On Friday, Waterfront Toronto announced the winning design for the Jarvis Slip Design Competition. The winning team, Claude Cormier Architectes Paysagistes Inc., designed the “Sugar Beach” proposal (Warning: large PDF file), which is similar to HTO Park a little west of the Jarvis Slip. The proposal most prominently features a number of multi-coloured umbrellas along a sandy beach that lead up to the water’s edge, and also creates a strong connectivity between the space and the streetscape to its north.
Waterfront Toronto’s news release states that the jury appreciated “the establishment of a larger greater system of beach designs throughout Toronto’s waterfront.”
Although the design is a good one, I’m not sure this was the best proposal for the site. I may be in the minority, but I’m not 100% convinced that “urban beaches” are the most creative use of new public spaces along the waterfront. First, they are less useable in the winter months than in the summer ones, leaving fewer social uses for half the year. Second, to me, a large part of the charm of a beach is being able to swim, something that will be impossible at Sugar Beach for reasons of water cleanliness and traffic. Toronto already has a number of swimmable beaches, so adding a non-swimmable one seems to me to be a counter-intuitive use of the space.
The design also aims to remind us of the industrial heritage of the site by invoking the adjacent Redpath Sugar Factory in its name. While the gesture is nice, I feel like the presence of the factory itself is reminder enough, and that the other designs displayed a little more imagination in creating a new kind of place on the waterfront. Having now looked over each of the designs a few times, I would have liked to see Janet Rosenberg & Associates’ proposal (again: PDF) win for its commitment to sustainability, artistic education, and year-round use.
Having said that, and given the popularity of HTO Park, this urban beach will likely be a well-loved space and a key part of the new East Bayfront community. I’m curious to know what Spacing readers think of urban beaches: do you think they’re a good use of waterfront space, or would you rather see a different kind of public space?