on both the interior and exterior living spaces. Rapoport explains, “A very typical situation in Toronto is, you have an old house and it’s probably Victorian, so they’re very cramped with lots of little rooms, and they have a poor connection to the backyard, because at the time, Victorians thought yards were the place where you put your garbage. They weren’t really valued usable places. So typically, people would renovate and open up the interior, put big beautiful windows on the back of the house, and look at a crappy backyard!” “The city needs to be a place that is actively nurturing social interaction.” PLANT decided that, when they undertook such projects, they would educate clients on the benefits of renewing the outdoor space to compliment the architecture. “We started doing, what we referred to as ‘outdoor living’ spaces,” Rapoport points out. “In some cases they were gardens, and in some cases they weren’t. But they were spaces that had synergy with the architecture.” The ensuing work followed two quite different streams of scale: the typical narrow 20’x110’ Toronto lots with existing Victorian or war-time housing, and; larger public spaces and urban landscapes that followed a familiar model. “We were exploring these much larger landscapes that launched off of the popular Sweet Farm project. In essence, it was looking at a landscape that already existed where there was poor human interaction in the space… we were designing these architectural structures that were more about navigating and interacting with the landscape than they were about the architecture itself.”
Looking at projects through this wider lens meant bringing new faces and new talents into the fold at PLANT. “There was a point in the practice where we said, if we really want to change the conversation about what we want to design and produce, then we have to start having conversations with actual landscape architects, and start hiring them to work with us. So now, the office is actually close to 50/50 between architects and landscape architects.” Eventually, this philosophy, armed with this wider breadth of talent, brought them right downtown to work on some very high profile public spaces. PLANT was working with the City of Toronto, re-designing public parklands and creating monuments with a view toward improving human interac- tion. The thinking behind the renewal was along the lines of better public engagement with the city’s outdoors. “If people understand the landscape, they will become stewards of the landscape. They can embrace it and feel a sense of ownership with it. This helps with the City’s mandate to provide spaces people enjoy living in and are proud of.” One of PLANT’s largest and most visible of the public space developments is Nathan Phillips Square, an urban plaza in Toronto. It forms the forecourt to Toronto City Hall in the city’s core, and is named for Nathan Phillips, mayor of Toronto from 1955 to 1962. The square itself was originally designed by City Hall’s architect at the time Viljo Revell and landscape architect Richard Strong. It opened in 1965 and is the site of concerts, art displays, a weekly farmers’ market, the winter festival of lights, and other public events. During the winter months, the reflecting pool is converted into an ice rink for ice skating. The square attracts an estimated 1.5 million visitors yearly.
PLANT won a design competition to revitalize the Square
SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE • MARCH 2018
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