Award of Excellence: Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant Site Design

This project consists of the development of key issues and goals for the Ashbridges Treatment Plant Site on the Toronto shore of Lake Ontario. Occupying 40 hectares between Leslie Street and Coatsworth Cut, it also includes the parkland located north of Lakeshore Boulevard on the west side of Coxwell Avenue. The City of Toronto had commissioned the design project for the site to honour a commitment made to neighbourhood stakeholder groups who were concerned by the lack of amenity at the Ashbridges site and the lack of public access to the site’s parklands and the lake.

The project aims to create an educational and interpretive site for visitors to gain an understanding of the plant’s functions and processes and the way the site relates to the historic waterfront through all the phases of its human inhabitation. Several issues have been developed to this end: Design, for the enhancement of visual and aesthetic qualities and beautification of the site; Current and Future Plant Functions for the facility’s plans and needs, including staff needs; Waterfront links and trails that establish the Plant’s relationship to the City’s open space system; Public Access considerations through modes and areas of public access, boundaries, fences and security issues and recreational usage as well as transit connectivity; Ecology and Heritage concerns articulated though stormwater management, bio-ethic optimization, near-shore water quality, shoreline management, habitat creation, position and approach to potential lakefilling, urban forestry, green roofs, and heritage components; Role and Function of the Plant as a place within Toronto, with considerations of spatial scale and users, and overall theme of the site design; Linkages and Connections with other initiatives in surrounding areas, including the potential for stewardship and finally, Implementation issues like priorities and phasing, a 20-year budget, maintenance issues, jurisdictions and partnerships.

Erickson: An important precedent for all human settlements is set with this project, which establishes a standard by converting a sewage plant into a compelling landscape, an assembly of landscape events, based on the site’s natural potential.

Fisher: Natural and cultural ecology have begun to find common ground, and this park around a water treatment plant shows how architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture have begun to do the same. The designers have created outdoor corridors, rooms, and overlooks, as in a building, while also providing habitats for native species, recreational fields for the community, and places along the pedestrian circuit that provide a history and interpretation of the industrial site. Modern thought tried to separate nature and culture, but this elegant park shows how ecological thinking can reconnect them, creating far more humane environments such as this.

MacDonald: This scheme transforms a very ordinary industrial landscape into a diverse and integrated set of archetypal experiences. The landscape is developed architecturally, and leads one through spaces of transition to places which replicate the character and spatial quality of the natural landscapes that have been replaced. Topographic manipulations establish the spatial armature of the project, and one experiences the range of ecological zones in sequence. Links between the site’s history and current use are made, resulting in a design that delivers value on several levels, from the sheer pleasure of experience, to relating its place in the landscape with the city, and finally as a pedagogical framework for learning.

Client: City of Toronto

Architect team: John van Nostrand (partner in charge), Pat Hanson (urban design), Carlos Moreno, (project architect), Graeme Burt, (planner) Barbara Zee, Rogelio Bayaton (imaging)

Ecological Restoration and Regeneration: Dougan and Associates

Stormwater Management, Environmental Engineering and Biology: Philips Engineering Ltd.

Coastal Engineering and Management: Baird & Associates

Digital Communication and Education: Icon Media Productions Inc.

Landscape: Diana Gerrard Landscape Architecture/Architects Alliance