate-controlled vault designed to display iconic and light-sensitive artifacts; and, an Orientation Theatre. In addition to permanent and changing exhibits, it also provides facilities for education, research, staff and community use.

Fort York Visitor Centre Exhibit Gallery with 'The Vault' in the background. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre Exhibit Gallery with ‘The Vault’ in the background. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Architects Jonathan Kearns and John Patkau introduce the Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Architects Jonathan Kearns and John Patkau introduce the Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Visitor Centre snakes along the base of the monolithic structure that looms above. It aligns with the original shoreline of Lake Ontario, now set back some 500m, altered by two centuries of infill. Lined by a series of inclined Corten steel panels, its main façade recalls the original lake bluff, which contributed to the Fort’s natural defences. The modularity of those weathering steel panels, in considerable 8’x24’ proportions, is broken by sections of glass at building entry points. An array of glazed slits between the panels, along the length of the building, allow thin segments of natural light to permeate the main reception area and sunken exhibition gallery.

The new Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The new Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Entrance points to the new Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Entrance points to the new Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The building’s workings are best illustrated in section. “This is sort of an ‘upside down’ landscape, in terms of its archaeology, where the visitor enters on a lower contemporary landscape and rises up into an archaeological landscape. It is an interesting inversion of how it usually happens. The history, then, is the upper landscape and the modern world is the lower landscape,” explains architect Johnathan Kearns.

Cross-section through the Visitor Centre. Image courtesy of Patkau Architects.

Cross-section through the Visitor Centre. Image courtesy of Patkau Architects.

Longitudinal sections through the Fort York Visitor Centre. Image by Patkau Architects.

Longitudinal sections through the Fort York Visitor Centre. Image by Patkau Architects.

The procession through the building tells the story. The immersive “time tunnel”, a digital media space along a gentle inclined plane that zigzags back, takes the visitor through a virtual re-enactment leading up to the Battle of York. When emerging out of the end of it, the visitor is directly facing the Fort itself, with the backdrop of modern-day Toronto. Visitors can then go forth and explore the Fort, armed with a deeper understanding of its background and an appreciation of its importance as a national historic site.

Existing Fort York site with Toronto's skyline beyond. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Existing Fort York site with Toronto’s skyline beyond. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Hosted by The City of Toronto, The Fort York Foundation and The Friends of Fort York, the Opening Ceremonies began with fife and drum music by the Fort York Guard Drum Corps under the Gardiner Expressway. The musical prelude was followed by a welcoming and remarks by dignitaries, and then the ribbon cutting. On Saturday and Sunday, from 12 to 7pm, at the On Common Ground Festival, the public is invited to experience a free weekend of performances and exhibitions with culturally diverse music, dance, theatre, craft-making, kidzone, community village and local food. For a full schedule of events, please see link.

The Centre is open but not quite finished; visitors will find that several exhibits have yet to be installed, and most of the landscaping remains to be started, let alone completed. A number of enhancements will be added as more funding becomes available. In particular, the full master plan calls for the placement of an additional 37 steel panels to recreate the escarpment, and expanses of softly moving grasses recalling the waters of the lake. And the project team envisions the extension of a large terrace under the Gardiner that, here, at its highest elevation, will act as a covered canopy for a great diversity of public events. Still, there is much to see now, and celebrations continue.

The Gardiner shelters a huge covered event space. Image by Patkau Architects.

The Gardiner shelters a huge public event space. Image by Patkau Architects.

South elevation of the Visitor Centre, below the Gardiner Expressway. Image by Patkau Architects.

South elevation of the Visitor Centre, below the Gardiner Expressway. Image by Patkau Architects.

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

Athletes at Home in Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games Aquatics Centre

A version of this post appeared in the September 10th edition of UrbanToronto

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC) located at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus began operating this week. Under the official name “CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Aquatics Centre and Field House,” the venue is the largest sport new-build for the 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games set to take place in July.

Co-owned by the university and the City of Toronto, the $205-million centre is the sole aquatics facility in the region that meets the latest international competition standards and represents the largest single investment in Canadian amateur sport history. It will play host to the Games’ swimming, diving, fencing, modern pentathlon, sitting volleyball and roller sports events.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Organizing Committee (TO2015) and its partners set out to create an inspirational beacon for health and sport. Designed by NORR Architects of Toronto, the LEED Gold building provides “world-class” training facilities and a venue to host national and international competitions. It is also home to Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, which provides science and sport performance services to high performance athletes and their coaches.

