Waterfront ReConnect projects open under Gardiner Expressway

Temporary street-level interventions led by 5468796 and O2 Architecture + Design add playfulness, vibrancy, and enhanced waterfront connectivity at York and Simcoe St.

Boom Town by 5468796 Architecture Inc. + Office In Search Of (Winnipeg/Toronto)

The Bentway recently announced the opening of two projects that will explore new strategies for improved intersections under the Gardiner Expressway.

The two public space design interventions, called Waterfront ReConnect, have now launched in Toronto, following a national design competition completed in early 2022.

The winning designs were Boom Town at York St. by 5468796 Architecture + Office In Search Of (Winnipeg/Toronto); and Pixel Story at Simcoe St. by O2 Planning + Design + Mulvey & Banani Lighting + ENTUITIVE (Calgary/Toronto). The selected designs will remain in place until 2025, when the section of the Gardiner Expressway that the installations adjoin undergoes repairs.

Boom Town is a theatrical reimagining of the waterfront gateway at York St. which was inspired by the ongoing repairs to the Gardiner Expressway. It introduces a cast of playful characters aimed to animate the space.

Pixel Story, on the other hand, contains visual cues which showcase the attractions of the waterfront on both sides of the Gardiner. This highlights the diverse stories which relate to its experiences and builds anticipation for the lakefront located on the other side of the Simcoe St. intersection.

Pixel Story at Simcoe St. by O2 Planning + Design + Mulvey & Banani Lighting + ENTUITIVE. Photo courtesy of the Bentway Conservancy

The projects at York St. and Simcoe St. showcase how the Expressway can better serve the city by re-imagining the Gardiner at street level.

“These projects represent an exciting expansion of The Bentway’s work along the length of the Gardiner and highlight the creative opportunities we can explore from end to end,” says Ilana Altman, Co-Executive Director of The Bentway.

“Each intersection is so unique, but together the creative design teams have demonstrated how colour, pattern, environmental lighting, and storytelling can transform a space built for cars into a more welcoming and accessible place for pedestrians and cyclists.”

The program is co-presented by The Bentway, local business associations (the Waterfront BIA and the Toronto Downtown West BIA), and the City of Toronto.

“We’ve very excited to see these designs tested at underpass connections to the waterfront,” says Tim Kocur, Executive Director of the Waterfront BIA.

“Our hope is that we’ll learn what will work best in making these intersections feel safer for pedestrians living, working and visiting the many growing offerings along Queens Quay. These projects are the first step in a long-term transformation that will ensure the that connections under the Gardiner can offer better gateways that invite people to explore the waterfront.”

“This collaboration between the Bentway, the Waterfront and Downtown West BIAs, and the City of Toronto showcases how meaningful partnerships can create safer, more welcoming and beautiful neighbourhoods,” says local City Councillor Ausma Malik.

“Through creative design, Waterfront ReConnect re-prioritizes people’s experience crossing under the Gardiner, and strengthens the connections between our downtown and waterfront.”