The year 2007 will be remembered not only for a construction boom but a shift from Toronto's Victorian and Modern heritage to a true global village: a city of neighbourhoods where every corner has the potential for revitalization, gentrification and delight.
The revitalization of Toronto is being led by a new culture of visionary city builders at municipal and provincial levels.
The City of Toronto held a competition to revitalize its heart - Nathan Phillips Square, the City's premier outdoor public gathering space, a leading tourist attraction, and national and provincial landmark. The design lead by Plant Architects and Shore Tilbe Irwin & Partners won the competition .
Waterfront Toronto's development and revitalization of the waterfront along Lake Ontario is exhilarating, making sure that Toronto remains among the best places to live, work and visit. The opening of the HTO Park in June 2007 was an exciting step in the ongoing revitalization of Toronto's waterfront. The name HTO represents the fundamental changes that will take place in the relationship between Toronto and its waterfront. HTO was created by a design team led by Janet Rosenberg + Associates Landscape Architects. Corus Entertainment (First Waterfront Place) designed by Diamond & Schmitt Architects will be the first major commercial office development to be built as part of the City's waterfront revitalization initiative. Heading east along the waterfront takes you to West Don Lands, a highly anticipated new neighbourhood that will create a leading development in Toronto and promises to rejuvenate the Lower Don River. The Planning Partnership and Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co Architects are leading the urban design and streetscape planning team for this project.
Further along the water's edge is the Filmport development, Toronto's new film and media district in the Port Lands. Expected to exceed three million square feet of commercial office, industrial and studio facilities, two buildings are just about completed and another is on the way. The complex is
anchored by the site's first commercial building, designed by Will Alsop in association with Toronto?s Quadrangle Architects. This is to be the first building developed in the dynamic film and media community which is slated to take shape adjacent to the studio complex. The iconic building will be an active and exciting meeting and working environment for everyone doing business at FILMPORT.
The first office towers to be built in Toronto's Central Business District in 20 years are being constructed just north of the waterfront. The RBC Centre (Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co Architects, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates and Bregman + Hamann Architects), TELUS Tower (Adamson Associates and &Co Architects) and the Bay-Adelaide Centre (WZMH Architects) are the three leading office developments in Toronto's core. These forward-thinking towers will provide Toronto over 3 million square feet of space and are aiming for LEED Silver certification or higher.
A phenomenal example of old buildings with new uses is the Evergreen Brickworks, currently under construction and led by Du Toit Architects Limited. It will soon be a vibrant place that adapts and grows to meet new urban challenges. The Brickworks will be a centre for innovation and fresh thinking that will inspire future generations to rethink their place in the world. This project aims to bring nature, family and local community together.
Similar in spirit is the Wychwood Green Arts Barns project, also being lead by Du Toit Architects. Formerly designated for streetcar repair barns in the early twentieth century, the area is being transformed into a community that fosters art and cultural diversity while providing sustainable solutions for affordable housing and communities.
Green as it is, Toronto shows its spunky spirit with the new Umbra retail concept store on Queen East (which is actually hot pink) by Kohn Shnier Architects and Figure3 designers. Equally dramatic is Allsteel's Toronto Resource Centre, also designed by Figure3, a progressive workplace solution located in the historic Toronto Carpet Factory, Liberty Village neighborhood.
Many of Toronto's existing cultural centres have also been a source of attention. At the Victorian-era Royal Conservatory of Music building, the Telus Centre for Performance and Learning designed by KPMB Architects will be one of the greatest performance arts and education venues. And who can forget the grand opening of the new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition to the Royal Ontario Museum that juts out onto Bloor Street, designed by Daniel Liebeskind, which opened with such controversy June 2007. In sensuous contrast, the transformed Art Gallery of Ontario designed by Frank Gehry, is taking breathtaking shape and promises of New Art, New Building, New Ideas, New Future.
One of the most flexible but still incredibly strong schools in Toronto is the Claude Watson School of the Arts designed by Kohn Shnier Architects, known as an "art magnet". Business and science meet in the MaRS Discovery District Phase II, designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects, a 900,000 square foot addition to the MaRS Centre. The centre stimulates innovation, entrepreneurship and the creation of successful global businesses from Canada's science and technology.
It's not surprising that creative city guru Richard Florida has chosen to relocate to Toronto this year just one year after Toronto's pre-eminent urbanist Jane Jacob's died. Toronto is at the forefront of rebirth and Florida is coming along for the ride.