After an eight-month design competition that received proposals from more than 40 teams based in 18 cities across the globe, Waterfront Toronto—in partnership with the City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division—has announced the winning submissions for the York Street Park and Rees Street Park.

Claude Cormier et Associés developed the winning design Love Park for the York Street Park competition. Having completed many works throughout Canada, the Montreal-based landscape architecture firm must have had its audience's taste in mind when it proposed this crowd pleaser. Trees surround a heart-shaped reflecting pool, giving the park a romantic image and creating a welcome green oasis in a dense part of the city. Construction is expected to commence in 2019, with a budget of approximately $5.4 million.

For the Rees Street Park competition, wHY Architecture in New York and Brook McIlroy in Toronto created the winning scheme Rees Ridge. The project site presented a challenge, to put it mildly, as it is adjacent to and virtually overwhelmed by the elevated Gardiner Expressway. The firms’ design calls for a berm, which folds up to the level of the highway, acting as a barrier to the noise of the speeding cars. The folded, fractured landscape provides a variety of experiences, from a café plaza to a more natural area culminating in a hill with a waterfall that offers icicles in the cold of winter. Mark Thomann, a design director with wHY, says that he and his team embraced the location “as the front door of a post-card image of Toronto. Construction is slated to begin in 2020, with a budget of approximately $7.7 million.

Hurricane Hazel jumpstarted Toronto’s green space planning when it devastated the area in 1954. The city’s subsequent acquisition of flood lands spurred its efforts to protect against future natural disasters, improve recreational availabilities, and protect the natural environment. By the end of the millennium, green space had jumped from 166 acres in 1953 to 19,768 acres in 2000. The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Initiative is now one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in North America, addressing over 2000 acres of land. The York Street Park and Rees Street Park represent a small part (2.3 and 2 acres respectively) of this enormous ongoing project.

Like other busy waterfronts around the world, Toronto’s was formerly cluttered with unsightly, obsolete industrial warehouses—many of which have now been removed, often to accommodate new parks. However, the four-lane Queen’s Quai still separates both parks from the waterfront, the elevated Gardiner Expressway looms behind them, and they are surrounded by high-rises and, at one side, the huge Rogers Skydome. It is no surprise, then, that the competitions required proposals for the parks provide “peaceful, green respites” from their urban surroundings.