Reason to Love Toronto: because we build parks under our expressways

Reason to Love Toronto: because we build parks under our expressways

Reason to Love Toronto: because we build parks under our expressways
(Image: Top and bottom left: courtesy of Waterfront Toronto; Top and bottom right: Jess Baumung) 

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday drew the ire of urbanites during a recent council debate when he said that downtown was no place to raise kids. “Where’s little Ginny?” he asked rhetorically. “Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park.” The design geeks at Waterfront Toronto don’t want Ginny to play in traffic, either, but they do want her to play under it. The organization’s latest revitalization project is Underpass Park, a boldly imaginative public space that features a playground, a skate park and a basketball court tucked under the Eastern Avenue, Adelaide Street and Richmond Street overpasses just west of the DVP. The one-hectare park, designed by Vancouver’s Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg (the landscape architects behind the award-winning Sherbourne Common to the south), turns a cold, dark, claustrophobic tract of land into an unexpectedly lively space. Looking east, giant concrete pillars recede into the distance like an industrial echo, providing a dramatic backdrop for basketball players and skateboarders; further west, the overpasses bow out from each other, creating an elliptical opening through which sunlight descends onto a swatch of grass and trees and futuristic climbing structures, all of it brightened by carefully positioned mirrors and an LED lighting system. Like the roads that snake overhead, the park connects streets, buildings and people previously cut off from each other. It also sends a vital message to both visitors and residents: this is downtown, and downtown is beautiful.