Five and a half years ago, Waterfront Toronto proposed a complete overhaul of the forgotten stretch of lakefront property between Jarvis and Cherry streets. Last month, the final major part of that plan was unveiled: an urban park with a distinctly functional design, including a rubber-surfaced play area with spinning flying saucers and mysterious metal structures sprouting up from the ground.
But the park’s calling card is its UV water-treatment facility, which integrates the area’s stormwater management system into the design of the park, feeding the water-scultpure that runs the length of the park. “Usually water-treatment systems are designed in a separate space or not considered in the overall design,” says James Roche, Waterfront Toronto’s Director of Park Design and Construction. He points out that the design team, Vancouver landscape architect Greg Smallenberg and artist Jill Anholt, “looked at different options and in this case it worked to incorporate water-treatment into the design.” Treated runoff water spurts up through three lighted concrete sculptures that run the length of the park, eventually flowing back into Lake Ontario. The park also features a large splash pad that will be converted to a skating rink in winter (the splash pad is not fed with water from the treatment facility).
The result is a fusion of public health and public art that has been rightfully lauded as a burst of innovation on a dingy industrial strip. Lisa Rochon, The Globe and Mail’s architecture critic, compared it to a “finely crafted chess set,” sizing up the park by boldly declaring, “nature no longer exists,” but is instead replaced by “what we cultivate in our cities.”
The Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume called it a “bold exercise in topographical manipulation.” Okay, so the critics like it, but what about the kids? Is Sherbourne Common any fun? We went to the park and asked them.
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