The Toronto airfield will be converted into a residential area
Danish studio Henning Larsen Architects, local studio KPMB and landscape architecture studio SLA are set to convert an airstrip outside downtown Toronto into a residential neighborhood.
Downsview Airfield, 15 kilometers northwest of downtown Toronto, will be transformed into a residential and commercial area with strong transport links to the city.
The development will be organized around the two-kilometre-long track, which will be transformed into a “pedestrian corridor” that connects the communities built on the 520-acre site.
Ten neighborhoods housing approximately 80,000 people will be spread around the perimeter of the pedestrian corridor within 40 hectares of parks for new residents as well as residents of surrounding neighborhoods.
More than one million square meters of retail space will be added to the site. The plan recommends that historic buildings such as an airport hangar be repurposed.
The three main studios interacted with more than 3,000 people during the development of the master plan to determine what locals would like to see in a new development. The construction of the district will be spread over the next 30 years.
The plan outlines green space and railroad redevelopment as well as the implementation of neighborhoods, but the official number of buildings on the site has yet to be approved by the city.
“It’s like the biggest infill project in the world you can imagine,” said KPMB partner Kevin Bridgman.
Located at the confluence of two ravines, the community will be connected to an adjacent park as well as the city’s public transit system, allowing future residents to easily navigate the city.
Building the park along the track allows for flexibility as the neighborhood plan evolves, according to the studios.
“You start with water, parks and biodiversity,” Bridgman said.
“You don’t start with blocks and buildings, you start with what matters to people and what is going to be there much longer than buildings and people.”
Michael Sorenson, partner at Henning Larsen Architects, said this approach allows planners to create density without using skyscrapers. Three stations already exist on the perimeter of the site.
Sorensen cited Paris and Barcelona as examples of high-density cities that do not have large numbers of high-rise buildings.
“We didn’t invent anything new,” he said. “We kind of just took the best of all worlds, and now we’re bringing them together in a new setting.”
“So it’s almost the complete opposite of suburbanization,” he added.
Using the 15-minute city model, the plan enables a connected community that anticipates a car-free future.
“It’s the next level of district planning that really supports this holistic approach to planning and there you’ll really start to see how the streetscape starts to develop, how the files are structured and how the capabilities start to them. and how they are important, interacting and kind of putting it all together,” Sorenson said.
Bridgman, who knows Toronto’s strict building codes, said the orientation of the airfield will create a more ideal living environment.
The airfield, which is oriented with the wind, allows for a redesigned grid that shapes seating and terrain in a way that “really harnesses the sun”.
The studios agree that the multi-generational aspects of the project will allow for flexibility in design as trends change.
“It will be exciting to see how with future generations this organically grows as a place for design experimentation,” Bridgman said.
The master plan follows a series of other massive urban planning initiatives aimed at creating new communities on unused land. This year, the Saudi government unveiled plans for The Line, a 500-kilometre linear city intended to house nine million people.
Recently, an influx of developments designed by international companies has been announced in Toronto. Adjaye Associates, Alison Brooks Architects and Henning Larsen are set to contribute to a sustainable development of buildings along the city’s waterfront.