The aim of the Forest Hill Village North Gateway project was to create a gateway and gathering area in Suydam Park, at the north end of Forest Hill Village – a concept that emerged out of a master plan for this central Toronto neighbourhood. While the master plan envisioned a conventional landmark object, such as a gazebo or bandshell, to fulfill these functions, this design takes a more ambitious and unconventional approach to achieving these objectives. It is in fact a complete reconsideration of how the park interfaces with the main street it borders. The whole side of the park frontage now acts as a gateway into the village, drawing in views, enhancing the park’s street presence, and encouraging public use at the edge of the park – not just inside it.
Dominated by old trees with extensive canopy coverage, the view into the park is a picturesque arrangement of tree trunks in the shade. The project inserts two new element types: light posts and benches, arranged in forest-like groupings in front of and among the trees to create a new, vital dialogue of nature and occupation, both day and night. Clusters of benches allow for clusters of conversation. Three modular parts allow for different bench configurations: circular, bench-only seating; a bench with a circular hole in the centre for planting; and curved, semicircular benches. In the planters, hot-hued perennials (supplemented by annuals provided by the local Business Improvement Area) inject vivid hits of colour into this shaded site. Conifers at the core of the planters add year-round greenery to the park’s gateway edge.
The custom-designed light posts include a signpost at the north end to mark the entry to Forest Hill Village. The pattern these light posts emit at night is dappled – like the shade from the trees by day, with the light strongest at the ground, and fading up into the trees.
New, organically contoured granite paving along the sidewalk edge extends into the park to create an oval stage and community gathering space. Black paving and dark green and white seat/planters echo the black and white hardscape palette of Forest Hill Village’s south gateway park, bookending the community. The benches have also been extended into the village as part of the street frontage for a new parking lot, and a new similar small street planter will be extended throughout the village next year.
This project was completed for the Forest Hill Village BIA and the City of Toronto. The same client team subsequently hired us to update the area’s existing master plan, to ensure that it reflects current streetscape, parklet and café standards and guidelines, and aligns with recent City of Toronto directives.
Entrant office name: Plant Architect Inc.
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architectural Design and Lighting
Other design firms involved: n/a
Project location: Suydam Park, Forest Hill Village, Toronto, Ontario
Design year: 2013/2014
Year Built: 2016