Beneath the City: Rivers, Seoul Biennale 2021 installation

An upcoming installation speculates on how Toronto might improve its resilience by engaging with its hidden waterways.

GAMBJTS,  a collaborative research practice based in Toronto, is preparing an installation at the 2021 Seoul Biennale’s Cities Exhibition. Beneath the City: Rivers proposes a set of urban interventions based on daylighting Toronto’s hidden waterways.

The Beneath the City-Rivers Exhibition Installation

The group consists of interdisciplinary architects, designers, and academics with graduate degrees from the Daniels School of Architecture, Landscape, and Design and OCAD University. They engage the built and natural environments at multiple scales that situate speculation as a discursive practice.

The speculative project catalyzes possibilities for innovative design interventions by daylighting hidden waterways, through the processes of excavation and embankment. According to the group, the masterplan being proposed reinforces the urgency to establish and commit to a reciprocal relationship between the city and the rivers beneath. It demonstrates that Toronto can become a model for a sustainable and resilient city.

The Beneath the City-Rivers Exhibition Installation

Proposing several urban interventions re-naturalizes human-altered landscapes, especially creeks and rivers, to manage stormwater and mitigate flood risks: “It is a strategic “cut and fill” that will intervene in specific sites to expose buried watercourses,” says GAMBJTS. “The Cut excavates sites necessary to daylight selected rivers concealed by Victorian-era culverts made from pipe, brick and reinforced concrete. The Fill repurposes the displaced material to establish an 820-acre permanent berm around an archipelago of 15 islands.”

The Beneath the City: Rivers Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2021 exhibition installation celebrates several of Toronto’s lost rivers as an ecological phenomenon. A 1:1000 digitally fabricated model will represent a four-kilometre swath of the downtown area. It will hover upside down, with the five proposed daylighting interventions reflected in a large convex mirror. The design intent is to dissolve the distinction between above and below, and to point to a resilient urbanism, where the buried hydrology shares prominence with the towering cityscape.

The New Nude Dune

The project includes five case studies, which hold the ambition to generate a family of multiple speculative narratives scattered throughout the city.  

The Pastoral Pit reclaims dormant pits previously tasked for stormwater management to offer lively public gatherings, open-air performances, and family strolls. Off With His Head! confronts problematic monuments by drowning a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald into the colonized traditional territory of many nations, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

The Victorian Heights is a neighbourhood of charming anachronistic Victorian homes hovering over residual spaces from excavated ravines. Rivers and PATH is a collision between a watery, verdant, and vegetation-rich circulation system and the severity of two iconic Mies van der Rohe towers. The New Nude Dune reinvigorates underground infrastructure networks to become a public amenity for jubilant sunbathers.


Jeffrey Garcia
Pooya Aledavood
Nicolas Mayaux
Brandon Bergem
Vincent Javet
Robbie Tarakji
Elly Selby