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Toronto Waterfront Design Competition Results

archimatt

Looks like the West8 team has emerged victorious.

See their proposal (and the losers) at http://www.towaterfront.ca/

An early article about it via the Toronto Star:
http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1149242520785&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154


While many of the small-to-medium scale proposals by West8 look great, those giant maple leaves in the harbour are a giant joke. I can only hope that they retain the concept of water remidiating islands, but lose the Disney shlock symbolism. In fact, alot of their presentation (especially the Adriaan Geuze presentation in early May) seemed like a big Dutch joke about Canada (stereotypes and all).

Although the majority of suburb-dwelling Torontonians see no value in well designed public space, I can help but get a little excited that perhaps West8 (preferrably sans jokes) can fix the "mistake on the lake" that is our waterfront.

 
Jun 2, 06 3:14 pm
dyske

They had also proposed a maple-leaf shaped public space project in montreal for the art biennale 2 years ago, it didn't get built.... but I can't find any images.

Jun 2, 06 3:31 pm
freq_arch

I wonder if an otherwise subtle and meaningful proposal would get lost in the mix if it didn't have some obvious 'hook' as these seem to have.
Foster's 'objects' are pretty cool. Otherwise, I was a bit underwhelmed, generally. Of course a successfully underwhelming waterfront in Toronto might still be an upgrade.

Jun 2, 06 3:42 pm
bRink

I think this proposal could be great. The team of firms is great, expect clean sharp design, good public spaces from those firms...

To be honest, that the island is a maple leaf doesn't bother me, if it's designed by West 8. A West 8 floating maple leaf might be cool, it's not like its Michael Graves (note that at the human scale it does other things, more like a series of -- see the "multiple waterfront" perspective, and then imagine that floating lilly pond dock, slipping into the water)

The way I see it, the proposal has both provocative urban ideas and I think does reflect the city and "the trademark hook" of the maple leaf does a few positive things for the proposal:

(i) it gives them a distinct landscape element that is also a postcard object (lets face it, such an expensive project has to sell trademark photo ops to tourists, and tourists like cheesy symbolism) While other proposals such as Foster's have unique elements, they aren't cheesy enought to be sellable, they won't be as distinct, and they are at the same time much much more expensive... you get bang for your buck there... People will eat it up.

(ii) even though its a giant symbol, you won't experience it as a giant supergraphic at a human scale because its just so huge... and, it's designed by West 8, fully functional not just a useless logo... So you get the cheese without it looking cheesy.

(iii) For travellers, it stands out. Nobody flying to Toronto can forget the unique skyine / birdseye character... If it was an usual tower, people would forget it eventually, every city has one... If its a symbol island, who could forget it... It puts Toronto on the map literally (via google earth, etc.) for something not extremely expensive to build, and to be honest, it is even more distinct than say Gehry's EMP in Seattle, and hits a broader and wider audience than Gehry's Guggenheim-- reaches a general public, and with west 8 at the helm, probably a cool design on another level that will reach a design audience as well...

(iv) It's definitely Canadian, without typecasting... Its pure symbol.

(v) It has balls, and its different, breaks the mold... Kindof witty in a way not unlike Gehry's Santa Monica parkade... Its only a huge graphic symbol from afar, from near it's something else.

I don't know, it could be good or bad... Depends on the design and the performance of it...

Jun 2, 06 10:17 pm
bRink

The other thing I like about the winning proposal is that it has a *real* feel to it... maybe in the montages... I've lived in Toronto, and I can imagine being at those public spaces... Some of those other proposals are cool, but they could be anywhere and they don't feel "real" if you get what I mean... They are generic, don't display an understanding of what Toronto, and people there, are really like... Maybe it has to do with the types of culture and performance that I see in the West 8 montages that seems believable like Toronto to me more than the other proposals...

Jun 2, 06 10:26 pm
bRink

The maple leaf is different enough that it could actually pull off some guggenheim effect in a world where a guggenheim has become totally inflated...

Jun 2, 06 10:30 pm
bRink

sorry for multiposting... i'm like a used car salesman spamming about the west 8 proposal...

the maple leaf is a "floating island, supporting submergent plants for water filtration (waterlillies)"... Its the "PUT CANADA ON THE MAP AS ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS" proposal...

the west8 proposal

Jun 2, 06 10:38 pm
bRink

p.s. i showed the link to my non-architect friend from toronto... and his reaction was "cool a giant maple leaf"...

