Friday, March 8, 2013



Yorkville is a historic neighborhood in Toronto that has become of the city's most exclusive areas, dotted with chic cafes and expensive shops, in the heart of Canada's largest city.

Here, where renting a place can exceed $ 3,000 per sq. meter, we were surprised to find a small park  whose avant-garde, award-winning design, a project by Oleson Worland Architects represents diverse landscapes in Canada. The proposal for the Village of Yorkville Park received the award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1997, among others.

Photo courtesy of Photojunky .


In 1830, entrepreneur Joseph Bloor founded the town of Yorkville, one of the earliest residential suburbs  in Toronto, where houses surrounded two industries: a brick factory and a brewery. Its urban landscape, full of Victorian houses, were built precisely with those bricks, and subsequently were absorbed by the metropolis in the twentieth century.

In the 50s a row of these houses was demolished to carry out the construction of the Bloor Danforth subway line, which later became a parking area. In the 60s Yorkville suffered physical deterioration, although  it was a social boiling point: it was the center of hippie culture and the intellectual boheme.

From the 70's and 80's this area began its renovation by including a number of businesses located in the neighboring Bloor Street, as well as high density office buildings and condominiums began replacing the old brick houses, a tendency that continues to this day. However, a small network of alleys superimposed on the main urban layout, allowed that cultural life remained and coexisted with commercial activities. For this reason, restaurants, cafes, boutiques and art galleries also appeared in the area.

The area is a crisscrossed by  alleys, and when weather allows, they become a public space and an expansion for cafes and restaurants.

Parallel to Bloor Street, in a vacant lot that was used for parking until 1991, an architectural competition was proposed  in order to transform it into a park, despite the difficulty of being located over a subway line.


The Village of Yorkville Park is located on a long strip of land, running on the south side of Cumberland Street, between the popular Bloor and Yorkville Streets, and connected to several perpendicular alleys.


The idea for the park allowed the Village of Yorkville to recover, reinforce and extend the scale and character of the Victorian original village, while the park was linked to the existing pedestrian network. In turn, it has been a great opportunity to introduce some native plant species in the middle of a highly urban environment.

The project was designed by Oleson Worland Architects in association with Martha Schwartz / Ken Smith / David Meyer Landscape Architects. This team proposed a series of small thematic gardens, representing the varied Canadian landscape. This collection of  gardens symbolizes the divisions that used to exist between the old houses before they were demolished.

"We designed the park to reflect the Victorian style of collecting. In this case we were collecting landscapes of Canada – pine grove, prairie, marsh, rock outcropping and so on – and arranging them in the manner of the nineteenth century row houses"
From left to right: wild rocky area and maples, swamp, birch, crabapples, wild flowers and pines.
The explanation will follow the reverse order.

Starting from the west end, there is a cluster of pines, growing around circular, donut-shaped benches.

Interacting with this coniferous forest is a set of light poles which, aside of providing light they spread fog, which creates a particularly interesting effect at night.

Then, in contrast to the geometric order of the pines, there is a group of wildflowers.

It follows a garden of birch, arranged on a gravel ground. This forest is bounded by stone planters containing wild bushes.

Subsequently we found a group of wild apple trees growing on a gravel garden, patched with pink rock slabs.

Afterwards there is an arcade composed of a succession of metal frames, perhaps resembling the bridges or urban areas of the country. Here the floor becomes more regular, geometric, represented by a cobblestone pattern .

Next to it there is a metal tube that supports an artificial waterfall, a thin curtain of rain that introduces the sound element to the landscape design of the park.

The cascade freezes during Toronto's winter . Photo Courtesy of Snuffy .

It follows a wetlands area, which is traversed by wooden bridges, crisscrossing the garden at various angles.

Finally, flanked by a group of wild maples, there is a huge block of rock, a giant 1000 million year-old and 650 tons granite that was cut and transported in parts from Muskoka, in the so-called Canadian Shield near the Arctic, and then assembled at the park trying to minimize cracking. Given its weight, this huge rock is located on top of the structural elements of the underground.

A contemporary element, the entrance to the Bay Station, is located at the end of the park.

In addition on the symbolic role of this design, it is remarkable the fact that the park transmits different sensations as it is walked through, which however does not give the impression of being a collection of isolated patches but an integrated,  comprehensive proposal . Somehow it reminds me of Bernard Tschumi's thematic gardens and the promenade cinematique  for the Parc de la Villette in Paris .

A detail of design furniture for landfill

In addition to its aesthetic and landscape design, the park enjoy social success, since it is a meeting point for the population, often used by both businessmen and ordinary people who at times like to sit under a tree or lay down on a thousand million years stone .

- Parks and Landscape design



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