But once the Games have concluded, the facility will become joint campus-community recreation space for university students and Scarborough residents to use and enjoy, while giving youth a place where they can train, play, gather and compete. “From our perspective as a university, we believe we can do a lot with community engagement. Many areas around here were former priority neighbourhoods with no facilities. The hope is that this centre attracts people, that they feel connected to a university and that it creates opportunities for them to set goals they might not otherwise have had,” says Andrew Arifuzzaman, UofT Scarborough Chief Administrative Officer.

Competition pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Competition pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Aquatics Centre includes two internationally sanctioned 50-metre, ten-lane swimming pools; a warm-up pool; a 5-metre deep diving tank with 3-, 5-, 7.5- and 10-metre platforms; and dryland training facilities with dive pits and trampolines. It doubles the number of Olympic-sized pools in the Greater Toronto Area, which until recently stood at two. (By contrast, Sydney, Australia, a smaller city than Toronto, has 42). Adjusting the mobile bulkheads increases the versatility of the practice and competition pools, allowing them to be divided and programmed in multiple ways. In both, the acoustical hanging baffles on the ceiling were arranged such that the gaps between the panels align directly above the swim lines below, a small detail that provides a valuable reference point to help backstroke swimmers keep on course. The training pool, shown below, includes a 25 m2 movable floor area to provide a variety of shallow-water fitness activities and facilitate access for individuals with disabilities.

Training pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Training pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

One of multiple gymnasia in the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Permanent retractable and temporary seating line the walls. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

One of multiple gymnasia in the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Permanent retractable and temporary seating line the walls. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Field House features flexible gymnasium space for training and competition, an indoor track, and a fitness area complete with the latest in cardio and weightlifting equipment. Among the building’s more high-tech features are a (section of) runner’s track with pressure sensors and motion-capture technology and state-of-the-art performance diagnostic tools. Add on the sport medicine mini clinic with its heat chambers and medical therapy rooms and you’ve got the best athletically endowed campus in Ontario.

Creating a sense of animation throughout the building was a key design driver. By using a high level of transparency in the interiors, the two primary corridors have been programmed as strong public spaces. Lined with glass, they overlook the centres of activity. The indoor climbing wall located just off the main lobby entrance contributes to the feeling of liveliness. There was a concerted effort to get young kids to see and potentially be inspired by elite athletes.

Climbing wall at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Climbing wall at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Corner multipurpose studio for community dance classes, combative sports, ballet, and yoga. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Corner multipurpose studio for community dance classes, combative sports, ballet, and yoga at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The combination of building form and its glazed components combine to bring a sense of dynamism to the street, with exercise rooms radiating their creative energy, a combination of play and light. However the large facility has not overwhelmed the low-rise neighbourhood. The redevelopment strategy of the site required a complete remediation because it had been a brownfield. Excavating it gave the design team the opportunity to sink the building inside the hole, with benefits on two fronts: keeping the scale of the building within that of the existing context and bringing lots of indirect natural light into the spaces, eliminating glare on fields of play.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The TPASC is 100% accessible, exceeding Ontario codes and meeting London, UK’s stricter Standards for Accessible Design in every program area throughout the building. Since its inception, the University has been committed to becoming one of the most accessible universities in the world. This would be one element within the University’ mission, “to strive to create a respectful and inclusive environment that promotes opportunity and overall well-being through physical activity.” They have demonstrated this through the use of accessible washrooms and change rooms, fitness equipment that can be operated by someone in a wheelchair, the use of vertical actuation bars (in lieu of push plates), modesty panels, and washing stations to accommodate those with religious practices.

In addition to the investment in new facilities that are being constructed, there will be millions of dollars spent on the renovation and alteration of existing facilities for the upcoming Games. These buildings will serve as a lasting legacy as much-needed sport infrastructure for Canadian athletes to train and compete at home.

