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Waterfront: Jarvis Slip Public Space Design Competition

I like the lighting scheme.



I think this place will be great during the warm months but it is flawed for the winter. How is HTO being used (or not) in the winter?

From a quick thought, I can determine that HTO was designed with winter in mind. The hilly expanse separating the beach from the street and the city seems like it will reduce the cold wind and at least allow people to walk along the promenade without being blasted with cold.

Sugar Beach doesn't have this although the trees may perform the same task.
but the trees will be bare in the winter. just look at the rendering on the previous page. one of the things i liked with west8 is that they proposed having some evergreens on the site. they would stay full all year and block the wind.
Chris Hume has written an article saying he doesn't like the beach design. Imagine that, he is critical of something on the waterfront!

HTO park does seem to be a success and perhaps worth emulating. It also interesting to note that it was the City and not Waterfront Toronto that created HTO, which is why it probably exists in fact.

Hume's article questions whether a beach should be in such close proximity to a corporate headquarters and a heavy industrial plant (Redpath). The MOE might ask the same question about the latter.


Didn't Hume just say they were all good designs in earlier articles?
I like this design, though I wonder how long it will be before the umbrellas are in a state of disrepair.

I think more could be done but it's still a good solution.
New Toronto Star article in today's paper:

Latest waterfront fiasco: Umbrellas and sand pit - Columnist - Latest waterfront fiasco: Umbrellas and sand pit

February 08, 2008
Christopher Hume

Life may be a beach, but that doesn't mean the waterfront should be, too.

So when the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp. announced last week that a proposal by Montreal landscape architect Claude Cormier called Sugar Beach had won a design competition for the foot of Jarvis St., it was clear something is rotten down on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Cormier is one of the most brilliant practitioners in the world today, but this doesn't rank among his better projects. For a start, a beach is all wrong for a site just metres from a noisy, polluting, stinky sugar refinery. For another, Cormier's scheme rips off his earlier design for the HtO urban beach that opened on the waterfront last year.

But, the TWRC brain trust would argue, the decision was made by an expert jury assembled for the purpose. Therein lies the problem; the four-member panel was made up largely of insiders. The chair, for example, Toronto architect Siamak Hariri, belongs to the waterfront design review board as does another jury member, local architect Peter Clewes. Hariri and Cormier worked together on HtO, along with a second competitor, Toronto landscape architect Janet Rosenberg, also a member of the board.

This is too close for comfort. As much as one might admire Hariri's buildings, he has never shown any special understanding of the landscape. In the jury's comments, which propose no less than 14 changes to Cormier's plan, Hariri and the jury suggest that the "idea of the beach be explored elsewhere throughout the waterfront, including possibly, Parliament Slip."

Thanks, but no thanks. The jury's job was to choose the best of the three entries, not impose its amateurish vision of the waterfront. A beach at the foot of Parliament St. sounds as inappropriate as a beach at the bottom of Jarvis.

To be blunt, Cormier's entry was the weakest of the three; if the jury had done its job with more intelligence, integrity and a sense of responsibility, it would have chosen differently. Instead, it acted as a group of insiders whose personal opinions count more than objective reality. Neither the city nor its waterfront were well served by their decision, which was precious and patronizing.

In the meantime, because of the jury's incompetence, Toronto has lost the chance to get a piece by Ned Kahn. If you haven't heard his name, you soon will. He's the California-based environmental artist who works with natural phenomena such as wind, fog, light and water. A recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" and an American National Design Award, he has received commissions across the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

His work, which was part of the Rosenberg submission, would have been a huge addition to the waterfront. Instead we settled for coloured umbrellas in an oversized sand pit.

Clearly, the waterfront corporation desperately needs an infusion of fresh blood. If this jury and its decision are any indication, the process is no longer adequate to the task. We need to go outside the local community to find people who are smart, fair and informed, who have no axes to grind or favourites to champion.

There's a big world out there and we can do better, much better, if we can bring it to Toronto.

It may be too late for the Jarvis St. Slip, which has become a fiasco, but the waterfront can absorb a certain amount of mediocrity before it hits the point of no return. Let's hope we learn from the mistakes of Jarvis and manage not to repeat them.

Christopher Hume
Here is what the jury has to say about the JRA proposal, from the Jury Report:

Title: Weatherfront
Team: Janet Rosenberg + Associates with Charles Waldheim and Ned Kahn

The jury felt that the design panels and model were graphically clear and the design proposed a fascinating art component for the public space. The design also addressed several of the criteria, including providing an open public space for large gatherings and maintaining views to Redpath Sugar. The jury appreciated the proposed wave pavement pattern, particularly how the colour variations, dark/light, would be placed in strategic manner as to create smaller episodes, or micro climates of warm/cool spaces within the larger open space, and the idea of the possibility of an interactive water play component.

