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The Urban Land Institute’s Young Leaders Initiative invited members of the general public, architects, designers, planners, artists, engineers, students and members of the development community, both locally and internationally, to participate in it’s unique inaugural design competition by creating compelling visions and plans to connect the City of Toronto with its currently underutilized waterfront. The competition encouraged people to create ideas with practical solutions that address this long-standing land use and connection issue.

Dillon developed Inundation as a bold competition design plan that imagined Toronto’s waterfront in 2114. Our team of seven urban designers, planners and landscape architects developed the design concept to reimagine Lake Ontario’s waterfront by creating seven water channels that pushed the lakefront north and proposed covering the rail corridor with a new park system. 

When considering Toronto’s waterfront, the plan addressed two major barriers - the Gardiner Expressway and the rail corridor. Inundation imaged the Gardiner Expressway replaced by transportation improvements that balanced modes and encouraged more sustainable commuting patterns, eliminating the need for an elevated expressway and providing an opportunity to reimagine the iconic structure. The rail corridor was incorporated into Inundation as the key stitching agent of the waterfront. The overall concept introduced an east-west park network situated over the rail corridor: a “park deck”.

Inundation explored reprioritizing the driving forces of change on Toronto’s Central Waterfront to focus on north-south relationships rather than the typical east-west studies today. The concept of Inundation introduces powerful strategies to prioritize public open spaces in the Central Waterfront, while maintaining expectations for development over the next 100 years. Inundation reintroduced the City with its majestic lakefront through the use of a series of north-south canals and linear parks that extend to the Lake’s original shoreline along Front Street. These canals created new parcels with waterfront access and provided opportunities for sustainable stormwater management. The concept of Inundation also looked to enhance way-finding by creating moments where the original elevated Gardiner structure was maintained and converted into cultural and thematic nodes for pedestrians that took advantage of the unique views from the Expressway. These elevated podium parks preserved the visual experience of being raised above the city floor to appreciate different views and gain orientation. The combination of public realm improvements created an accessible and powerful sense of place to the Central Waterfront, while allowing inspired waterfront development to continue.

In addition to the benefit of providing a stronger connection visually between the city and the lake, Inundation creates a functional relationship between the two.  By providing greater access to the lake in closer proximity, development can take advantage of the water for district heating and cooling systems. The channels provide an opportunity to create new fish habitat, redirect and filter stormwater before it reaches the lake, and act as detention ponds in the case of severe flooding events.  The visual, functional and sustainable relationships fostered between lake and city in Inundation provide the rationale behind our bold transformation of the Toronto waterfront.

This design concept received the inaugural Urban Land Institute Urban Ideas Competition Award in 2014.

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