Predictions for Nathan Phillips Square re-design

Spacing has collected the predictions from a variety of Torontonians on who will win the Nathan Phillips Square re-design competition. The winner will be announced tonight at 6pm in City Hall’s rotunda. We plan to have a report with some quotes on Friday.
If you want to look at renderings of the four finalists check out the Spacing Wire post from the day the finalists were announced. And please feel free to add your thoughts and predictions in our comments section of this post.

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John Lorinc, freelance urban affairs writer, author of The New City
PREDICTION: Rogers Marvel, of course. It’s the one design that addresses itself to the iconic curvature of the towers and the arches over the rink, while developing a genuinely innovative, but not excessively abstract, use for that area on the west side of the square. Perhaps it takes an outsider to reflect Toronto back to itself (again).

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Catherine Naismith, architect and heritage building advocate
PREDICTION: Baird should win, but I think Rogers Marvel may be the designer’s favourite.

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Phillip Goodfellow, architect and member of Clean & Beautiful City Roundtable
PREDICTION: Plant — the reason that I think they will win is because they propose a series of tactical interventions on the square. In a designer’s eyes, they are creating discreet modern structures that do not take away from the Revell’s architectural whole. In the public’s eyes, they are place-making in a large public space. In the budget chief’s eyes, they have taken the $40 million budget and cut it into a series of small projects, which can be completed over an extended time-line.

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Dave LeBlanc, “The Architourist”, Globe & Mail Real Estate section
PREDICTION: Baird Sampson Neuert Architects. By far the cleanest and least invasive approach to Revell’s masterwork. I love the curvy visitor’s centre in the southeast corner of the new forecourt, as well as the long, low structure with the parabolic roof (a restaurant?) that pulls pedestrians into the square at the southwest corner. Extending the reflecting pool (yet segmenting it) is genius and fixes what was a dead spot. And, I may be publicly humiliated by being placed in a Pillory in the winning Plant Architect scheme for saying this, but I LOVE how Baird Sampson Neuert has extended the ramp to the west. Long live the ramps!

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Ian Chodikoff, Editor of Canadian Architect magazine
PREDICTION: The PLANT-led scheme was both interesting and intelligent. No big moves, but a smart and effective opening up of the ground plane, especially from Queen Street. Unlike the Marvels scheme, they aren’t excluding the Osgoode Hall compound to the site’s west. Too bad they didn’t talk about the phasing of the project–their scheme could withstand quite a few blows to the budget, and could even be completed in pieces with little or no compromise to the integrity of their overall vision. Such appropriate and responsible visioning makes their scheme the strongest. Nice touches on the guardrails and accessible elevated platforms. The architectural
interventions are non-confrontational and measured. The plantings are very promising and subtle — good for a public project of this nature.

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Michael McClelland, partner of ERA Architects
PREDICTION: All the schemes were interesting and thougthful but my heart is with the Plant design. Why? On the level of design the Plant proposal is subtle and beautiful It builds on what is already there without forcing a new aesthetic. My guess also is that it could be developed over time so it could work with the City’s limited budget and in many ways it seems like the most buildable of the schemes. It isn’t based on one big project but a series of discreet interventions. Will it win? If the City is looking for smart, elegant, and urbane yes it should win.

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Robert Ouellette, Reading Toronto founder
PREDICTION: While the schemes were compelling, to us the PLANT Architect proposal is enthusiastically and unashamedly urban — worthy of Revell’s endorsement. More than that, it is youthfully optimistic, well-considered in its detailing, and rids the square of clutter. The Baird Sampson Neuert scheme is a very close second and we won’t be disappointed if it is selected.

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Rob Granatstein, Editorial Page Editor, Toronto Sun
PREDICTION: Any of the four finalists would be a step in the right direction, but I’m torn on choosing the best. I like the new buildings from the Baird Sampson Neuert team. Their plan to expand the walkway across the front of City Hall to widen the square is smart and I love the extension of the reflecting pond. This would be my choice. One problem the group has is Barry Sampson said – in not so many words – his team is over budget. That could cost them the job. I wish aspects of some of the other designs could be worked in – as they have all done such intricate work. I like the cafe on the podium level by the Plant Architect team. The way the Zeidler Partnership has redesigned the awful subway grate is smart, as are many of their ideas.

Most of all, though, I think three things should happen. The Peace Garden should be gone from the middle of the square (a more peaceful spot along the side of the square is fine by me), the Bay Street side must be cleaned up and the south exit from the parking lot closed and redesigned, and Winston Churchill should take a hike, too. I’ve already lost on Winnie, we’ll see about the garden and Bay Street.