After the Games, the temporary (blue) exterior wall will be removed and replaced and the area will become covered drop-off. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

After the Games, the temporary (blue) exterior wall will be removed and replaced and the area will become covered drop-off. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

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

Creative Thinking Adapts a King West Commercial Building

A version of this post appeared in the August 12th edition of UrbanToronto

Another adaptive reuse project has won out in Downtown Toronto. The modest building at 545 King Street West is being rehabilitated by Hullmark and will see new restaurants and offices occupy its five floors. It is a refreshing change from the tactics of some developers who, keen to maximize real estate values, can succumb to demolishing the historic fabric of the neighbourhood rather than considering the role adaptive reuse can play in the city.

The street has radically transformed in the past decade. Its potential was unleashed back in the mid-90s when changes to zoning allowed King-Spadina (one of the “Two Kings” reinvestment areas), once-restricted to industrial, to open up to new uses. Since then, King Street W has been flooded with award-winning restaurants, corporate headquarters, nightclubs and condo buildings. The spin-off effect since the planning policy was introduced has seen this creatively oriented and vibrant part of the city emerge as a highly desirable urban lifestyle community.

Sketch of proposed exterior graphics at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Sketch of proposed exterior graphics at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Quadrangle

Originally built in 1921, with a rear addition completed in 1981, 545 King Street W is characterized by brick and heavy timber beam construction, once commonly found in the former Garment District. No drastic changes were made to the exterior in the Quadrangle Architects-led renovation. It is constituted of an updated façade treatment with new windows and sills, cleaned and repaired brickwork and the addition of graphics and material accents. Because of the building’s narrow proportions and the existence of windows on its side elevations, the designers were inspired to build on the idea of natural ventilation. Casements replace existing glazing, with coloured fritted glass emphasizing their operable function and animating the façades. “Our intention was a subtle augmentation of the building while maintaining the existing character to add a new layer of contemporary expression,” says Richard Witt, a principal at Quadrangle.

Existing building at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Hullmark

North elevation of existing building at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Hullmark

Rendering of updated north elevation at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Hullmark

Rendering of updated north elevation at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Hullmark

The interiors, however, are getting a major facelift. The building was stripped back to its exterior walls and bare floors and ceilings, which presented the architects with the opportunity to completely reinvent its spaces. Popular restaurants Pizzeria Libretto and Porchetta & Co. will open up secondary locations on the lower level, and a software company is to set up shop on the 5th. BrightLane, a co-working space for entrepreneurs and start-ups, will continue to occupy the remaining levels and its members have access to the 3rd floor roof terrace. The top floor has a 2-storey volume office space capped with a skylight.

Gutting of typical floor at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Gutting of typical floor at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

A particularly interesting angle to the project is the revitalization of the dreary 153’ long by 12’ wide laneway immediately adjacent. It previously served a warehouse loading dock at the rear that the architects have transformed into the main commercial entrance and new ‘front door’. (The building’s existing ‘front door’ on King Street W becomes a convenience entrance for the upper levels.) The flanking laneway, once dedicated to deliveries, is converted to a pedestrian area with a restaurant patio and spill-out space from the new lobby.

Existing alleyway adjacent to 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Existing alleyway adjacent to 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

BrightLane, the building’s primary tenant, hosted an ideas competition seeking inspiration from the public for ways to make the narrow, marginal space more appealing. “We’re looking for something interesting and sustainable that can be easily implemented,” said its General Manager, Susy Renzi. The call for submissions was made via video headlined ‘Can you make this sad space AWESOME?’ It drew over 180 entries from local and international creatives, whose ideas ran the gamut from forest oasis, outdoor market, and playgrounds for adults (with and without a giant waterslide).

The winning scheme proposes to brighten the space by suspending fragments of primary-coloured acrylic in wavy shapes above it. As the sun travels over the lane, coloured moving shadows are cast onto surrounding surfaces; the experience being equally evocative at nighttime, when illuminated by floodlights. The canopy of colour represents the energy and interdisciplinary environment that BrightLane fosters. The simple but dynamic concepts applied to the façades and laneway provide better visual connection into the building and extend the street life.

