Reading List

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Alissa North

University of Toronto

Re-Imagining Toronto’s Urban Waterways

What if Toronto’s ravines were thought of as a system of flows, rather than delimited non-dimensional green shapes on maps? How would their relationship with the city change? Could they productively erode and deposit, change shape, or even spread? Could the ravines be held accountable for the ecosystems services they provide to the city? Would this enhance their value, resiliency, and appreciation? How could the city’s ravines be imaginatively visualized to ignite new perceptions, understandings, and interactions?

This reading list is derived from sources provided for students in the Toronto Ravine Re-Create Option Studio at the University of Toronto, a cross-disciplinary studio in landscape architecture, urban design, and architecture that explored how “rivers and ravines could be repositioned as living and dynamic systems within a city.” The studio was premised on the fact that rivers are dynamic systems. Temporal river changes are crucial considerations of river conditions. With these overriding ideas in mind, participants were asked to imagine and represent the pressing issues within the ravine in new and novel ways. Always thinking about how the ravine can accommodate change, and beyond only preservation or restoration techniques, the studio intended to imagine new methods for mutual and optimal productivity between the ravines and the city. For their work, the students won ARCHITECT Magazine’s 2017 Sloan Award, part of its annual Studio Prize, awarded to a studio that focuses on sustainability or water conservation, and recognizes thoughtful, innovative, and ethical designs.

There is potential for the ravines to serve on multiple levels to address problems of flooding at various scales, while also serving effectively to connect communities and support their recreational activities, enhance urban mobility, promote viable energy systems, and support vibrant urban ecology. Much of this is already happening, but with an increase in use of all of the above, the ecological health of the ravines is at stake. If the ravines fall into a state of disrepair, their ability to perform substantially as green infrastructure for the city will be compromised. The aim of the studio was to provide targeted catalytic solutions of change through inventive design.


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