The Constant Gardiner Debate
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The Constant Gardiner Debate

The Toronto Star published a good article Sunday revealing that “the city’s Waterfront Secretariat is now reviewing the recommendations and cost estimates of recent waterfront task forces on the fate of the Gardiner.” Torontoist hears you asking, wasn’t this the whole point of the Gardiner Report released last September? Now that the city has all but canned plans to tear down the elevated highway due to lack of funds, however, discussions are focussing on how to make the best of what we’re stuck with.
Long viewed as an eyesore cutting the city off from the waterfront, some citizens and urban planners are finally embracing the Gardiner (one architect interviewed by the Star called it “beautiful, totally sculptural”) and imagining how it could be reinvented as a public space. After it was clear that the recommendations outlined in the Gardiner Report were not financially feasible, urban planners and bloggers alike proposed turning the underbelly of the highway into a greenway. The Star article, however, which details how other cities have dealt with highways in urban cores, proposes that the Gardiner could also be a project for artists and creative professionals. Spacing picked up on the story yesterday, and has lovely images of what other cities have done here.
07_08_06_shanghai.jpgShanghai uses neon lights to turn its snaking expressways into interweaving purple ribbons. It’s somewhat garish (not to mention a waste of electricity), but at least the highways have become a part of the city’s aesthetic, rather than written off as an embarrassment. In Paris, a disused railway viaduct was turned into the 4.5 km-long Promenade Plantée, a popular above-ground garden (it’s featured in Before Sunset) with shops and artists’ studios underneath. Rather than destroy the abandoned railroad, urban planners took advantage of the unique spaces that the elevated structure provided.
With condos rising up like tallgrass around the Gardiner from Fort York Boulevard to Yonge, new residents are going to be demanding something more than an undeveloped concrete lot. Torontoist would like to see the larger expanses under the Gardiner transformed in a creative way. Why not redevelop this unorthodox space as an outdoor crafts market in the summer, or refurbish it as an ever-changing gallery of large-scale art installations? The high “ceiling” and stark surroundings already suggest a massive studio. The possibilities are endless.
Photos of the Gardiner and Shanghai expressways courtesy of citydweller and Move Lachine, respectively.