However, the jury felt that the design could afford smaller intimate spaces. Proposed planting was limited, and clustered close to the building edge. The proposed design, which offered the largest public open space, appeared over exposed, offering little or no shade/wind protection.

Although the jury appreciated the art component, the jury had concerns regarding the reliance of the design upon the piece, its overall integration with the site, and the effectiveness, of the art component. The proposed design is dependent on the success of the piece. Examples and precedents of similar work involved the cladding of a building. The effectiveness of the experience of the art piece as a free standing element, with the sky as a backdrop, is unknown.

The positioning of the art component was awkward, possibly blocking important views from the space outward. It was noted that views back from the edge of the promenade toward the art component and towards the city would have aided the viewer in further understanding the art component.
The design proposed a lighting strategy, yet the jury expressed concern on the complexity of the proposed lighting and its long term effectiveness in such an exposed site.

Given these strengths and weaknesses, the jury did not select the design proposal from Janet Rosenberg.

So what if there is an art piece - it's an urban space and it should be planned accordingly. Kudos to the Design Review Panel for sticking to that and not getting sold by a trinkety toy stuck in a parking lot.

I get the feeling if Rosenburg won Hume would've written an article about how Toronto is a waterfront city afraid of the waterfront, as evidenced by a giant barrier masquerading as artwork.
I think this place will be great during the warm months but it is flawed for the winter. How is HTO being used (or not) in the winter?

Living across from HTO park i haven't seen it used much this winter by anyone other than dog owners and a bunch of people who on Saturday made a snowman.
And you think a lot of people would have used the very open, exposed to the elements JR design? I certainly dont think so.

It is funny. Some have the opinion that HTO has been a HUGE success, yet there are some who continue to say that noone ever uses it. OK, it isnt used a lot in the dead of winter with 20 - 30 cm of snow covering it, but most of the waterfront isnt used with 20 - 30 cm of snow covering it.
HTO is a huge success. In the summer it was used steadily. My girlfriend used it everyday. I don't think we can expect that many public spaces in this city will be used year round. Unless there's something like an ice rink in place, people aren't going to stand around in freezing temperatures instead of their nice warm homes or a cafe or something. I think if we want a public space to be used year round it needs to have an attraction. Either an important building (museum or library let's say) beside it, or an ice rink are very much the only options.
Once thing I can say about HTO in the winter (at least with a snowfall) is that it looks surprisingly lovely.
This was unexpected. My friend and I were driving by, and were immediately struck by how great the white, rounded hills of snow looked under the soft and well-placed lighting they've got there. It's not merely natural, but looks fantastic.
It's real relax for the eye after all the verticality, busy-ness and concrete around. The view out to the open vista of the lake and sky with the was really pleasant, as well.

As for Sugar Beach (I love the name!) - it's not exactly novel, but it looks pretty pleasant. Hume's objections seem to me to have a lot to do with the chicanery that may have dropped the plan in our laps, but not as much with the plan itself. Yeah, it's HTO redux, but that's not such a bad thing in this instance - not the least of which is the informal continuation of a theme across the waterfront. HTO was busy with happy folks the half-dozen times I was down there this summer - I think another beach in the same vein one would also be quite popular.
Why have just one?
Having these spread intermittently across the waterfront wouldn't be such a bad thing IMO. Seeing as how there's going to be a big push to bring civilians as well as tourists down to the waterfront, this sort of attraction seems like a populist sure-thing. This will be especially needed outside the Corus corner, which seems not be shaping up to be a seductively magnetic attraction in it's own right.
It will be great to be able to relax and see the ships and machinery doing their thing at Redpath as well. (Tate and Lyle, is it?) As for Hume's assertion that it's 'stinky'...well, I think he was in a bad mood when he wrote this one.

All this said, I do hope the new slips do incorporate more daring and not-necessarily-cozy stuff. But a few more urban playgrounds in this style would be fine with me.
Hume's bang-on here.
agreed. he addressed pretty much everything i didn't like about the design.

after reading the report, it seems like they chose cormier's design and are now telling him to change pretty much every aspect of it. if you need to have all those changes, how could it be the winning design?
Question about HtO...

The lighting was supposed to reflect the season... Is it still green and yellow lights or have they switched to a winter colour scheme?
agreed. he addressed pretty much everything i didn't like about the design.

after reading the report, it seems like they chose cormier's design and are now telling him to change pretty much every aspect of it. if you need to have all those changes, how could it be the winning design?

Good point! JR's proposal could have been 'adapted' as well, for that matter.
Oh well, we are stuck with another urban beach for dogs to poop in. Yay, pass me my bucket and spade!!! I do hope the city could still get Kahn's art piece for another location, it sounds beautiful...oops, then again that would be 'hollow spectacle' surely which is just a whole other can of worms.