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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Pedestrian Bridge Design Competition Vote

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Last March, the City’s planning staff put out a report regarding a pedestrian and cycling bridge that would cross the rail corridor south of Front Street in between Portland Street and Draper Street.  The highly visible box truss bridge proposed would lead to a new 3 hectare public park currently under construction.

In the hopes of avioding getting stuck with a thoroughly unremarkable design for this future gateway to the city, UrbanToronto has initiated a Design Charette where individuals have submitted their own designs for the bridge to be assessed by the voting public (50%) and a selected jury of architects, planners and community leaders (50%).

REGISTER TO VOTE: you must first register with UrbanToronto.
TO VOTE: Pedestrian Bridge Design Charette
VOTING DEADLINE: Friday, June 12 @ 6 PM

Some of the design submissions:

Designer: Mackenzie Keast

Designer: InfrastructureStudio

Designer: Office for Responsible Environments (anonymous)

Designer: Nathaniel Addison & Khalid Al Nasser

More designs on the UrbanToronto Charette…



  1. I’ve taken the VIA train west along the corridor quite a bit lately, and I’ve started to wonder what it would take to cover the rail corridor completely. Pipe dream; probably, but I think it would be great to have a green corridor just south of Front street. The north approach to the SkyDome – I mean Rogers Centre – would be somewhat less “cramped” on game day as everyone approached the Dome. This project got me thinking about it a little more.

  2. I agree with KanuKodiak – why settle for a bridge when we can have a series of public spaces and sporting grounds (gaps would have to be left to permit ventilation of the diesel VIA and freight trains running underneath, even with GO electrification). It could be a similar project to that proposed to deck over the Allen.

  3. I’ve had several conversations with the folks proposing this design competition and I’m surpised that they continue to raise alarms about this bridge.

    The developer as part of the complex agreements that that govern the rail lands has a responsibility to create a mid-block bridge for pedestrians and bikes between Bathurst and Spadina. The bridge is supposed to line up Portland and Dan Leckie Way.

    GO transit won’t give the City or Concord Adex a pedestal position that aligns with desired location. The bridge must now swing east to a single pier and then swing west to a landing on the south side.

    Additionally, the bridge must clear all tracks (including the ones abutting the north and south retaining walls with enough height to facilitate electrification. The bridge must also be pushed even higher to sustain sightlines for signaling up the track. The end result is that the bridge now lands on Front street almost 11m in the air. To accomodate wheelchairs and bikes, ramps need to be built to make the bridge accesible.

    Despite all of this, we are insisting that the bridge get built as soon as possible, as it will allow neighbours to the north and south to move beautifully between their communities and the waterfront.

    I say beautifully because the developer has gone above the call of duty and submitted the design to the City’s Art Committee for Public Places [].The Art Committee for Public Places is comprised of architects, citizens and artists that provide expert community input on public art projects while giving guidance and advice from the earliest stages of public art projects.

    Together with the planners, designers and art consultant working on CityPlace projects (other projects include the Douglas Coupland Park) a project and a process to build a stunning bridge is underway.

    At a community meeting two months ago a rudimentary scheme was presented to the community. It was clear that this was a draft, not a proposal, not a suggestion, not an idea and not a version of the proposed bridge. Rather the tight design specifications and the difficult parameters of the project were explained to residents of the adjoining communities.

    Citizens were brought up to speed on the Public Art and design review process that has been set up to ensure that everyone knew that this highly visable bridge was not going to be a simple truss bridge.

    Let me be clear. It will not be a truss bridge. It will be a sculpture that functions as a bridge and a glorious gateway in and out of the adjoining communities and the city.

    The processes for the public art and design review were agreed to by the developer, the community and the City almost a decade ago.

    The developer has secured a major artist to design the bridge. The intial designs are still being finalized (all rail bridges must be approved by federal authorities to make sure saftey and construction standards are met). GO tranist is constructing the pedestal in the next few weeks (perhaps days) and the City is set to review a final design this summer.

    The artist will unveil his design within the next little while. Intial concept drawings have not been shared with the public yet but will be soon.

    Proponents of this charette have been told all of this but still fear that a simple truss is what will be built. They feel a charette is required and they continue to raise worries about a design no one has seen.

    By all means unleash your imaginations. We will all love to see what approaches to bridge building are possible, but please rest assured that my office, the city, the developer and the City’s Art Committee for Public Places, not to mention the artist, have no intention of missing an opportunity, nor have we all been working this hard to build a boring truss bridge.

    Adam Vaughan
    City Councillor
    Ward 20 Toronto
    416 392 4044

  4. Adam,

    You’re right. No one has seen the bridge yet except yourself, a small group of consultants and whoever participated in the consultation(s) more than a year ago. All we keep hearing is “it will be stunning,” “it will be beautiful,” etc. – well let’s have a look at it!

    Bridging the Design Gap was not set up because we fear that a sub-par bridge will be designed. It was set up because we are sure such an underwhelming structure will be set down there. Because of this, we felt it was necessary to try and re-start the discussion. It seems however that you feel this discussion does not need to be restarted, even in light of the brilliant proposals we received. This position was confirmed by how little correspondence with your office had with us during this whole process (not for our lack of trying).

    We have ‘unleashed our imaginations’ and it is clear that several unique approaches to bridge building are possible. We were aware of all of the conditions imposed by GO Transit and CN Rail but whereas you saw them as limitations to the finished product, we merely saw the envelope within which the structure must be designed.

    It seems however you are confident that a truss system will not play any role in the future structure: “it will not be a truss bridge” and “we have not been working this hard to build a boring truss bridge.” Shall we hold you to that quote? Furthermore, what happens if, as we predict, this ‘sculpture,’ this ‘glorious gateway,’ turns out to be a truss-in-drag. What we truly fear is that the City and Concord’s idea of such a gateway will be little more than the aforementioned truss with a tensile steel sculpture welded to the side.

    Perhaps you could quell our fears by contacting the artist in question and requesting a preliminary render of his creation? Presenting yourself as a steward of good citybuilding (which you surely are) yet giving us a timeline as specific as: ‘the next little while’ just isn’t not good enough.

  5. Adam I hope you’re right. You can’t blame some people in this city getting a little worried about wasted opportunities. Your comments above make the process appear very closed doors leaving the public out of what should be a very public forum on design. In the future would you help set up more public think tanks and possible design competitions for development that will effect all Torontonians. You’d be surprised what talent out their never gets to see the light of day.


  6. So Councillor Vaughan is expecting the bridge to be 11m above Front street?

    He has obviously not been looking at the drawings very carefully. If he had he would have noticed that the bridge deck will be in the region of 2-3 metres above the road level.

    And I hear it is a Chilean artist who is doing something with the bridge design. Are there no Toronto or Canadian architects or artists you feel are good enough to handle such a task?

    This quote is gold: “It was clear that this was a draft, not a proposal, not a suggestion, not an idea and not a version of the proposed bridge”.

    Adam Vaughn you clown. If it’s none of these things then why was it presented to the public?

  7. The Chilean artist who has been commissioned by Concord to design the “art” component is Francisco Gazitua. He has designed several of the art pieces seen in and around CityPlace, such as “Rosa Nautica” between West One and N1, and “Barca Volante” in the HVE phase.