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Greening the Gardiner

Architects ideas for more pedestrian- and eco-friendly gardiner expressway.

Enzo Di Matteo

Jun 22, 2009

Quandrangle Architects’ pitch to “green” the Gardiner, lobbed at the IdeaCity confab last week, looks dreamy on paper – a green pedestrian walk and bikeway along the waterfront from Dufferin to the DVP. What’s not to love?

Boom. With one bold swoosh and swirl, the concrete jungle crowding the Lakeshore and cutting off the waterfront has an elevated green valley running through it. Artists’ drawings show wide stairs connecting to the street below, happy singles and smiling cyclists enjoying the promenade.

But wait. There’s a big bender in this eco-inspired vision of the Gardiner. The “green roof” Quadrangle’s proposing isn’t over the Gardiner at all, but on a concrete structure eight metres above the highway.

Talk about concrete overkill.

Quadrangle’s Les Klein argues that tearing down the existing expressway, as some are advocating, doesn’t make sense. Doing that will only result in traffic chaos, says Klein – although there’s some evidence to suggest Lakeshore can handle the volumes, if a few more 905ers took GO to work. Lakeshhore’s dead during off rush hours.

Klein also argues that gutting Gardiner is not worth the environmental costs of sending all that concrete to landfill.

But what about the tonnes of raw materials that will have to be strip mined from quarries across the province to produce the concrete needed to make Quadrangle’s vision?

That option seems less eco-friendly, especially in light of that Toronto Environmental Alliance report of a few months back pointing out the holes we’re already gouging into precious reserves like the Niagara Escarpment for the sand, gravel and rock to feed our need for concrete.

In trying to take the proverbial middle road by appeasing the traffic obsessed, Quadrangle’s pie in the sky is proposing making more of a mess of  the waterfront, adding another barrier, only higher and more imposing.

It may not be economically feasible to tear down the Gardiner in one fell swoop. Or even taking the expressway down entirely. The sections feeding the core may have to remain for commerce’s sake. In those areas, we may be better off concentrating our efforts on greening the underneath sections of the Gardiner.

It still makes sense, however, to take down short sections of the expressway to the east and west of the city as different parts of the waterfront are greened. It’s the only way to naturalize the shore line and reconnect to a waterfront ruined by runaway condofication of the 80s that continues to this day.

If the plan is to create wide vistas leading to the lake, there’s no way around the Gardiner, or over it. Plowing right through is the only way to go.

As posted here: http://www.nowtoronto.com/daily/story.cfm?content=170055