Last night was a beautiful evening spent at the Palais Royal enjoying the late summer warmth and the lake view while celebrating the winners of this year’s Toronto Urban Design Awards. Betsy spent two days on the jury in June with Elsa Lam, David Anselmi, and Gary McCluskie visiting nearly three dozen projects before narrowing the field to twelve Awards of Excellence and 9 Awards of Merit. Visiting the work is critical to assessing the level of detail and care in the design and construction and seeing how well the spaces are configured and maintained. It was a strong group of entries this year and every team recognized should be thrilled with their achievement.
The Jury Report is available here as a PDF and the Jury Statement is below.
Every two years, the City of Toronto Urban Design Awards program provides an opportunity to assess the progress of the city’s built environment, and to recognize those buildings that strengthen the public realm. The program looks at buildings in their context to identify those that make a positive contribution to the life of the city, and to assess how well they respond to their surroundings.
Above all, the jury seeks to identify projects that are unequivocally public—that engage people through their presence in or proximity to the public realm, adding noticeably to the civic experience. These considerations can’t be measured solely through presentation panels and project texts. So, after compiling a shortlist of projects, the jury piles into a mini-van to visit every chosen site as a group. Over the course of two days of touring and deliberations, this year’s jury travelled to the city’s furthest reaches—from City Hall, to Etobicoke, to North York, to Scarborough—to arrive at the present list of award-winning projects.
The selected projects share a number of common characteristics. Aside from being exemplary in their contributions to the public realm through siting, programming, or composition, all the winning projects also demonstrate conceptual rigor, fine detailing, and equally fine craftsmanship in their construction.
The quality of a project’s detailing and construction is critical in contributing to the experiential quality of the city and raising the bar for public projects. Craftsmanship is exemplified in two projects that received awards of excellence in the Elements category. The public art installation Two Circles and the pavilions at the East Point Bird Sanctuary are each made of a single, carefully manipulated material— ceramic tile and Corten steel, respectively—with results that demonstrate discipline and restraint, and that add to the works’ settings both from afar and up close.
The reuse of heritage buildings also requires a degree of craftsmanship, as well as a vision for an existing building’s potential. The jury found this embodied in the Queen Richmond West development, in which a new block is perched atop two heritage warehouses, supported by sculptural columns in a publically accessible atrium—a stunning blend of old and new. As a more traditional adaptive reuse,