This morning marked the official opening of the Simcoe WaveDeck, the latest milestone in the ambitious central waterfront transformation. In total, four of these curvy, boardwalk-meets-bridge structures will be open by 2012, each at the base of a major waterfront street. The award-winning Spadina WaveDeck opened late last summer, the Rees WaveDeck is on schedule for a launch later this season, and the Parliament WaveDeck is working its way through the design development phase. Aptly named, each WaveDeck is a variation of a multi-layered, undulating ribbon of wood, rising as tall as six feet above the ground and dipping to almost skim the water’s surface.
West 8, the Rotterdam design and architecture firm behind the project, along with Toronto-based du Toit Allsopp Hiller, were awarded this commission in 2006, after winning an international design competition. There are two major objectives to this design initiative, which the WaveDecks so clearly illustrate [PDF]. The first is to introduce continuity along the water’s edge, on both architectural and functional levels. Architectural continuity, in this case, is the iconic language of the wooden curves. Now that two WaveDecks are open to the public, this “consistent design signature” will help Torontonians immediately identify it with the Central Waterfront. Alternatively, a basic example of functional continuity is the ability to walk along the water’s edge from one end to the other.
Traces of commercial activity that once dominated Toronto’s shoreline now act as barriers between pedestrians and the blue water’s edge. Slips, those water-filled spaces cut into the land, were built as part of the Toronto Harbour to facilitate trade from the St. Lawrence Seaway. They were where ships once loaded and unloaded. In total, there are eight heads of slip—Portland, Spadina, Peter, Rees, Simcoe, York, Yonge, and Jarvis—over which the walkable surface area will be expanded. Each segment will be joined together via new and existing walkways to produce a fully connected promenade along the water’s edge, spanning three kilometres from Bathurst Street to Parliament Street.
The second objective introduces specific design projects for each of the eight heads of slip, such as the proposals for the redevelopment of the Jarvis Street slip. These designs will each establish a unique space at the terminus of the respective north-south street and act as a gateway between Queens Quay Boulevard and sparkling Lake Ontario.
In the case of the Simcoe Street slip, the WaveDeck achieves all of the above. The forms, ranging from subtle to dramatic, are inspired by the obvious visual metaphor of the water, but also provide the perceptual serenity that people seek from the water’s edge. Physically, the wave shape satisfies the need for an enveloping interface of systems: the varying slope angles help indicate whether a particular area is intended as a space for chilling, a space for playing, or both. The flexibility of the curves can promote a range of activities such as kayak-launching, speed-walking, bubble-blowing, or any number of other experiences. One of the greatest benefits of this project is that it will connect its users with the activity and opportunity that already exists at the waterfront.
All photos by Miles Storey/Torontoist.