Architecture Envy: Vancouver vs. Toronto

Big, Beach and Howe

It’s possible to say that I’ve had an intimate relationship with both Toronto and Vancouver. I was born in Canada’s largest city, and have lived here on and off (currently on) for my whole life. It’s my steady, and I love it the way I love an old, comfortable sweater. I’ve also traveled west a few times to visit. There’s something about all the mountains and trees that used to really spark my imagination. But my most recent trip to Vancouver — a three month stint in 2008, when I was on a university work term — cured me of any desire to live on near the pacific. It’s pretty, true. Yet aside from the great skiing and hiking, it can be kind of tedious. How many lattes can someone drink without wanting a bit more edge? I have to admit, however, I’m a little jealous right now of a couple of their architectural projects. Might make a trip necessary again in the future.

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Toronto’s Underpass Park, Making the Gardiner Livable

Toronto has an intensely divided love-hate relationship with the Gardiner Expressway, one of its major thoroughfares. Some people want to tear it down, others think it should be widened. Asking people what they think of the road is often an easy way to find out where they fall politically—lefties think its a blight, conservatives think we need more like it.

I can remember in 2008, then-mayor David Miller pledged to remove the eastern portion, between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway. It was, in the end, just a fantasy, and since the city’s politics have now moved back to the right with Mayor Rob Ford, the Gardiner is definitely not going anywhere. There have, however, been some interesting changes lately. No, we aren’t putting a strange, garden-bonnet over the road (as one local architecture office, Quadrangle, suggested we do a couple of years ago). Instead, a new park is nearing completion under the eastern-most portion of the road. Aptly called Underpass Park, the space will have a skate park, basket ball nets, and a playground. It won’t officially open until the summer, but the Toronto Star‘s Christopher Hume recently released a video preview. Can’t wait to check it out soon for myself!