Reason to Love Toronto: because city hall is leading by example, for once

Reason to Love Toronto: because city hall is leading by example, for once

(Image: Craig Boyko) 

The completion of Viljo Revell’s city hall in 1965 signalled a glittering Jetsonian future; its curving skyscrapers cradling the flying saucer-esque rotunda even made a cameo on Star Trek. Revell also built a wide ramp that led up to the podium roof and envisioned diplomats driving up for sunset civic gatherings. However, the space was soon weed-choked, neglected by everyone but public fornicators and closed off for two decades. This year, as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, city hall made rooftop gardens mandatory for large-scale buildings, and then put our tax money where its mouth is by building one where the bylaw was born. After a design competition, Mayor Miller handed the dystopic concrete expanse over to Plant Architect (the firm that made the ROM’s stark rooftop alluring with lush landscaping). The resulting 3,250-square-metre garden of wild grasses and native plants is open to the public from dawn ’til dusk. Bisected by crushed white granite paths and dotted with ipe wood benches, the roof has the meditative effect of a Zen garden. Two storeys above street level, the roar of traffic is still audible, but the hustle of harried sidewalk soldiers drops out of view, and it’s possible to contemplate the city in a more abstract way. Cone flowers wave in the breeze, Porter planes leave stripes of smoke in the sky, construction cranes hoist building materials to the Bell Lightbox—this elevated idyll proves that progress and beauty can coexist.

• Every month, the print edition of Toronto Life presents a reason to love our city. Be sure to check back in a few weeks for next installment.