Sherbourne Common Park

Designers: Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, The Planning Partnership, Teeple Architects, Jill Anholt | City: Toronto, ON | Project Type: stormwater management, public art, reclamation, post-industrial, waterfront
Date Visited: 08.31.12
Location: Foot of Spadina Avenue on the south side of Queens Quay
Size: 1.47 hectares (3.63 acres)
Cost: 28.7 million CDN (+1.9 million CDN for public art features)
Official Opening Date: Sept. 24, 2010 (Sherbourne Common South) July 26, 2011 (Sherbourne Common Park)

“The water’s edge defines the identity and brand of the city. So you need not only a great park, but you also need to demonstrate the qualities and values of the city. And so, clean green technology is, like we find here, really critically important because we’re a leader in clean technology in Ontario and Toronto.” — Glen Murray Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation

Sherbourne Common is the first park in Canada to incorporate a neighborhood-wide stormwater treatment facility using innovative design and UV technology. Designed by the Vancouver-based urban design firm Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, the park was transformed from a former industrial area into East Bay’s main green space. The park features a wide open green space, sculptures, a skating rink that doubles as a splash pad in the summer, and a zinc-plated pavilion with a snack bar and washrooms.

Sherbourne Common’s stormwater treatment uses UV technology instead of chlorine to treat the water–something of national pride, since Canada says it is the first to use UV technology to purify water. After UV treatment, the water then flows through an exposed 240-meter long urban river that runs the length of the park, through a biofiltration bed, before the clean water is finally released into Lake Ontario.

The park is divided into two halves: the northern half closer to the freeway features play equipment and light sculptures, while a southern half closer to Lake Ontario consists of larger gathering areas like the lawn, splash pad and pavilion space. Because of its proximity to the freeway and construction sites, I thought that the northern section of Sherbourne Common Park would be underused, however, the park is well populated with users, even at night.

Combining aesthetics, sound, and movement, the long stormwater channel ties together the northern and southern ends of the park with forward-thinking design. “Light Showers,” the three dramatic art sculptures that line the channel, cascade sheets of water into the urban river.

Sherbourne Common Park at night; unfortunately the cascading water sheets didn’t light up when I was there
Greg Smallenberg, design principal of Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, said that the design sought to exemplify the “three icons” of the Canadian landscape: woods, green space, and water.

“The conceptual design for Sherbourne Park is built upon the abstraction of an iconic Canadian lake’s edge landscape, composed of the woods, the water, and the green. As a key component of the redevelopment of Toronto’s waterfront, the park will be about inspiring civic space, flexible uses, play, and sustainability. The design responds strongly to the need to create both a neighborhood park and a city-wide destination. It also anticipates a short period of time when the park may need to stand on its own without the future buildings that will ultimately provide its enriching edges. From its beginning, the park will deliver a place with strong defining forms, edges, and diverse program potential.” — Smallenburg

Concept Plan (c) Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg

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