Jun 2, 06 10:55 pm
bRink

"While many of the small-to-medium scale proposals by West8 look great, those giant maple leaves in the harbour are a giant joke. I can only hope that they retain the concept of water remidiating islands, but lose the Disney shlock symbolism. In fact, alot of their presentation (especially the Adriaan Geuze presentation in early May) seemed like a big Dutch joke about Canada (stereotypes and all).

Although the majority of suburb-dwelling Torontonians see no value in well designed public space, I can help but get a little excited that perhaps West8 (preferrably sans jokes) can fix the "mistake on the lake" that is our waterfront."

archimatt:

sorry to say, but all of the stereotypes about canadians are 110% true.

Jun 2, 06 11:02 pm
Auguste Perret

Is this a bad time to mention that I was actually hoping that SAA+WWArchitecture would win? Their proposal just seemed more integrated and creative. The west8 entry has nice elements, but it also looks like something city officals can 'water down' and subtract from. I hope that doesn't happen.

Jun 2, 06 11:26 pm
AP


a romantic vision

Jun 2, 06 11:28 pm
archimatt

BRink, I dont want a waterfront designed for tourists. I dont want a "sellable" image. I want a waterfront that is designed for Torontonians to enjoy.

And on that note, symbolism aside, I have issues with the design of the islands themselves. What was exciting about the Tod Williams island proposal was that they were large enough to allow for a variety of potential uses, programmed and unprogrammed.

The thin boardwalk + glass pavillion + massive lilly pond of West8 are hardly compelling. Apart from whistful wandering and kayaking in a morning dew (perhaps he was on his way up the st lawrence to trade some bever pelts for maple syrup?), how is the average person supposed to enjoy those in all seasons? Perhaps some more thinking needs to be done on that.


And granted that the actual shape of the islands is relativly arbitrary (unless they were to be based on performative criteria), what do those symbols say about Toronto's self-identity? Who are we building this for?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto

As a metropolitan city of more than 5 million, Toronto would be better to celebrate its own multiculturalism and particular identity rather than become a proxy for a romantic and antiquated image of Canada for the postcard enjoyment of others.

Jun 3, 06 8:11 pm
archimatt

and i suppose (from the last line in the following article) the jury agreed:

http://torontosun.com/News/TorontoAndGTA/2006/06/03/1612833-sun.html

Jun 3, 06 8:17 pm
bRink

Multiculturalism is a tricky thing to celebrate... The maple leaf as a symbol represents the people... Its abstract, it says nothing about beaver pelts and maple syrup... The reality is, alot of those things are a reflection of how we wrestle with identity as a people in the face of multiculturalism, and to some it may seem kitchy, but generic multiculturalism is really hard to define as an identity... Kicthy to me can also easily be "international symbolism" representing other stereotypical identities-- which not only doesn't define an abstract unity, it refers always to somewhere else, when the real multiculturalism is a dynamic, raw thing that is there in the messy life of spadina chinatown or italian neighborhoods or kensington market, suburban minority stripmalls, subcultures of underground night scenes, etc. Representing multiculturalism to me is hokey, even more kitchy than the maple leaf, than the cn tower, or a canadian flag which is abstract, because isn't multiculturalism really about openness, giving common identity I think should be something other than existing cultures...

This isn't about a romantic antiquated vision, its about common ground in a heterogeneous urban context. I think the problem is a resistance to anything new... Many people are afraid of anything that seems to say anything, and would prefer to say nothing... Play it safe... I think the city doesn't need to be afraid of doing something out of the ordinary... The shape of the island is not arbitrary, it's a symbol in plan. it might not be the "optimal shape" if thats what you mean, but a giant graphic symbol does do something... It is functional in an additional way, has presence in an odd way that another form which may be just as arbitray does not... It's not just about tourists (although that is a significant factor), it's about identity in general... Isn't multiculturalism about projecting an image to the rest of the world in addition to providing human scale public spaces that are open and pragmatic? There are plenty of arbitrary gestures in landscape, whats significant is the idea of a floating island that is a dock for different kinds of vessels, and that performs an environmental role for the lake... helps clean the lake and restore it... that's something that is direly needed, the act itself is also a symbol...

I wonder: would there be an issue if it wasn't a maple leaf and instead some oval or arbitrary abstract shape?

Jun 3, 06 10:34 pm
bRink

well i dunno...

maybe they can come up with something better...

