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Ross Beardsley Wood, Alexia Dumas-Malouf, Jacqueline Hampshire, Kate Vanbakel, "Flemo"

Integrated Urbanism Studio (ARC2013)
2020

In the Daniels Faculty's Integrated Urbanism Studio, students picked "design action zones" — areas of the city of Toronto where environmental, economic, and social pressures demand some form of design intervention. Working within those zones, student groups produced master plans that responded to the requirements of the international Green New Deal Superstudio. Ross, Alexia, Jacqueline, and Kate chose Flemingdon Park, a high-rise apartment community located to the east of Toronto's midtown area.

Flemingdon Park was developed during the 1960s and 1970s, near the peak of Toronto's postwar construction boom. The neighbourhood is now an affordable-rental community with a large immigrant population. The area is expected to change rapidly once the Eglinton Crosstown, a new light-rail transit line that is currently under construction, enters service on nearby Eglinton Avenue.

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The group's design action zone, with intervention sites in red. (Click to view a larger version.)

Ross, Alexia, Jacqueline, and Kate were interested in the area because it has both a large contingent of children and youth and a large amount of underused green space. "We were interested in youth as an age group, because at an urban scale they're not really a group that's often considered a lot," Jacqueline says. "We design a lot for adults, and we design a lot for children at an urban scale. But the age group from 14 to 19 is often left behind."

The group decided that their master plan would attempt a process of "asset stitching" — in other words all that leftover green space would be used to reinforce the existing community, rather than enable runaway development. They developed a toolkit of planning techniques to deploy across the site. "We were trying to respond to the contextual and demographic research that we had been looking into," Kate says. "We wanted to use the leftover space within the community to stitch together underused assets, generate productive adjacencies, and establish hierarchies of mobility within the site."

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A comic-book-style explanation of the neighbourhood's assets and opportunities. (Click to view a larger version.)

Each member of the group selected a different area of the neighbourhood and applied the toolkit to it. In each case, the goal was to break up the neighbourhood's existing superblock structure and find new ways of turning underused space into community amenities.

Here, for instance, the plan calls for existing buildings along St. Dennis Drive to be renovated to include new commercial spaces and amenities. This would transform the street into a multi-use main thoroughfare. A modest number of new residences would be added, and a new north-south street at the western edge of the area would help break up the superblock. Only once these new additions were firmly established would more residential density begin to be added to the site.

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Top: The group's plan for St. Dennis Drive. (Click to view a larger version.) Bottom: Perspective rendering of St. Dennis Drive.

A hydro corridor that runs through the neighbourhood would become a massive new space for community engagement. "With the hydro corridor, the big idea was understanding that it already has a lot of value as a recreational space, or a leftover space where people hang out," Ross says. "But an observation we made was that the adjacent buildings didn't really respond to it in any way."

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Top: Plan of the hydro corridor. (Click to view a larger version.) Bottom: Drawing of the hydro corridor.

A new network of pathways would help draw the community into the open space. And some new development along the edge of the corridor would contain a mix of uses: industrial facilities would be located at ground level, along with public amenities, like sports facilities and shops. Private residences would be located above.

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Top: Plan of the Don Mills and Overlea area. (Click to view a larger version.) Bottom: Section of proposed interventions in the Don Mills and Overlea area.

At Don Mills and Overlea, where the neighbourhood gives way to a cluster of overcrowded public schools, the group's plan calls for the school buildings to be expanded, using space recaptured from parking lots. Some small, focused interventions at the rim of the nearby Don Valley would turn the ravine into a sort of outdoor classroom, where children and other community members could come to enjoy nature.

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The group's plan for Don Mills and Eglinton. (Click to view a larger version.)

For the corner of Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East, the group developed a counterproposal to an existing development plan for the area. Rather that pursuing maximum density, the group's master plan calls for mid-scale development on small subparcels. "I wanted to stitch together leftover spaces on the site while still connecting all of this to our axis," Alexia says.

The group compiled their work on an interactive website that uses animation to show the way their proposed changes would transform the neighbourhood. Visit flemo.cargo.site to see the presentation.

(Instructor: Monica Hutton)