Gardiner Expressway in Toronto to feature new experimental gardens

The Bentway has announced its latest endeavor beneath the Gardiner Expressway: new experimental gardens scheduled to debut this month.

Rendering of Bentway Staging Grounds (courtesy of Agency—Agency and SHEEEP)

Following the recent opening of projects at York Street and Simcoe Street, The Bentway has announced its latest endeavor beneath the Gardiner Expressway. Tei Carpenter from Agency—Agency in NYC and Reza Nik from SHEEEP in Toronto are spearheading a project to create new experimental gardens that both capture and purify rainwater from the highway above, nurturing the growth of native flowering plants below.

Scheduled to debut in September 2023, Bentway Staging Grounds introduces new experimental gardens that will serve as a temporary public space dedicated to exploring novel methods of harnessing stormwater runoff from the Expressway to support urban biodiversity. Visitors will have the opportunity to traverse a system of elevated pathways, where they can encounter resilient techniques for water filtration and flood prevention, which may potentially be applied throughout the entire length of the Gardiner Expressway in the future.

“Bentway Staging Grounds responds to the dynamic conditions below the Gardiner, transforming the space into a living laboratory,” says Ilana Altman, co-executive director of The Bentway. “The project continues The Bentway’s ongoing work to reposition the Expressway and unlock its creative potential, by revealing the ways in which the existing structure can be leveraged to support new connections, sustainability, and public benefit.”

Crafted by Agency—Agency and SHEEEP, with engineering expertise provided by Buro Happold, graphic design contributions from Neil Donnelly Studio, and horticultural guidance from Brother Nature, Bentway Staging Grounds will showcase a selection of plant varieties, such as milkweed, agastache, and yarrow. These plants possess the unique ability to absorb salts, heavy metals like lead and cadmium, as well as hydrocarbons. In addition, the site will incorporate natural filtration chambers designed to assist in the remediation of excess water. The Expressway’s existing downspout systems will be repurposed to create a novel urban infrastructure that collaborates harmoniously with the natural environment.

(Renderings and map courtesy of Agency—Agency and SHEEEP)

“It’s a privilege working with The Bentway on Staging Grounds to think creatively about the city’s infrastructure and to center the design of water in the public’s daily experience,” says Tei Carpenter of Agency—Agency.

Bentway Staging Grounds occupies an unoccupied area spanning 20,000 square feet located at Dan Leckie Way and Lake Shore Boulevard. This site is situated to the south of Canoe Landing Park and is merely two blocks east of The Bentway’s renowned Skate Trail. Notably, this initiative will serve as a valuable source of insights, influencing the design and planning of forthcoming Bentway installations beneath the Gardiner Expressway, while also contributing to the ongoing exploration of possibilities along the corridor that runs parallel to Toronto’s waterfront.

“We continue to partner with The Bentway under the Gardiner to improve the north-south connections to the water,” says Tim Kocur, executive director of the Waterfront BIA. “The waterfront neighbourhood is delighted to invite visitors to discover Staging Grounds’ experimental gardens and their strategies for filtration and flood mitigation.”

Bentway Staging Grounds represents a temporary initiative that will be operational until the City of Toronto initiates its Gardiner Expressway Rehabilitation project in the vicinity, which is presently slated to commence in late 2025. During the two-year timeframe of this project, The Bentway will collaborate with artists to curate a dynamic collection of ever-changing artworks, which will be showcased on a sequence of scaffolding towers positioned along the site, facing Lake Shore Boulevard.

For more information on the public opening, click here.