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Investing in the Landscape: University of Toronto St. George Open Space Master Plan
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Urban Strategies, Inc.

George F. Dark, ASLA
Partner, Urban Strategies, Inc.
257 Adelaide Street West, Suite 500
Toronto, Ontario M5H 1X9
Tel. 416-340-9004 x 234;
Fax 416-340-8400

Project Purpose

To create an open space plan for the University of Toronto's downtown St. George Campus that provides clear direction for its future character and image while responding to a range of development opportunities and expanding models for the plan's implementation. Investing in the Landscape balances the visionary and the pragmatic, and is rooted within the culture of the campus to garner widespread support and enthusiasm. It outlines a set of primary open space objectives, and a series of recommendations and strategies for achieving the vision, both at the campus scale and the City scale. It identifies a Revitalization Annature and six demonstration sites that illustrate the potential of the campus open spaces to achieve the plan's primary objectives.

Role of Landscape Architect

The Landscape Architect, as project manager and a member of the core design team, was responsible for the direction of the study and coordination of the team of consultants. The Landscape Architect led intensive workshops throughout the planning and design process, collaborating with landscape architects, a historian, engineers and a cost consultant, and brought together key stakeholders including members of the University, Affiliated Colleges and Universities, the City, the surrounding community, and student groups, to gather information quickly, generate realistic solutions and to forge consensus on issues. The Landscape Architect was extensively involved from the proposal stage to the completion of the project, and plays a continuing role as advisor on specific projects that emerge from the plan. The project was overseen by the University Open Space Steering Committee.

Special Factors

The St. George Campus is an invaluable educational, social, and cultural resource. Its open space system encompasses and neighbors some of Toronto's most prominent heritage landscapes and architectural landmarks. Investing in the Landscape provided an opportunity to articulate a broad campus vision that enhances not only the University, its students and faculty, but also its immediately neighboring communities, the City and the Greater Toronto region. Its challenge was to create beautiful, safe, pedestrian-friendly places for students in a very urban environment largely dominated by cars


Investing in the Landscape has provided a lightning rod for enthusiasm in restoring the University's open space legacy. The plan has been publicized and is widely supported, leading to the realization of one of its proposed demonstration projects on the campus's most historic ceremonial landscape. It illustrates to the public the expanding and diverse role of the landscape architectural profession, one that explores design potential at both the micro and the macro levels.

In a design and planning capacity, the Landscape Architect is able to effect change at a grand scale by acknowledging that the University should take a lead role in reconnecting the major open spaces of its area through the redesign of key green spaces, the extension of landscape works to include adjacent improvements that establish an overall sense of place for the district, and the revitalization of edge streets and intersections to improve pedestrian linkages between key open spaces, and between the campus and the city. Throughout the planning process, the Landscape Architect questioned the status quo and searched for new opportunities in design and implementation, seeking imaginative solutions that would maximize resources for strategic landscape initiatives. The result is a document that provides a framework and a practical implementation plan for continued renewal and evolution of spaces for students to study and congregate, spaces for faculty, ceremonial spaces, and the shared open spaces of a public University on a very urban site and those of its neighbors. It defines situations that invite partnerships, take advantage of ongoing capital programs and attract sponsorship.

Investing in the Landscape acknowledged two important factors for implementation. One is the recognition that the campus landscape is composed of layers that are a living foundation to be continually maintained; environmental stewardship is therefore a key component of the plan. Second, the plan recommended that new development on campus must include capital for landscape improvements, to ensure continual investment in campus open spaces.

Investing in the Landscape as recognized in the Toronto Environmental Guide as one of the City's top ten initiatives for enhancing the environment.

2001 Award Winners
Press Release
Copyright  1995-2000 by The American Society of Landscape Architects