Jun 4, 06 2:00 am
archimatt

I think there is a problem the way we are talking about representation. I suggested that Toronto celebrate its multiculturalism, not represent it. You are correct in saying that representing multiculturalism (through symbols, etc) is also very kitschy.

What I really enjoyed about the PORT submission was that because of its structure (ie almost a dozens firms collaborating) it was forced to undertake a strategy whereby each firm took a section of the waterfront and created an individual project that was also tied to the concept of a continuous promenade.

I think that a meshwork of individual landscape interventions tied across the waters edge reflects the multicultural spirit and mechanics of Toronto better than a carpet bombing of "shared symbols" (fruit salad vs melting pot?).

I dont believe that a heterogeneous city's common ground should reside in an image grafted onto our lake. Nor should it lie with another image such as the CN Tower, etc. Those are pretty flimsy glues.

The shared identity from this project should coalesce around a shared civic experience of the quality public space along the waterfront, and a commitment to environmental stewardship. And as Ive said, the small to medium scale details are quite convincing in that respect.

And besides, the symbols are representative of an abstract notion of the country - not the city. This really shouldnt be an identity building project for Canada, its a project for Toronto. Perhaps those types of symbols are better suited to a "symbolic canadian city" like Ottawa instead.

Jun 4, 06 2:53 am
bRink

archimatt:

about your tossed salad vs. melting pot analogy... i've often thought that the tossed salad is a tricky thing for a culture... i've lived in chicago (melting pot) and toronto (tossed salad), and i think i like both, but i think sometimes a tossed salad tastes/works better with some dressing and seasonings sprinkled over the whole thing.

When I think of Toronto, I can think of a few things that define its culture generally that are common dressing over the multicultural tossed salad:

1. cars and transit (the "rocket"...): people commute or at least drive around... regardless of how well you design the civic experience of the waterfront, it will be at least in the beginning a destination, not a pedestrian transportation infrastructure... people don't hang out on the street... its not in the culture... they go places to do something...

2. cold dead streets in the winter, interior destinations, and air conditioning in the summer: people like to go outside, but only when there is something to do there and its daaam cooold in the winter... put some nightclubs and restaurants on the waterfront for the winter, but not much gonna happen there anyway outside... If you go to king street or adelaide in the middle of the winter, its dead, a ghost town... people are inside.

3. leafs fans: yeah, i know leafs fans are annoying for some people who don't care about hockey, but I'd say the majority of people like them... or at least, that is one common thing that ties people together, whatever background they come from... it is whether we like it or not, something that is common to everyone in the city

people may hang out outside occassionally, but the city is spread out... if you built a plaza on the waterfront right now, it would be kindof dead... not saying that won't change, but how it changes requires people living on the water, just creating prime waterfront property and destinations on the water for specific recreational or other activities... then, if condos start popping up all along that property, eventually smaller pedestrian life emerges...

but, right now... i can see a value in a waterfront skyline element... i don't know that the maple leaf would be pointless-- i can imagine it operating on different levels, being something identifiable in the "mental map" of every torontonian: an illuminated plan element on the skyline, seen in aerial helecopter views of toronto on a hockey night while leafs fans are out in the bars, or at home in the urban outskirts... this would be *functional* in the dead of winter when somebody would be nuts to be hanging out by the water with the windchill... at the same time, in the summer it has other functions... But its not really a toronto maple leafs symbol, its a canadian symbol... its a symbol of the people more generally. if there were an olympics in toronto, the meaning would shift... And, if I live in Toronto, whenever I return home by plane, or maybe by car, these types of symbols signal that I'm home... When you are in New York, you see the Statue of Liberty, and you know you're in New York.

the problem i have with the tossed salad is that there is so much nationalism in toronto, but no candian identity... people are so natinalistic about their own places, and in some odd way, i think canadian representation is a good thing, a graphic symbol may be weak glue, but no glue can be a problem... And its not just a graphic symbol, a mental map image, its an operating mental map element, also a landscape element with an ecological function to revitilize the lake, and a recreational field.

The water of Toronto has no identity, no presence. In Vancouver, you have mountains to the north, a backdrop always there in your mental map as well as visibly... In Toronto, the identity has to be man-made... Not that I'm for canadian nationalism or something, but there are problems that come with multiculturalism, not just in terms of geographic distribution... there can be social problems with lack of identity... Its hard for diverse people to call a common place home when everything refers to another place elsewhere...

