Toronto’s transit is dominated by the axis of its subway system, which largely follows two of the longest streets in the city: Yonge and Bloor-Danforth. This infrastructure has resulted in development that has progressed in a similarly linear fashion, creating a dense population of commuters who live along the subway lines. The elevated bike lane proposal is designed to address the vulnerability of the current system by offering a supplementary means of transportation that is accessible at any time. These lightweight covered lanes would allow cyclists to travel across the city unimpeded by traffic lights or precipitation. The design also makes use of solar paneling to power the street lighting, which is integrated into the supporting columns. In a still experimental phase, a titanium-coated fine mesh canopy would stretch over the entire street and extend over most of the sidewalks as well. This canopy would use a thermally-activated wicking system to prevent snow from accumulating on the street, eliminating the need for fossil fuel intensive snow removal machinery and eventually allow these thoroughfares to become restricted to emission-free vehicle usage. With improved transportation options and a better pedestrian experience, the Yonge Street and Bloor Street corridors could accommodate further growth and perhaps enhance linear dynamism as a defining characteristic of the city.
When news broke out that a high profile condo tower at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor in Toronto would not be constructed, suggestions began popping up for public space alternatives. Being one of the most valuable pieces of property in the city has made the idea of it becoming solely a public square somewhat unlikely. Architecture critic Christopher Hume suggested the possibility of a public private venture, which led me to envision a vertical park for the site that would be attached to a mixed use residential tower. The main feature of the design is a one mile, gently curving gradient that winds its way up to a height of 66 metres, affording panoramic vistas of the downtown. The structure would make use of its southern exposure for passive solar heating, allowing the green space to be enjoyed year round with minimal energy expenditure. I created the model using Google’s free SketchUp software, it can be downloaded from the 3D warehouse and viewed in Google Earth (to hide the former buildings at the site simply right click on them).
A brief proposal for the transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens:
This presently dormant Toronto landmark could be brought to life by adapting a couple of its key structural features, namely the concrete stands and vaulted roof. By refitting the existing metal framed roof with transparent insulated panelling, the interior would fill with light, opening up the possibilities for indoor plant life and public space. The removal of most of the seating from the stands leaves a terrace structure suitable for compact vegetable gardening, with water supplied via a gravity dispensed rainwater collection system. The produce grown within the building would provide a steady supply to a flagship restaurant located in the upper box seating areas. Being in the food business, the current owners could still consider a linear variation on the supermarket in the lobby areas of the building.
The flat central surface could serve as a public park with modular landscaping that could be moved to make way for an ice rink during the winter. To conserve energy the building would make use of natural ventilation and passive solar heating in tandem with a geothermal system.