The winning submission from Brightlane's ideas competition will be implemented in Spring 2015

The winning submission will be implemented in Spring 2015

The difficulties associated with adaptive reuse can be a deterrent to many developers. Unforeseen discoveries on site – from mould to hidden fuel tanks – can have negative impacts on cost and schedule and the added complexities often require creative solutions. Despite the challenges, the benefits are multi-fold. Rehabilitated and repurposed buildings not only help meet city-mandated density requirements, but they contribute to the fabric of city life and the continuity of collective memory.

With a long-time specialty in retrofit and adaptive reuse, Quadrangle brings agility and nimbleness when working with existing conditions. A synergy clearly exists between the developer and the architects – this is, after all, the third collaboration of similar objective between them. “Hullmark understands that buildings like this have value and that value is worth working hard to unlock”, says Witt. Under the direction of Jeff Hull, Hullmark’s vision as city builders, previously known for their large residential developments, has taken a more urban focus and set its sights on high quality inner-city tenants. By renovating and turning a former warehouse into a vibrant employment and amenity hub, the building both reflects its history and becomes relevant to the future of King W.

Other than the alleyway installation, the 545 King Street West project is scheduled for completion this summer.

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

Developer Ken Tanenbaum Talks about Toronto’s Pan Am Athlete’s Village

A takeaway from past Olympic Games’ host cities that spent big in a short burst of activity for the temporary event is a prescient reminder of the potential that well integrated planning for long-term transit and urban regeneration can bring. Toronto now has that same rare opportunity: the city is hosting the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Olympics next summer. While it is relying on mainly existing infrastructure throughout southern Ontario for the sporting venues, an entirely new development is being built just east of downtown to house the 10,000 athletes and officials.

I recently met with Kenneth Tanenbaum, Vice Chairman of the Kilmer Group to discuss the Athletes’ Village. Revitalization plans will transform the former industrial site into a mixed-use community with affordable housing, condominiums, a YMCA and a dormitory for George Brown College students, branded post-Games as ‘Canary District’.

A version of this post appeared in the June 30th edition of UrbanToronto.    

Site plan of 2015 PanAm/Parapan Games Athletes’ Village (Canary District)

Site plan of 2015 PanAm/Parapan Games Athletes’ Village (Canary District)

Tell us how it is that Toronto is about to get a new Athletes’ Village and then a new neighbourhood in this former industrial area at the mouth of the Don River.

The genesis of the West Don Lands Pan Am Athletes Village and Canary District really begins with the government of David Peterson in the mid-1980s, which expropriated this land in the Downtown East with a view to allowing the city to grow in this direction. The market and environmental conditions of the site were such that the land sat derelict more or less for 25 years until a moment in time when forces converged with the Pan Am Games being announced, and Waterfront Toronto’s planning mandate was able to finally execute the vision that Peterson’s government had.

How did Dundee and Kilmer collaborate towards this proposal?

Kilmer has been in the heavy civil construction and materials business for three generations. I represent the third generation. I grew up in asphalt paving and aggregates and shifted towards engaging in public/private partnerships. Our firm, Kilmer Van Nostrand, has developed an expertise and set of core competencies in this area. We are not traditional real estate developers. Dundee, on the other hand, brings very deep experience in traditional real estate development. It was a very complimentary set of skills that brought us together and it was through that partnership that we’ve been recruited as the project delivery team.

We are very lucky because all the stakeholders are aligned to a single mission: deliver on time, on budget design excellence.

Kenneth Tanenbaum on the Canary District construction site, home to the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Athletes' Village

Kenneth Tanenbaum on the Canary District construction site, home to the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Athletes’ Village

Big games bids run over budget in general. The demonstrations in Brazil are a current example. Given the background of cost overruns, what are your thoughts on best practices in cost management?

Infrastructure Ontario set up a procurement process that allocated risk properly between the public sector and the private sector. We worked with EllisDon and Ledcor to achieve a GMP or ‘guaranteed max price’ and there is significant skin in the game for those contractors if they are not delivering. DundeeKilmer’s objective is to make sure the team is marching together. Lots of tried-and-true building technologies were used here. We weren’t pioneers in anything.

What lessons have you taken from the 2012 London Olympics or 2010 Vancouver Olympics or other regeneration projects around the world?

