Make a green start to 2019 at the Landscape Ontario Congress, the annual trade show and conference for Canada’s horticultural and landscape professionals. It runs January 8–10 at the Toronto Congress Centre, and PLANT is proud to be part of it. PLANT partner Lisa Rapoport and Darren Bosch of The Landmark Group are the featured speakers for the 1:15 to 4 pm session on January 10. Lisa’s subject is “Building Communities, One Public Space at a Time.” Referencing PLANT projects ranging from minuscule parklets to major public spaces, she will discuss how social, cultural, ritual and ecological experiences can inform the design of community-building public spaces. (Sign up today and save: December 20 is the last day for early bird pricing!)

View of the Seminary chapel

PLANT has now completed extensive accessibility, washroom, and building systems upgrades to many parts St. Augustine’s Seminary, and we are excited to begin planning a new phase of renovations to this Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto heritage complex, which dates from 1913. Phase 3 encompasses lighting upgrades and the installation of air conditioning in the chapel and dining room, as well as washroom additions to residential suites in St. Joseph House, the convent on the site. PLANT Project Architect Patricia Joong recently examined the seminary’s beautiful chapel from an unusual perspective: she climbed into the attic above the barrel vault to gain a better understanding of how to minimize the aesthetic impact of lighting and ventilation improvements on this historic structure.

Patricia ascending to the vault.

On December 4, PLANT’s Phase 1 Implementation of Master Plan Streetscape Improvements in Forest Hill Village won a 2018 TABIA Award. Bestowed annually by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, the awards recognize excellence in design and programming initiatives that contribute to the vitality, amenity and distinctiveness of the city’s main-street retail districts. PLANT grouped seats, benches and custom green terrazzo planters to create conversation zones along Spadina Road. The planters, which extend the forms and materials palette of PLANT’s Forest Hill Village North Gateway at Suydam Park out to the adjacent retail district, were designed to do double duty as coffee tables. The latest win brings our TABIA total up to seven awards within the past three years.

View of the public meeting

PLANT has enjoyed working with several Toronto BIAs (Business Improvement Areas) on the development of streetscape master plans this year, and this important work for the public is now going public. Within the past three months we have conducted open houses to obtain feedback from area residents on our visions for three main street districts: Beach Village BIA, Riverside BIA, and Danforth Mosaic (“The Danny”) BIA. Here’s an image from the most recent of these: the Danforth Mosaic’s open house, which took place last week. All three streetscape improvement programs encompass art programs and other pedestrian-oriented public realm amenities.

With Words as Their Actions, PLANT’s public artwork for Ottawa’s new Confederation Line LRT system, is now fabricated and will soon be installed on the concourse level at Lyon Station. The stainless steel heads in the workshop photo below represent the 31 women who, in 1898, founded the capital city’s first historical association, The Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa (renamed The Historical Society of Ottawa in 1955). The steel silhouettes will be mounted atop a ribbon-like steel screen that has been water jet cut with text – in both of Canada’s official languages – from “Last Days of Bytown,” an account of pre-Confederation Ottawa by Anne Dewar, who was a member of the society in the 1950s. We can’t wait to see the finished piece, but we also like this image of “history” in the making.

One of PLANT’s most enjoyable collaborations of 2018 was teaming up with poet Ronna Bloom for one of the two Everyone Is King curb lane parklet installations we designed as a complement to the King Street Transit Pilot. For the Asphalt Poetry parklet, we stencilled Ronna’s poem “The City” in foot-high letters onto a 30-metre stretch of urban curb lane. Check out Ronna’s new YouTube video, in which she talks about her interdisciplinary collaborations with PLANT, a filmmaker, an artist, and others … and also explains why, when someone asks her for a poem, she treats it as “an emergency request.”

PLANT’s Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden in Toronto has received a Downtown Achievement Award from the International Downtown Association. Based in Washington, DC, IDA is North America’s premier industry organization for Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and other property-owning or business-owning groups who partner with municipalities to revitalize and sustain downtowns and neighbourhood business districts. In 2018 IDA received a record-breaking number of submissions for its awards program and bestowed Pinnacle Awards, Excellence Awards, and Certificates of Merit across six categories. The winning organizations represent cities in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and South Africa. The Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden received an IDA Excellence Award in the Public Space Category.

Working with the Roncesvalles Village BIA and the City of Toronto, PLANT transformed a paved, triangular urban ‘remnant’ – formed by the acute intersection of Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue – into a gateway parkette and community gathering space that is part of the 1812 Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail.

The peace garden’s design, which integrates curved benches with local plantings, makes engaging and accommodating use of the compact site. An artist from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and a non-Indigenous artist from the Roncesvalles area worked with young people from their communities to create designs reflective of local heritage stories. Incorporated into the paving, these graphics commemorate both the Indigenous history of the area and more than two centuries of unbroken peace and friendship between Canada and the United States.

News of Junction Craft Brewing’s Architectural Conservancy Ontario Heritage Award is spreading: check out the post on Archinect about this PLANT project’s win of the Paul Oberman Award for Adaptive Reuse. (We usually lead with a taproom photo of this multifaceted project, but here’s an image by Steven Evans Photography that really captures the functional beauty of Junction’s production area.)

Congratulations to one of PLANT’s newest team members: on Monday, October 22, Margot Shafran will be in Philadelphia to accept an ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Student Award at the ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo. The ASLA describes The One Tree Project, the winning submission by Margot and seven of her Washington University in St. Louis classmates, as “a multidirectional and exhaustive survey of nearly everything one can learn from a single tree.”

With the pending expansion of the university’s Missouri campus, a historic pin oak allée was targeted for removal. This prompted Margot’s team of landscape architecture, architecture, and fine arts students to collaborate amongst themselves and with a wide range of external partners to analyze ecological and cultural aspects of one of the pin oaks. They then extrapolated this information into the surrounding environment. For example, the team took core samples from the tree’s trunk and used sonic tomography to understand the environmental stresses the tree had survived. The studio shared its findings on a blog and hosted on-site stage performances, lectures, and other events.

Margot earned Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from Washington University in St. Louis in 2017 and joined PLANT’s team earlier this year. She is now working on the Beach Village BIA Streetscape Master Plan and other public realm improvement initiatives.