In the early 1980s a coalition of Peace activists petitioned the then-Mayor Art Eggleton to erect a Peace Garden in Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall. Coinciding with the City’s sesquicentennial, the self-contained garden was inserted right in the middle of Revell’s square. In addition to becoming run-down over the years, it was regularly trampled as its position made it a serious impediment to larger activities on the square.
The new Peace Garden at Nathan Phillips Square, relocated to the west side of the raised walkways, creates both a significantly larger place for Peace contemplation and protest, and, a key infrastructural element in the larger conception and strategy for the Square. The Peace Garden is self-contained, yet also acts as a giant staircase to gain access to the upper walkway and new Theatre; it frames a new north-south enfilade of activated landscapes connecting Queen Street to the Law Courts; and, with its tipped planes, covers and acoustically tempers a major exhaust vent from the parking garage below. It transforms an area that was a noisy back-of-house landscape into a calm and richly planted destination to linger in.
The two angled, stepped planting planes echo the form of two cupped hands – framing a space focused on the project of peace. They enclose a flexible space suitable for the large annual ceremonial events, classroom-sized groups, everyday lingering, and reinstate the original and restored Peace Pavilion and its iconography, with a new flame and water cauldron set within a reflecting pool. The bronze cauldron symbolically contains the water brought from Nagasaki, with an eternal flame – kindled in Hiroshima – supporting the open corner of the Pavilion. The pavilion is reached via a bridge made with granite from the original garden.The Garden is open to the main Square to the north and east, maintaining the visual connection between the Eternal Flame and the Mayor’s office, part of the original Garden’s rationale. Large engraved concrete thresholds with stainless steel letters at the north and south announce the name of the garden, and a bridge crosses between the ginkgos – clearly indicating passage into something special and separate from the main Square.