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Matthew Blackett, Spacing publisher
PREDICTION: I really want the Rogers Marvel entry to win. It addresses the deficiencies of the square (the walkways and western edge) while correcting small things that the original design would never have known would become a problem (like the eastern entrance at Bay and Albert). That glassed-in area looks brilliant and the design opens up the square and makes the Archer a more focal point than it currently stands.

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Dale Duncan, Spacing managing editor, Eye Weekly city hall columnist
PREDICTION: Plant Architects! Sustainability should be a key part of the redesign, and that’s how this team sold themselves when they presented their renderings of the square to the public February 20. It’s a good looking design that’s gold LEED certified. These architects are thinking about things like soil compaction, pourous pavement, rainwater harvesting, waste heat recovery, green roofs, and integrated stormwater management. They’ve even got a bike repair station! Roger’s Marvel is nice too, but I’m skeptical about the hill. Will there be enough soil volume for the trees to actually grow? How will they prevent the grass from being trampled down until it can no longer survive if everyone’s using that small piece of land for as a park? The hill’s impressive, as is the space they’d open up by taking down part of the walkway, but Plant Architects is my #1 choice.

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Shawn Micallef, Spacing associate editor, co-founder of [murmur]
PREDICTION: Roger Marvel Architects. It preserves everything great about the square but actually does something new: add that magnificent new green hill on top of a glassed in cafe, and connects people to the raised walkway in a surprisingly natural way. Most importantly, the vast open space is preserved. In 40 years, this will seem as right a decision as picking Revell did 40 years ago.

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Dylan Reid, Spacing associate editor, member of Toronto Pedestrian Committee, founding member of Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation
PREDICTION: Rogers Marvel. At first, I thought it was too populist to have a chance, and that the Plant proposal (the best of the other, more conventional proposals) would take it. But I’ve found that the Rogers Marvel proposal is popular both with citizens and with professional architects. It is one of the rare architecture concepts that is both dramatic and thoughtful, and I now think it will appeal to all the different elements of the jury. The jury may recommend that the west garden be more formal, though, rather than “woodsy”, to match the urban tone of the rest of the square.

8 comments

  1. Do all the marvel fans realize that there’s a great big brutal concrete wall along the west side of the whole thing? What’s the point of that? I think it’s the only one of the proposals that actually creates something that is more cut off from the city rather than less.

  2. I think Rogers Marvel should Win. I really love the urban forset concept especially for the space proposed. The western side of the square can be an eye sore sometimes and when I am there I often think of it as dead space. The other look somewhat interesting for the time being but I wonder how they will look 20 to 30 years from now. Trees, to me, never seem to grow to old and i’ll bet the green space will look fabulous over the years.

  3. Sorry, but how broken is the square really? For what $40 million, are we sure we need to spend that cash when the roads are breaking up in the gutters where cyclists are legislated to ride, and lots of other things are being damaged by neglect. Or how about 45 new hybrid buses named after each councillor? save a few million and still spend $40,000 on new flags from around the world as Lastman did to promo the Olympics – great colour, great way of making the area more relevant to all the people of the City.

  4. Dylan,
    I think he was referring to the /west/ side of the hill, adjacent to Osgoode Hall. The illustrations I’ve seen make it look like the hill slopes down to ground level there, but I missed out on seeing the actual models, so maybe he’s right?

  5. John Barber made a point about this retaining wall in the Globe this morning, but, to me, that seems like a fairly minor detail in the context of a $40 million project. To bring it to ground level, it’s simply a matter of slightly increasing the grade, or installing some kind of stepped transition. Hardly a major strike against…

  6. I used to have a friend who was the model maker for one of the large architecture firms in the city, through him I got some insight in to how to read these models and more particularly what happens when a decision that gets made in the model shop gets translated into a built design. There is a building in the city that has a visible concrete ledge around it, it is the thickness it is, not because of any kind of engineering study or architectural massing consideration but beacuse it’s directly in scale with the thickness of the foamcore that was used to build the model.

    So thing is if you look at the Marvel model the west end of the “hill” facing Osgoode Hall is a vertical wall, when they come to actually build the thing they’ll have to make it out of something, and the only thing that will handle the load from the hill itself in practical terms is going to be concrete, they can do some stuff to make it look slightly less than awful but at the end of the day it’s still a wall in precisely the place where you don’t want a wall.

  7. 2007.03.08 18:35: Plant Architects wins it.

    BTW, kids, you want the HR element for horizontal lines, not a sequence of underscores.

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