Toronto’s urban street furniture collection of late has been messily schizophrenic and oft–criticized, but final prototypes from the Coordinated Street Furniture Program have just been unveiled, with installation slated for 2009.
The furniture plan involved a private Request For Proposals (RFP) from three advertising conglomerates, who pitched their designs last year in the hopes of securing the lucrative 20-year monopoly with the City of Toronto. The covenant was awarded to Astral Media, much to the concern of the Toronto Public Space Committee, who revealed details of the bid and who were concerned that the amount of advertising allowed under the contract had increased. Astral was also the company that threatened to sue IllegalSigns.ca for slander after the website’s proprietor, Rami Tabello, claimed that Astral was maintaining scores of illegal billboards.
The final designs were mandated to have a consistent and appealing aesthetic, longevity, and better functionality and accessibility. The benches, transit shelters, bike rings, public washrooms, and info pillars will be installed in accordance to the City’s “Vibrant Streets” scheme [PDF], which is meant to take into account the mix of pedestrians, transit vehicles, and neighbourhood aesthetic concerns.
Torontoist’s Jonathan Goldsbie will have a more in-depth analysis of the new street furniture next week, but for now, read on for a first look at what the next twenty years are going to look like on the sidewalks of Toronto.
Toronto’s mishmash of ugly plastic, metal, concrete, and wooden benches are to be simplified into this appealing modern wooden design, which remains almost unchanged from the proposed model, save for a reduction in the spaces between the metal slats and the overhang of the armrests and rear supports.
The ubiquitous post-and-ring has become one of Toronto’s iconic symbols, and there was alarm that they could disappear to make way for Astral’s Flinstones-rack-of-brontosaurus-rib motif. Thankfully, the lollipops aren’t disappearing—the final design is a slight modernization of the existing bike post, featuring more rounded edges.
The new transit shelter was lightened up, and the seats were fixed to match the standalone benches. Street names are decalled on the glass instead of on a roof sign, and though not pictured in the above rendering, some shelters will feature solar panels over the roof joint to power shelter lighting.
Astral’s info pillars are one of the most controversial elements of the existing street furniture plan, primarily because they were pitched as informational resources for tourists, but ended up as little more than extra billboards. When installed, the “information” side of the façades were turned away from the street, obscurely marked (what does INFOTOGO mean to tourists?), and served mainly as freestanding ad pillars with little to indicate that there was a map on the hidden side—or that some of the pillars actually dispensed maps. The new designs will feature LCD touchscreens and a more clearly demarcated information icon, but let’s not kid ourselves that much about their (lack of) utility will change.
Though the city’s incongruous plethora of chunky news boxes aren’t particularly attractive, the new newspaper box “corral” is greatly improved from the original proposed model. The first mockup looked more akin to our existing three-hole trash bins, but the revision features a raised post-and-beam design that better complements the look of the transit shelters and makes more sense for the existing boxes’ chain locks. The stainless steel and painted grey metal should be relatively unobtrusive and cleaner looking.
As for the multi-publication megaboxes, the City has been testing versions of these for some time now. Not much has changed from the mockup, other than the handles being redesigned and oriented oven-style. The pilot boxes were black, but the shade of these is more complimentary to the rest of the new furniture, though is reminiscent of Toronto Life Square’s uninspired battleship grey and undoubtedly destined to be plastered with stickers and posters. Astral says that space has been reserved on the back for public art, although their definition of what could be going into that frame should obviously be taken with a grain of salt.
Astral pitched the public posting columns as a solution to the messy street postering problem, though we can’t see it actually reducing the omnipresent wheatpaste flyers. The updated design wisely allows for more ground clearance and a thinner profile. Mockups show standard letter-sized paper flyers, but it won’t likely be long before 11×17 event posters smother the entire surface of these and render them pretty much ineffective.
These are the droids you’re looking for. Evocative of a portable home bar, a Nabooan astromech robot, and an arena handwashing station, these knobby little lowboys are to replace the fugtastic litter bins that currently blight Toronto’s sidewalks. Most of us are familiar with the frustrating metal flaps on those, which are undersized and have to be manually pushed open, usually clotted with chewed gum, mustard, dog poop, and who knows what else. On the new models, a foot bar will open the flaps, sure to please germophobes everywhere and malfunction spectacularly in the snow. There’s only so much you can do with a garbage can, but at least these things are rounded and kinda look like they’re anthropomorphically wearing a hat or something, giving them a tiny bit of personality.
Yay, somewhere to poop without having to buy a doughnut first! Common in many major cities around the world, automated public street washrooms in Toronto have been a long time coming, and these things are more impressive and technologically advanced than most would think. They are cleaned automatically between each use, staying fresh and relatively odour-free for the next paying customer. Time inside the tinkle TARDIS is limited, but those shaking the dew off their lilies need not worry too much—you’ll get a warning and a countdown before the door slides open. Unlike the original mockups, the final model is properly accessible, and customizable panels on the sides allow for neighbourhood and BIA branding. They also now have a second exit lest one get embarrassingly trapped inside by the detritus from an errant snow plow or on account of a prank by those darn meddling kids.