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ERA Architects


ERA Presents at TCLF Second Wave of Modernism III: Leading with Landscape

by ERA Architects

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

Nina-Marie Lister TCLF conference.jpg-large Jennifer Keesmat & Paul Bedford in conversation. Image Credit: Nina-Marie Lister

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?

GuildPark_07_BrendanStewart_2014Guild Park & Gardens. 

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.

Mattew TrauchtBrendan Stewart and Michael McClleland tour Allan Gardens. Image Credit: Matthew Traucht

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.

Sugar Beach - Nicola Betts, Claude Cormier + associates copy Sugar Beach. Image Credit: Nicola Betts

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.

DistilleryDistrict_01_CharlesBirnbaum_2013Gooderham & Worts Distillery Complex. Image Credit: Charles Birnbaum 

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.

View two reviews by Tim Popa, Communications Director at Nelson Byrd Woltz. Part 1: here Part 2: here.

* Feature Image Credit: Matthew Traucht * 

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