A few months ago, the City of Toronto’s King Street Transit Pilot project got down to the serious business of investigating whether one of T.O.’s most congested traffic arteries can function better with amped-up streetcar service and fewer cars. Now the fun part of the mega-experiment is beginning, and we’re happy to be part of it – twice over. Earlier this year the City held the Everyone is King design competition for two “durable destination” parklets and a larger number of shorter-term, temporary public space installations, all for curb lane locations a mere six feet wide. PLANT’s team was the only one to score a win in both categories. Our friends at Oriole Landscaping have just installed Face to Face/Tête-à-Tête, our durable destination parklet, on King Street just east of Yonge, opposite the King Edward Hotel. Flanked by continuous benches and wrapped with planting, two long tables zigzag through the parklet, providing space for concentrated community conversation or solitary musing. In leaping orange letters on a navy ground, the piece’s title projects over all its surfaces. Watch for Asphalt Poetry, by PLANT and poet Ronna Bloom: our temporary installation will be in place in early May on the south side of King west of Brant Street.

We enjoyed sharing a pint with Mayor John Tory on the weekend. The occasion was the opening of Junction Craft Brewing’s new PLANT-designed home in a stunning art deco building that was once an industrial incinerator. Cheers to His Honour and all the other celebrants who have already discovered Toronto’s best new hot spot for a cold one!

We were happy to take part in the Letters to the Mayor/Developer exhibition at Toronto’s recent EDIT festival of design, innovation and technology. Organized by PARTISANS and Storefront for Art and Architecture, this was one of several EDIT installations and events held in a former soap factory. One hundred architecture practices were asked to write a letter to Mayor John Tory or a developer of their choice to spark debate on how to build Toronto’s future. The letters snaked through the space along a ‘conveyor belt’ of ideas. PLANT’s letter urged Mayor Tory to follow through on major design initiatives by investing in their maintenance. “We build new parks, and then cut back maintenance budgets. We revitalize our civic spaces, then don’t provide the staff levels to keep the weeds from growing,” the letter read in part. Maintenance may not be sexy, but it’s essential. We hope Mayor Tory will make it part of his legacy to keep Toronto’s great assets beautiful for a long time to come. (image: Nina Azzarello | designboom)

Stratford, Ontario, chose to commemorate Canada’s 150th with a public art competition. We’re proud to spread the news that PLANT’s Matthew Hartney and his colleague Megan Schaff designed the winning entry, which was unveiled on Canada Day in Stratford’s newly renovated Market Square, adjacent to City Hall. Matthew and Megan, who met in high school in Stratford and both went on to study architecture, call their work Propolis, from the Latin for ‘before’ and ‘city’. In plan, the alignment of the three weathering steel panels radiating out from a central Tulip tree represents the triangular convergence of three cardinal street grids – originating from early Perth County surveys – that occurs in the heart of Stratford. Imagery water jet-cut through each of the panels pays tribute to a different aspect of Stratford’s heritage: agricultural, industrial, and artistic. Propolis, in the words of its creators, is “both a depiction of the cultural history of Stratford and a mapping of the prime elements of its foundation.” For more information about the artwork and Stratford’s history, visit the Propolis site.

We were delighted to collect a Toronto Urban Design Award of Excellence last night for East Point Park Bird Sanctuary Pavilions (prominently displayed at top right on the cover of the Jury Report, no less!) Jurors David Anselmi, Elsa Lam, Gary McCluskie, and Betsy Williamson evaluated 124 submissions in nine categories, and bestowed 12 Awards of Excellence in total. Some highlights from their comments on East Point, a winner in the Elements tags: “The design of the structures is simple, elegant, robust and precisely detailed… . All in all, this is a beautifully handled element within a landscape that all Torontonians should add to their must-see list.”

Last year we completed a streetscape improvements master plan for the Midtown Yonge Business Improvement Area and the City of Toronto, and now we’re managing the first phase of its implementation. The planter/benches have just been installed, and they appear to be an instant hit.

We’re getting ready today for the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square … and happily the weather should improve for the show’s July 14-16 run. Here’s a teaser glimpse of PLANT’s contributions: our just-installed Hanging Garden at the NPS Theatre, and the tents configuration for this year’s event. In yesterday’s Globe and Mail, Brad Wheeler (@BWheelerglobe) listed Canada’s largest and longest-running outdoor art fair as one of this week’s five hottest things to do in Toronto. He described the show’s new PLANT-designed layout as “reminiscent of a Spanish town with buildings circling the main plaza.”

Our pieces of country in the big city will soon transition from design to construction. Concord Canada House is a major new Concord condominium, retail and commercial development in downtown Toronto’s CityPlace district. PLANT is designing all outdoor amenity and landscape spaces for the two-tower complex, including two podium levels and the streetscape. In this view of the model – newly installed in the showroom – the Level 11 Playground overlooks the Level 9 Summer Reflective Pond.

The OAA (Ontario Association of Architects) has just published a handsome volume to showcase its 2017 Design Excellence Award Winners and Finalists. We’re proud to have two PLANT projects – both for the City of Toronto – in the Finalist tags: East Point Park Bird Sanctuary Pavilions, and the Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization (PLANT Architect Inc. in Joint Venture with Perkins+Will Canada Inc.) “The City of Toronto is to be applauded for funding and encouraging this type of project, which uses architecture on a modest scale to create a sense of place,” the jury said of East Point. “This is really public art – it talks to larger issues and shows how small pieces can create a bigger whole.” The OAA jury praised the Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization as a “strong urban project” that has improved Toronto City Hall’s public plaza by simplifying it, and described the square’s new Peace Garden as “particularly well-executed.” Congratulations to all whose work earned recognition in this year’s awards program.

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