DOWNSVIEW PARK, CANADA, TORONTO, 2000
Masterplan for a large scale urban park\r\n

Toronto suffers from neglect. Of all major North American cities Toronto spends the lowest amount on public space. No major city spends less on park operations. Can Toronto survive as urban beauty becomes increasingly important to a city’s prominence in the world marketplace? Will Toronto’s own negligence turn Canada’s central hub into a peripheral global city? Despite its derelict spending, Toronto has the opportunity to convert the city’s one inherent asset into its greatest civic amenity.

We propose to use Toronto’s most distinguishing feature as the park’s primary urban component. Trees rather than buildings will serve as the catalyst of urbanization. Vegetal clusters rather than new building complexes will provide the site’s identity. An urban domain constituted by landscape elements, Tree City attempts to do more by building less, producing density with natural permeability, property development with perennial enrichment.

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Tree City is a feasible urban alternative within the stated available budget. Landscape elements will be planted incrementally over time as funding permits, gradually building up the
park’s mass into a flexible patchwork of planted clusters separated by open undesignated areas. This will be staged as three long term phases: (1) site and soil preparation, (2) pathway construction, and (3) cluster landscaping. The outcome is a matrix of circular tree clusters covering 25% of the site which is supplemented by meadows, playing fields and gardens. Tree City treats the park as if it is an adult soon capable of sustaining itself rather than a child in need of eternal care. While most infrastructures decrease in value over time, Tree City’s natural network will appreciate as the park matures. We propose that capital generated from the park’s appreciated land value be spent to manage the park’s infrastructure and to support future development in an evolving cycle of implantation
and speculation. Tree City is therefore a plan for attainable growth rather than a proposal to create extensive bulk. By forgoing costly buildings in order to dedicate funds for
landscaping, Tree City sacrifices the static in order to save what can grow.

Tree City assumes the park’s suburban context to be its virtue. The locale offers an ideal opportunity to explore the unrealized promises of low density metropolitan life. Long notorious for its predictability and deathly uniformity, the suburb now has the potential to function as a playground for the urban population to unwind. Tree City’s landscaped clusters are programmed for various leisure activities. Adopting the criss-cross figure of the existing runway, Tree City’s clusters are complemented with 1000 crossing paths to be used by
cyclists, joggers and pedestrians. Its amalgamated landscape will offer a green destination within Toronto’s expanding core, making Downsview a counterpart to the Downtown.

Located near railways, major expressways and GO Transit lines, Tree City can function as both a point of destination and dispersal. Visitors will be able to visit the site by numerous public and individual means from within the city. At the same time, it can serve as a transportation hub for connections to other outlying areas. As a hub, Tree City would accommodate the extension of Sheppard Avenue under the runway, the future extension of the east-west subway, as well as the development of the existing railway tracks for intermodal transportation.
Ultimately, we envision this vegetal epicenter to connect with the city’s green spaces and form a Tree infrastructure for the Greater Toronto Area. By continuing its landscape clusters and extensive pedestrian pathways into adjacent areas, Tree City can link up with the Black Creek and West Don ravines, integrating Downsview into the system of wooded river valleys, parks and public paths so unique to Toronto’s urban domain. Earth bridges over Keele Street to the west and Sheppard Avenue to the north will knit Downsview’s ecology with the city. In this Tree City grows the park into Toronto to foment urbanization.

COMPETITION FIRST PRIZE
Project:
Masterplan for a large scale urban park

Client:
Canada Lands Company Ltd.

Year:
2000

Status:
Competition, first prize

Type:

Masterplan

Location:
Located between Keel Street and Allen Road south of Sheppard in Toronto, Downsview Park is a
1,294,994m2 site within a 2,606,175m2 property that was formerly a base for the Canadian military

Site:
Downsview represents one of the highest points of land in the city of Toronto. The point of origin of many small tributaries that feed the Humber and Don river system – the two largest of such systems in the Toronto area – originate on the Downsview Lands. Since Settlement in the early 1800s, activities, including agricultural production and the construction of a military base, have significantly altered the physical environment. The Downsview parklands currently consist largely of open meadows, sports fields, and picnic areas including a recently dedicated Butterfly Garden.

Budget:
CAN $140,000,000



COLLABORATORS

This project was a creative collaboration between Bruce Mau Design Inc., Inside Outside; and OMA, with Oleson Worland Architects.

Environmental:
Ove Arup & Partners



CREDITS

Team
Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Mau, David Oleson, Petra Blaisse, Jeffrey Inaba, Anita Matusevics, Jason Halter, Maris Mezulis, Louis-Charles Lasnier, Amanda Sebris, David Wilkinson, Howard Wong, Michelle Lavigne, Kent Aggus, Simon Chan, Henry Cheung, Donald Mak, Riki Nishimura, Shadi Rahbaran