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Water Treatment Facility As Parkland

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 30th, 2010

From “Hume: New waterfront park does double duty” by Christopher Hume

When is a park not just a park? When it’s also a water treatment facility.

The best example in this city is taking shape at Sherbourne and Queens Quay. These days, the site doesn’t look especially park-like; in fact, it’s a sea of mud as work crews pour concrete on the enormous channel that will run the full length of the site carrying clean water to Lake Ontario.

The as-yet-unnamed park is one of 14 public spaces already constructed under the aegis of Waterfront Toronto, the agency created in 2001 by the three levels of government to oversee revitalization of Toronto’s old harbour lands. From the start a decade ago, the organization’s strategy has been based on the proposition that if you build the infrastructure, they will come.

But Waterfront Toronto has taken the concept an important step further. As Sherbourne Park – its temporary name – will illustrate so dramatically, in this case, infrastructure won’t just make the area inhabitable, it will itself be inhabitable. This notion of using design to transform a public utility into a public amenity has never made more sense than now. It’s not new, of course, but the idea that everything we build in a city should do double- (even triple-) duty is one whose time has come[….]

The intention was not simply to incorporate an industrial process – storm water purification – into the park, but also to reveal, even celebrate, that process. At a time when Canada’s infrastructure deficit stands at $123 billion, such exposure couldn’t be more welcome. These are the systems, usually out of sight and out of mind, that provide the basic urban functions we take for granted but can no longer afford to do so.

And so Sherbourne Park is also the Sherbourne Park UV Purification Facility. Beneath a pavilion designed by Toronto architect Stephen Teeple, water will undergo ultra-violet treatment. It then flows into the channel through three sculptures that rise nine metres above ground. The channel, which will figure prominently in the stormwater management system for the entire East Bayfront stretching from Yonge to Parliament Sts., also includes a biofiltration bed for further cleansing.

“The days of the singular perspective are over,” argues Vancouver landscape architect Greg Smallenberg. [….]  “We are in a new world of collaboration. Today the feeling is that if we have to build something anyhow, why not build something worthwhile. Waterfront Toronto really gets that. The politicians are also getting it, which from my perspective is probably the biggest advancement of the last few years.”

Read the full article by Christopher Hume.

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