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Urbane Renewal: Six New Public Spaces To Get Excited About

The city’s smartest new outdoor spaces put people first

By Elizabeth Pagliacolo

Above: DOSE OF THE DUTCH

What’s a woonerf ? The Dutch word will be rolling off our tongues once the first one here opens. This barrier-free promenade carves out a common space for pedestrians, cars and bikes on its patterned pavement. While thousands can be found in the Netherlands, Toronto’s – connecting Underpass Park with the River City condos in the West Don Lands – is a great start. waterfrontoronto.ca

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PEACE TRAIN

Strachan Avenue south of King had long been a dangerous mess, where motorists, pedestrians and cyclists had to stop and wait for trains passing at grade. As part of Metrolinx’s Georgetown South Project, with design services by AECOM, a new overpass raises the street and sinks the GO and VIA lines underneath it. Criss-crossing “teardrop lattice” struts beautify the infrastructure. gotransit.com

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COPING WITH CONDOS

Canada’s ultimate renaissance man, Douglas Coupland, animates another GTA corner with his Four Seasons sculptures at Elad Canada’s Emerald City in North York. The quartet of multi-coloured cones, inspired by Laurentian pencil crayons, soar between seven and 18 metres. With more condo towers rising nearby, these candy-like spires are a welcome sight in a glass, steel and concrete jungle. coupland.com

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FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

Claude Cormier gave us Sugar Beach, with its playful pink umbrellas, and the Montreal landscape architect is back – transforming Berczy Park behind the Gooderham flatiron building. Red and grey paving stones will be laid like a giant tablecloth, and at the centre: a multi-tiered fountain encircled by 27 cast iron water-spitting dogs (and one cat). claudecormier.com

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CRYSTAL METHOD

Snøhetta, the firm that transformed Times Square into a pedestrian haven, delivers a public plaza with Ryerson Student Learning Centre. The structure gathers passersby on the stepped terrace under its Yonge Street entrance, its fritted-glass curtain wall – evoking winter frost – raised like a curtsy. The 14,200-square-metre project knits into the frenetic streetscape with streetside retail. snohetta.com

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SAINTLY STREETSCAPE

Developer Paul Oberman bought the trio of centuries-old buildings next to St. Lawrence Market with plans to restore them – a heroic feat in a condo-happy city. Completed three years after his death, Taylor Smyth Architects, with heritage work by Goldsmith Borgal, has remade Market Street into a charming boulevard with handsome restaurants. taylorsmyth.com

Originally published in our Fall 2014 issue.


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