Revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square Design Competition

Mayor David Miller announced this past week that the City of Toronto is launching an international design competition to revitalize Nathan Phillips Square — the city’s premier outdoor public gathering space, a leading tourist attraction, and national and provincial landmark.

“The City is asking members of the design community to look at this vital public space with fresh eyes,” said Mayor David Miller, “and to instill in us an idea of what Nathan Phillips Square can become as a source of inspiration for all Torontonians. The City believes that Nathan Phillips Square’s usefulness and beauty can be improved and revitalized.”

More than 175 events of every variety are held on Nathan Phillips Square annually, drawing more than 1.5 million visitors and making it one of the city’s major attractions. Through a series of well-attended public consultations, it was determined that major design attention is needed in several areas of the square that are under-developed and under-used.

The City of Toronto is inviting Canadian and international architects, landscape architects, planners, engineers and other design professionals to submit design proposals. An impartial jury has been appointed to judge submissions and select the winning design in a two-stage competition. The jury includes six local and international experts in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture and architectural heritage preservation, and members with artistic experience and community involvement. The jurists are:

Dinu Bumbaru: Internationally recognized heritage architect, currently policy director for Heritage Montral and secretary general of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
David Crombie: Former mayor of Toronto and federal cabinet minister, founding chair of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and currently president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute.
Eric Haldenby: Architect and director of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, a specialist in the design of cultural sites, involved in research in archaeology and architectural history, and currently co-director of a project on innovative research and design of core areas in mid-sized Canadian cities.
Frances Halsband: Architect practicing in New York as a partner in the firm of R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects (which has received more than 50 design awards) and a visiting distinguished professor at a number of universities in the United States.
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Distinguished landscape architect based in Vancouver, involved in a wide range of internationally acclaimed projects in Canada and the United States.
Michael Ondaatje: Author whose work encompasses fiction, memoir, poetry and film. He is best known for his novels In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost. He was born in Sri Lanka and came to Canada in 1962. He lives in Toronto.

The City has retained architect Peter Ortved of CS&P Architects Inc. as the professional advisor for the competition. Ortved explained, “The new design must respect the clarity of the original vision by architect Viljo Revell and reflect the energy, beauty and dignity that the citizens of Toronto value in this great public space.”

To fund the square’s revitalization and restoration, the City has made a $16-million financial commitment and is seeking an additional $24 million in contributions from other levels of government, the private sector and the business community.

“We must forge key partnerships if we are going to realize key public initiatives such as this one,” said Mayor Miller. “I would like to invite private donors and the business community to step forward to provide leadership and help fund the redesign of the square. The revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square is about our quest for excellence in architectural design and better, bolder development across the City.”

In Stage I, all eligible professionals are invited to submit a Design and Experience Statement which must be received by November 16, 2006. The Competition Jury will select a shortlist of not more than five submissions to proceed to Stage II. An announcement of the shortlisted design teams is planned for December 5, 2006.

In January 2007, Stage II competitors will begin preparing detailed design submissions that must be submitted by February 16, 2007, followed by a presentation and public exhibition of final submissions. Final design submissions will then be evaluated by the Competition Jury meeting in early March 2007 to select the winning design submission and team.

The winning finalist and the runners-up will be announced on March 8, 2007.

More information about the design competition is available at