I think common ground is for the most part found in common places for activity, but I think to say that representation has lost all meaning is an exaggeration... representations may have lost alot of potency, but they are not dead... I wonder if some new kind of graphci representation on this scale might be different enough to actually have relevance in our present day context.

Jun 4, 06 4:41 pm
bRink

archimatt:

about your tossed salad vs. melting pot analogy... i've often thought that the tossed salad is a tricky thing for a culture... i've lived in chicago (melting pot) and toronto (tossed salad), and i think i like both, but i think sometimes a tossed salad tastes/works better with some dressing and seasonings sprinkled over the whole thing.

When I think of Toronto, I can think of a few things that define its culture generally that are common dressing over the multicultural tossed salad:

1. cars and transit (the "rocket"...): people commute or at least drive around... regardless of how well you design the civic experience of the waterfront, it will be at least in the beginning a destination, not a pedestrian transportation infrastructure... people don't hang out on the street... its not in the culture... they go places to do something...

2. cold dead streets in the winter, interior destinations, and air conditioning in the summer: people like to go outside, but only when there is something to do there and its daaam cooold in the winter... put some nightclubs and restaurants on the waterfront for the winter, but not much gonna happen there anyway outside... If you go to king street or adelaide in the middle of the winter, its dead, a ghost town... people are inside.

3. leafs fans: yeah, i know leafs fans are annoying for some people who don't care about hockey, but I'd say the majority of people like them... or at least, that is one common thing that ties people together, whatever background they come from... it is whether we like it or not, something that is common to everyone in the city

people may hang out outside occassionally, but the city is spread out... if you built a plaza on the waterfront right now, it would be kindof dead... not saying that won't change, but how it changes requires people living on the water, just creating prime waterfront property and destinations on the water for specific recreational or other activities... then, if condos start popping up all along that property, eventually smaller pedestrian life emerges...

but, right now... i can see a value in a waterfront skyline element... i don't know that the maple leaf would be pointless-- i can imagine it operating on different levels, being something identifiable in the "mental map" of every torontonian: an illuminated plan element on the skyline, seen in aerial helecopter views of toronto on a hockey night while leafs fans are out in the bars, or at home in the urban outskirts... this would be *functional* in the dead of winter when somebody would be nuts to be hanging out by the water with the windchill... at the same time, in the summer it has other functions... But its not really a toronto maple leafs symbol, its a canadian symbol... its a symbol of the people more generally. if there were an olympics in toronto, the meaning would shift... And, if I live in Toronto, whenever I return home by plane, or maybe by car, these types of symbols signal that I'm home... When you are in New York, you see the Statue of Liberty, and you know you're in New York.

the problem i have with the tossed salad is that there is so much nationalism in toronto, but no candian identity... people are so natinalistic about their own places, and in some odd way, i think canadian representation is a good thing, a graphic symbol may be weak glue, but no glue can be a problem... And its not just a graphic symbol, a mental map image, its an operating mental map element, also a landscape element with an ecological function to revitilize the lake, and a recreational field.

The water of Toronto has no identity, no presence. In Vancouver, you have mountains to the north, a backdrop always there in your mental map as well as visibly... In Toronto, the identity has to be man-made... Not that I'm for canadian nationalism or something, but there are problems that come with multiculturalism, not just in terms of geographic distribution... there can be social problems with lack of identity... Its hard for diverse people to call a common place home when everything refers to another place elsewhere...

I think common ground is for the most part found in common places for activity, but I think to say that representation has lost all meaning is an exaggeration... representations may have lost alot of potency, but they are not dead... I wonder if some new kind of graphci representation on this scale might be different enough to actually have relevance in our present day context.

Jun 4, 06 4:44 pm
bRink

OMG... sorry for double bombing that long post... (how do i delete a post?) oh well, as you can see, i'm all for carpet bombing...

but seriously, i'm not disagreeing with what youre saying, i agree with "a meshwork of individual landscape interventions tied across the waters edge reflects the multicultural spirit and mechanics of Toronto"...

Jun 4, 06 4:54 pm
Lisa Carmen

my issue with it is that i don't think in its presentation really addresses a sensitivity to how this is actually going to work. By that i mean - what are the factors that drive it from an urban design perspective? I saw some pretty cool bridges and the maple leafs - the proposed transport network has promise - but i feel the scheme is a bit light and won't actually address the problems toronto currently has in terms of urban design. What of Toronto being a winter city? I'm not convinced the scheme really addresses that.

Jun 6, 06 10:07 am

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