Take a crowd of Canada’s top architects, put them in a room and ask them to design a dense city neighbourhood – working with a 1,000-page book of rules and requirements. This was how the Canary District in Toronto, which will be the athletes’ village for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games this summer, was created.
Surprisingly, this city-by-committee is coming out well. The $514-million, 14-hectare complex is walkable, sustainable, contemporary but respectful of history, and economically diverse. It will efficiently house 10,000 people for Pan Am and then serve different users, in about 1,650 units, over the long term.
If that sounds like a recipe for virtuous blandness, it is. These are seven buildings in 50 shades of grey. But the four architecture firms involved – KPMB, architectsAlliance (aA), MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller (MJM) of Toronto and Montreal’s Daoust Lestage – set out to build an ensemble.
“How do you define a new district, a new community?” asks architect Renée Daoust of Daoust Lestage. “It can’t always be with a ‘wow’ building. The richer communities reflect some elements of continuity within their urban fabric. It’s a fine thread.”
In this case, the thread runs along Front Street in Toronto, which has been extended east from downtown as a grand boulevard. A generous plaza, designed by Vancouver landscape architects PFS, stretches all along its sunny north side; there are healthy trees and high-quality paving; and new retail spaces, all with tall six-metre ceilings, will one day house a mix of cafés, restaurants and health-oriented retailers. It has good bones. […]