Lessons were learned by spending time in Vancouver and interviewing people engaged in project delivery. Infrastructure Ontario, the procurement agency for the province, internalized those lessons and delivered a procurement model that I think set us up for success and which I believe represents a great export opportunity for other cities building Athletes’ Villages. It was an enormous undertaking to design, procure and finance a billion dollars’ worth of work in 90 days, which was the task we were given to do. We brought together a great team of designers, engineers, and contractors to do that.

Hundreds of lessons were learned from jurisdictions that didn’t have the right balance between private risk and public risk. What risks rightfully belong with the private sector? What risks should government continue to take? To Infrastructure Ontario’s credit, they came up with the right balance. I think Waterfront Toronto, insofar as planning was concerned, gave us a canvas on which to paint our architects’ view of the village. That was another important foundational piece for success – the precinct planning by Waterfront Toronto.

One of the areas where Vancouver where got off the rails is they were innovating in green building design. That’s all well and good and there are lots of green elements in our design as well but, when you have to spend $1M a day, everyday, you can’t be innovating or learning on a job site like this. You have to incorporate LEED best practices that are off-the-shelf. The right allocation of risk and the right team gets us to the right results.

The Pan Am Games is the largest event that this city has hosted and will host for a long time. It is a great opportunity for us to celebrate the great things about Toronto – a multicultural, pluralistic society, and a beacon on the planet. We have to tell a great story for Toronto. The Athletes’ Village is just one small element. It is part of the success story but it is not the story. The story is that we have 10,000 athletes and officials coming with their families from 41 countries who may at some point look at Toronto as a place to live, or invest but in the meantime they will be here spending dollars and going to restaurants.

Looking west on Front Street from Canary District to Downtown Toronto

Looking west on Front Street from Canary District to Downtown Toronto

Are you involved in creating any sports facilities?

No. Dundee Kilmer has only one mandate: to deliver the Athletes’ Village, on time and on budget.

Pan Am does not only exist in the Canary District. There are many other areas. How do they connect up? Is there a master plan?

We are building something called the Transportation Centre south of Mill Street, on provincially owned land. It will be effectively part of the secured perimetre where buses will come in and out to move athletes from the Village to their games venues. The strategy of TO2015 was to have the Games be hosted by Southern Ontario so the venues are dispersed in Welland, Milton, Durham Region, Scarborough, and York University. That also enhances their legacy. All the sporting venues that are being used will have a post-Games life. Again, it is a lesson learned from other Olympic or multi-sport games where you have elements that become white elephants. You won’t have that here.

You’ve established some of the criteria for success. How will you know you’ve been successful?

I’ll know if the athletes aren’t sleeping in my basement! In all seriousness, success is an on-time, on-budget delivery of an Athletes’ Village in accordance with the IOC/Pan Am Games specifications. But, to me, the most important measure of success is in realizing a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of shaping Toronto’s next great neighbourhood.

Looking east from Canary District, Foundry building to the left.

Looking east from Canary District, Foundry building to the left.

What is there that exists already that drives momentum for that? Is it managing the overspill pressure from Downtown Toronto?

I think Toronto’s future really pivots on its ability to continue to attract 100,000+ migrants a year. How do we do that in an environment that is governed by provincial policy, Smart Growth, and Places to Grow (focused on intensifying the urban core), and do it in a way that does not lead to more traffic congestion and less liveable neighbourhoods? I think that Canary District really fits the bill in terms of Smart Growth: it integrates walkability, liveability, and transit. I think of the acronym HOME – housing, opportunity (jobs), medical care and education. A number of those elements are being built, or being planned. The YMCA will be an incredible amenity for this neighbourhood in addition to the public realm that really serves as outdoor therapy, which is vital for a healthy city.

You have chosen Canary District as the post-Games residential brand for the area.

The name ‘Canary’ comes from a restaurant at the gateway to this site. The heritage building (which we are restoring) had a bit of a chequered past. It was a school, then a brothel, and then a greasy spoon called Canary Restaurant that was famous for filmmakers and truckers who would stop in this area.

Existing brick buildings at gateway to the site to be restored.

Existing brick buildings at gateway to the site to be restored. Image courtesy of architectsAlliance.

How will the buildings be repurposed after the Games, as condos and apartments?

Immediately after the Parapan Am Games end in August 2015, the Village is turned back to us and we have the task of taking out temporary dividing walls, painting, putting in the hardwood floors and the kitchens – essentially making the units new again.

