This is part of a series of posts by students in OCAD’s Cities for People summer workshop (click the link to read a bit about what the class is about). This is a follow up post by Katie Felton, Nicol Bernstein + Kate Schuyler that includes their proposed design for the Niagara neighbourhood — click here to see their original post.
Identifying a Need
The catalysts for our design proposal were the very specific needs we identified within the Niagara community.
Revitalization and illuminating the character of the neighbourhood were at the top of our minds. As well, we felt with the development plans for Stanley Park and the planned pedestrian/cycling bridge south to Fort York, there will be a call for destination spots in the neighbourhood. In other words, Niagara needs a claim to fame that will generate buzz and draw people from all over the city. Somehow, this solution must stimulate the local economy but also serve a larger purpose in the community in terms of programming and mixed-usage.
The Deeper Why
Our research and observations about the neighbourhood brought to our attention a few key issues within the neighbourhood that could be addressed through a design intervention. For instance, the lack of face-to-face community time, as demonstrated through passionate community blogging, and the limited congregation space we noticed in the cramped Niagara Community Centre, which is barely noticeable from the street. We feel something bigger, bolder and more vibrant is needed this location to get more people out in the streets and awarded stewardship within in the community.
Another prominent issue within the community is the 100-year old abattoir, located directly across the street from the park, which is a bone of contention amongst residents, particularly newcomers to the neighbourhood and more specifically, condo-buyers who find themselves downwind of the smell of wind borne slaughter. Despite some public opposition, the building is a protected site and was slated for construction even before the official plan for the city was created, and it is quite likely to be a permanent fixture in the Niagara-hood for some time. So we figured, if you can’t beat them, it would probably make the most sense to join them. The best way to overcome adversity is to embrace and transform it into something beautiful.
We are excited to propose the Niagara Farmer’s Market, located at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Wellington St. West, in Stanley Park. It will be a permanent extension of the community center, replacing the old tennis courts and complimenting a landscaped two-way entrance to the park.
The market will be a place where local small businesses and artisans can gather and sell their goods, serve fresh food and interact with their neighbours. Things that may be sold could include fresh produce and meats, hot sandwiches and coffee, pies and baked goods, home-made jams, home remedies, jewelery, paintings, hand-made clothing, furniture, fortune –tellers, toys, eco-friendly products, personal care products such as creams and perfumes, designed items and fine art pieces and even second hand items and clothes. Limited only to what the community has to offer, there could be live music and organized activities during the market, such as gardening projects, sports events, and community art projects that could take place in the market or the surrounding park area.
Like many other examples in the city, a small market can inject a sense of ownership and pride into a neighbourhood in a way no other structure can, while at the same time powering the local economy and putting money in pockets for future investments in the best interest of the people.
With budget concerns in mind we don’t feel it’s necessary to tear down the old concrete community center when it can be built upon. Our idea is to renovate the East wall of the building, to create a new facade and entrance way to the building that will access the market area and facilitate a fluid connection between the public and the building, allowing market activities to go on in and out of doors.
What we propose is a permanent roofed structure that will be an extension of the community center and house booths and benches that are modular. The result will have the tone of a marketplace for market-days, which will most likely fall on Saturdays and Sundays, but can also be used daily for picnicking and children’s programs. Therefore, it becomes both mixed-use and intentional, a destination, yet also transient and changing. Our structure will be a purposeful improvement to the current conditions of that corner and a worthwhile investment in the community that will institute returns, both financially and socially.
We feel a permanent market would not be well-designed if it did not somehow represent the identity of the community with playful pride and establish its presence in the city. Some would opt for a logo or a mascot, but we propose a monumental piece of public art that we like to call The Bacon or the Smell-o-meter. “The Bacon” is exactly what it sounds like, but without the grease and frying pan. It is in no way intended to offend meat eaters or vegan/vegetarians, but is simply a playful approach to a reality that we feel will draw attention to a piece of public history. The piece itself will be a large and majestic sculpture of pressured treated, bent, wood that resembles a giant piece of bacon. It will also serve as a gauge to how intense the smell of the slaughterhouse will be at any given moment. Like a thermometer, a distinct red sphere of blood moves up and down a metal strip of fat that slices through the middle of the wooden strip: the higher the point of reach, the more intense the smell is on that day. The Bacon is a conceptual piece of dark humor and our attempt to creatively explore the unique characteristics of the Niagara neighborhood through design.