Major world cities such as Toronto are in transition and many need to integrate post-industrial landscapes while also radically reframing their interactions with the natural environment. The Lower Don Lands project is unique among these efforts by virtue of its size, scope, and complexity. In the MVVA team’s design, the engine of transformative urbanism is a dramatic repositioning of natural systems, landscape systems, transportation systems, and architectural environments. A renewed recognition of the functional and experiential benefits of river ecology allows a sustainable approach to flood control and river hydrology to become the symbolic and literal center around which a new neighborhood can be constructed.
This master plan unites transformative landscape methodologies with innovative scientific approaches to natural reclamation and makes them operational at the scale of the city and the regional ecology. Within its plan to recycle 280 acres of Toronto’s waterfront, the Port Lands Estuary project unites the client’s major programmatic initiatives into a single framework for the study area that will simultaneously make the site more natural (with the potential for new site ecologies based on the size and complexity of the river mouth landscape) and more urban (with the development of a green residential district and its integration into an ever-expanding network of infrastructure and use). Both the urban and the natural elements of the landscape are seen as having the potential to introduce complex new systems to the site that will evolve over the course of many years, creating interim conditions, each interesting in its own right, and giving form, focus, and character to the development of the neighborhood.
The Lower Don Lands Master Plan was selected as one of 16 founding projects for the Climate Positive Development Program, a project of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Climate Initiative and the U.S. Green Building Council. The Lower Don Lands plan also received the 2011 Excellence in Planning Award
from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI), the 2010 Institute of Transportation Engineers Transportation Achievement Award, the 2009 BEX International Award for Best Futuristic Design, the 2008 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Special Jury Award for Sustainable Development
, a 2008 ASLA Analysis and Planning Honor Award
, and a 2007 Toronto Urban Design Award.