The highly anticipated Second Wave of Modernism III: Leading with Landscape, a conference series led by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), was held at Isabel Bader Theatre on Friday May 22nd.
It was attended by 430 conference delegates from Canada and around the world, including a significant contingent of City of Toronto staff from various departments. This Second Wave of Modernism conference, the third instalment and largest to date, hosted innovative thinkers in the field of landscape architecture to tackle issues such as ‘what does it mean for a 21st-century city to be historic and modern at the same time? – and stewardship – what new models for public/private financing and management are emerging?’
In order to examine these queries, the conference was divided into relevant topics and themes, including:
- Making and managing Toronto’s 21st century landscape
- A history of coupled human and natural systems
- Toronto’s emerging urban public realm
- Current work in Toronto
- Exporting Innovation and failure
Opening remarks by ERA principal Michael McClelland, Janet Rosenberg of Janet Rosenberg & Studio and Mayor John Tory set the tone for the days’ discussion.
Charles Birnbaum, founder and president of TCLF, followed by asking: How do we measure success in this second wave? Who can manage change? How can we be sure that heritage and first-rate modernist design co-exist within our physical landscapes?
A number of speakers and panelists, including ERA landscape architect Brendan Stewart with Ryerson Professor Nina-Marie Lister and U of T professor Jane Wolff, enlightened us on the necessity to better understand and learn to ‘read’ the natural and cultural systems which underpin landscapes in order to preserve, manage change, and ultimately, to steward them.
View the full list of speakers here.
Remarkable sites including Sugar Beach, Corktown Common, Fort York, University Avenue, Allan Gardens and Evergreen Brick Works, to name a few, were cited as ‘authentic’ spaces that speak to the cultural value of Toronto’s designed landscape legacy.
Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat also highlighted an emerging framework to readjust the use of streetscapes/sidewalks as spaces of life and leisure. Her idea is to revitalize the public realm via landscapes that profoundly affect the livability- and walkability – of the city. In her words, “we often think of streets as roads for moving instead of as places to be.”
The realities of budget and practicality were equally important subjects of discussion. Many speakers noted the potential for public/private partnership models to lead critical investment and more sophisticated landscape management practices that enhance the social and environmental benefits of communities. Further, the need to advocate and educate – to make more public the critical discussion about design decisions in the public realm, must take precedence.
Following the conference was ERA’s annual Toronto the Good Party located at the historic Distillery District at the Fermenting Cellar. It was a night filled with great hors d’oeuvres, and a lively crowd of people passionate about design and democracy in Toronto.
Subsequently, What’s Out There Weekend Toronto hosted free, expert-led walking tours around the city that took Torontonians (and visitors) to various parks, memorials, historic neighbourhoods and world-class waterfront centres. ERA led tours of University Avenue, Osgoode Hall Gardens, Guild Park & Gardens, Allan Gardens, and Gooderham & Worts Distillery Complex, located in the historic Distillery District.
We look forward to see how conversations brought forward by the TCLF conference and What’s Out There Weekend Toronto will bring about productive change in interpreting and conserving Toronto’s past and future built heritage, parks, waterfronts and community spaces.
There are some great wrap-up articles surrounding the event, as well as related press updates that we encourage you to read.
There is also the What’s Out There Toronto Guide, a fantastic new resource to raise public awareness of the rich diversity and interconnectedness of our shared designed landscape heritage. Detailed primary research on twenty-four landscape design practitioners and eighty-four landscapes are included within the guide.
ERA would like to thank the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects task force, chaired by Brendan Stewart, assembled to work with TCLF in preparing material and coordinating leaders for the What’s Out There Weekend.
View What’s Out There Toronto Guide here.
View ‘Leading with Landscape Wrap-Up’ here.
View ‘What’s Out There Weekend Goes North’ here.
View Press release items here.
* Feature Image Credit: Matthew Traucht *