The biggest challenge from a post-games constructability standpoint is you don’t have the man and material hoists on the outside of the building so you have to preload and use the elevators as much as possible and optimize material in and waste out. There is a lot of planning going into it; in fact, logistics is the most complicated part.

Rendering of Athletes' Village/Canary District. Image courtesy of architectsAlliance.

Rendering of Athletes’ Village/Canary District. Image courtesy of architectsAlliance.

This area is considered the largest urban village in the city’s history. How will it be different than another major urban revitalization in Toronto, that of Liberty Village?

This was a very long time in the making. It reflects the thoughtful nature of Waterfront Toronto in terms of community and urban planning, and brings in Jane Jacobs’ principles of liveability and density. You won’t have canyons of glass towers here. It will be a much more liveable environment with the ‘eyes on the street’ concept.

So, in terms of differentiators, first it is the historical/planning context. The genesis is different in Downtown East than Liberty Village in that it involves much more master planning and more heritage elements, being adjacent to the Distillery District, and incorporating the brick buildings at the Cherry Street gateway to this site.

Further, I think the province made a very significant investment in the pubic realm, with the 18-acre Corktown Common park, the linear park (along the Front Street spine through the village), and Underpass Park. A brand new tunnel called the Bala Underpass will allow residents to enter Corktown Common without crossing a road and end up on the Don River Trail system and be able to bike to Edwards Gardens, to Sunnybrook. It is not an 18-acre park you’re adjacent to, but more like an 1800-acre park—through what is Toronto’s greatest natural asset, the ravines—and what many Torontonians don’t really get to appreciate because it’s very difficult to access.

The third differentiator from Liberty Village is the proximity to Downtown. We don’t think about Spadina being equidistant from Yonge as Cherry Street is. Torontonians’ view of Downtown is tilted to the west, and what we see is the Village/Canary District beginning to tilt back to a bit more equilibrium. What we are seeing in real time is just a beautiful evolution happening along those Front Street and King Street corridors.

The fourth and final differentiator is the design aesthetic. In addition to public realm piece, what we DundeeKilmer aspire to is the absolute highest level of design excellence. So we brought a team onboard headed by architects Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB and Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance and they in turn recruited a team to create what they called ‘cohesive diversity.’

One element that really excites me is the porous nature of the neighbourhood. The designers were very deliberate in terms of opening the development blocks up to people migrating through them. So, there are laneways that pass through the blocks which is a really nice way to animate the space rather than forcing people to do right angles and walk around buildings, as you have in conventional block development.

Looking east on Canary District site. George Brown College student residence building in the distance.

Looking east on Canary District site. George Brown College student residence building in the distance.

Does Canary District become an appendage to Downtown or does it co-habit with Downtown with its own identity?

There are no physical barriers to here (e.g. river, expressway) from Downtown. It should become a natural extension of Downtown with a narrative that is very connected to the Don River and Martin Goodman trails. People talk about what makes for a great neighbourhood and I think it’s about diversity of interests, cultures, and economics. And it’s what makes a city great, it’s natural diversity, it’s the ability to transform, invent, and change. The unique challenge here was to deliver an entire neighbourhood and have it feel like a neighbourhood. A lot of thought went into the design, the programming, the unit mix in buildings (1, 2, and 3 bedroom suites), the type of retail and how it’s programmed to have a health and wellness theme that’s complimentary to the Distillery’s retail programming.

The masterplan of the community was generated by architects, planners, and Waterfront Toronto. How was LiveWorkLearnPlay engaged here? They have created many villages and recreational places for Intrawest, with precedents like Blue Mountain and Whistler. But that is not the same as a year-round real liveable place?

I think of it as Waterfront Toronto providing the frame and the canvas on which to paint. They defined certain elements for our architectural team to conform to.

LiveWorkLearnPlay is our retail consultant, retail programmers so-to-speak. It’s not in their mandate to shape the urban fabric. They have the task of running a process to populate the retail opportunities within the Canary District under a general theme of health and wellness. Their mandate doesn’t extend beyond essentially animating the storefronts.

What we’ve relied on LiveWorkLearnPlay for is their expertise in creating the balance of a Village and the task of figuring out the right mix between restaurants, retail, and services.

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