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Modern heritage and public space: revitalizing Nathan Phillips Square 

Chris Pommer
PLANT Architect Inc.

Modern public spaces in Canada face many challenges as they mature. Those challenges are relatively new: the public’s perception of their value and the need to devote funds to their upkeep and repair. In many cases, this skewed perception has led to unfortunate “improvements” to some of these spaces over time. Changes to and intensification of use patterns call into question some of the formal decisions of these mid-century designs, causing friction and adding to the perception that these spaces are faulty. There is also reasonable cause for reflection on the impact that many of these projects had on the existing fabric and culture of the cities where they were built.

This presentation offers a brief history of the two design competitions for the site, as well as an overview of the latest competition process, of the design’s evolution, and of construction underway. It explores how the above issues were handled, as well as some of the conceptual strategies employed in the design and execution of the Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization project in Toronto. Some of the ongoing challenges as the project continues are also mentioned. The presentation also reflects on the next steps the project must undertake as it moves forward.