The new Green Roof at Toronto's City Hall opened in conjunction with Doors Open, the city's annual architectural showcase, on the weekend of May 29th & 30th, 2010.
The roof is only the first stage to be completed in the ambitious plan to revitalize Nathan Phillips Square, the public plaza that fronts Toronto's iconic City Hall.The City has recently implemented North America's first bylaw requiring the inclusion of green roofs
on new buildings, over some objections from the development industry; Obviously City Council felt it must lead by example.
The furniture groupings are very stylish and were being used when we visited for everything from group lunches to solitary naps. We're not sure how functional the canopies are, but they do add a vertical element that is otherwise missing from the space. (Obviously, being an existing roof, it was not possible to plant trees except in very limited areas)
There's a great variety in the planting material used. We think it's most successful in the areas that have the feel of the prairie. It's such an unexpected juxtaposition: the unruly wildflower meadow framing the view of Richardsonian Old City Hall or the banking towers further downtown.
And of course, up against the striking forms of the council chamber & the administrative towers, the beauty of the architecture is enhanced in a way that the former monochrome concrete plaza was never able to do.
Lisa Rochon, architectural critic at the Globe & Mail, raved about it all- read her review here
Toronto's City Hall is a masterpiece of mid century Scandinavian Modernism, the result of an international competition that was won in 1958 by the Finnish architect Viljo Revell. It opened in 1965 and has been a symbol of the city ever since.
Above is the processional ramp from the square to the green roof. Originally designed as a vehicular means for dignitaries to formally access the Council Chambers, it was rarely if ever used. Now it makes a fine broad foot path to the meadow. (and we love the punk photography session underway when we visited)
Unlike Europeans, North Americans seem uneasy with the concept of large open paved spaces. From the start, Nathan Phillips Square was forced to host a silly bit of lawn flanking Queen Street, a space that is (unsurprisingly, considering the foot traffic) utterly unable to sustain grass. To further the damage, over the years additions have crept onto the vast plaza, the unfortunately sited Peace Garden and the large "temporary" stage being the worst offenders. In the renovations underway, the Peace Garden will shift to the far western edge of the site, already a green swath that connects Queen Street in the south to Armoury Street in the north. This will completely free the plaza between the reflecting pool & City Hall. In addition, the plaza paving will be drawn down all the way to Queen Street, allowing an unbroken flow between the street curb & City Hall.......................
The plaza revitalization is going to take some time to complete. But no need to wait- next time you're in the area make a point of checking out our new municipal meadow, a beautiful addition to Toronto's public realm.
(More details here from the architects about the ambitious plan to revitalize Nathan Phillips