It was a good evening for the Toronto Police Service under the tent at Scrivener Square on Wednesday. Stantec Architecture’s design for the new 11 Division building (above) won two honours at the 2013 Pug Awards, which recognized buildings completed in 2012. The public voted the new police station the best project in the Commercial/Institutional category, and it received the Paul Oberman Award for Adaptive Reuse and Heritage Restoration.
Another police station, 14 Division, finished second in the Commercial/Institutional category, followed by the Rotman School of Management. Only two of the 14 nominees in the category received negative marks from online voters (those would be the Toronto South Detention Centre and the Trump International Hotel and Tower), as opposed to the 22 out of 29 projects in the Residential category. Five Hundred Wellington took the Residential award, followed by Six 50 King West Condominiums and Parc Loft Residences on the Park. You can click through the image gallery for look at some of the residences that fared the worst in the voting, and also the winners.
Pug voters’ irritation with poor public-space design around the bases of condo towers spilled into the panel discussion that preceded the awards presentation. The panelists (architect/urban designer Ken Greenberg, landscape architect/planner David Leinster, moderator Gil Penalosa, and landscape architect Janet Rosenberg) criticized the glacial pace of the City’s response to infrastructure problems associated with the core’s growing population. The word “crisis” was used several times in describing Toronto’s narrow, increasingly inadequate sidewalks. The sentiment was that we need to stop being so car-centric in our thinking and consider, as cities like New York have, street plans that better account for combinations of cars, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Also discussed was who should maintain spaces like public parks. Penalosa contrasted how quickly private funding was rounded up to repair the burnt Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in High Park with the nine years R.V. Burgess Park will have been without equipment by the time the City replaces it all in 2015. Leinster suggested two-tier public parks have emerged in places like New York, and that perhaps public money could be devoted to parks in needier neighbourhoods, leaving other parks to engaged community groups with strong financial means.
Even when infrastructure plans emerge, there’s still a political aversion to investing in critical improvements in the name of austerity. “Torontonians are real experts at saying no,” Greenberg observed. “We know how to identify the things we don’t want and fight against them. We have to now learn how to say yes to what we do want. We have to be demanding about what we do want.”
How do we make such demands? Urge the public to stop being quiet and tell city councillors to make changes that support a liveable city. The panelists pointed to examples like the uproar over the possibility of opening a casino in Toronto. Other issues, they agreed, need equally loud, powerful voices behind them.
We would add that it’s the quality of those voices that matters. While it’s important to gather everyone’s opinion, constructive feedback needs to rise above the angry, regressive voices who dominate public meetings. Complacency is not going to solve our city’s problems.
Click through the image gallery for a look at some of the night’s winners and losers.