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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

TWRC issues Herculean challenge

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As far as urban planning goes, few things are more exciting than a good design challenge. Take a derelict or declining space, ask some of the world’s most talented designers, landscapers, and planners to re-imagine it, and sit back and watch the submissions roll in. Of course, I’m sure it’s not as fun for those who have to go through each and every submission, but once a shortlist is named and the renderings and mock-ups begin rolling in, the real fun begins.

Last year saw design competitions announced for Nathan Phillips Square and the Central Waterfront, but the first big one of 2007 is upon us. Although it was actually announced towards the end of 2006, the competition-happy Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation issued a challenge to redesign the Lower Donlands Area. Not since the Twelve Labours of Hercules has a challenge so great been issued. To get a sense of the task assigned to the competitors, have a look at some of the competition goals:

– Naturalize the Mouth of the Don River
– Create a Continuous Riverfront Park System
– Provide for Harmonious New Development
– Connect Waterfront Neighbourhoods
– Prioritize Public Transit
– Develop a Gateway Into the Portlands
– Humanize Existing Infrastructure
– Enhance the Martin Goodman Trail
– Expand Opportunities for Interaction with the Water
– Promote Sustainable Development

It seems only the killing of the Lernaean Hydra is missing. The shortlist of candidates will be announced on January 26, 2007, and the always-entertaining public exhibition will begin April 17th.

Lernaean Hydra courtesy of



  1. I say kudos to all of the objectives except the naturalization of the Don River mouth…doesn’t that mean that we plant a reedy marsh and let the river lazily meander through a swamp? I don’t want to be a cynic, but urban swamps tend to just gather wind-blown trash in the winter and be full of mosquitoes in the summer. It may cleanse the Don, but it won’t be particularly inviting.

    I always thought it would be cool if we could deck over the DVP and the railway line on the west side of the Don and have a pedestrian promenade like the one in Brooklyn Heights, which is, I believe, decked over the BQE. We could also run a light rail line, or something on top of it.

  2. I agree with leonard, I am not convinced that naturalizing the Don is the best way to go. I would rather see the Don be more urbanized. That isn’t to say I want it more industrial but rather it should be more like what we see in London, Budapest or Paris.

    There is nothing wrong with a city feeling like a city.

    In conjunction with this would be the intensification of the rim of the valley.

    As for a deck over the DVP and the rail lines… what a great idea! It would do wonders for the area.