Urban Defender

Urban Defender: Saving Nathan Philips Square - Part 2

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Saving Nathan Philips Square - Part 2

Well UD has already declared here a “hands off the Square” approach and given this bias it was refreshing to learn from Saturday’s (June 4) creative workshop, that most did not want to tear down the elevated walkways, or turn hard-edged modernist urban space (and a classic one at that) into another bloody lawn. We have to find a way to screen people for pseudo-Edenic suburban fantasies and then send them to reeducation seminars (well no not really BUT . . .). Most of those at the June 4th session seemed committed to preserving the Square’s key elements and in the context of preservation would consider enhancing them.

Gestures such as extending the reflecting pool/skating rink to a size more in line with the original design intent (or from what we can garner of this from such things as the original model), and extending the elevated walkways—for example, considering moving the southern walkway closer to the edge of Queen Street and making that patch of unloved grass an integral part of what is understood to be the Square, and seriously thinking of changing its ground plane texture from lawn to hard surface.

Support for making the Peace Garden vanish or move (a compelling idea was to transform, without affecting the current view from the Square, the now unused upper deck into an expanded “Peace Garden and get a green roof in the bargain.

The good news so far is that the City is consulting widely as it prepares to an issue an RFP for an international design competition and for more information on this process go to http://www.toronto.ca/npsquarecompetition/index.htm.

Still there is something troubling behind the notion that the Square ought to be fixed when as previously noted here, it mostly and immediately needs maintenance. Still UD feels somewhat reassured that the City’s intent and its process are well intended and may produce something that both maintains and enhances one of our great civic spaces.


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