Danish studio Henning Larsen Architects, local studio KPMB and landscape architecture studio SLA are set to convert an airstrip outside of Toronto into a residential area.
Downsview Airfield, 15 kilometers northwest of Toronto, will be converted into a residential and commercial district with strong transport links to the city.
The development will be arranged around the two-kilometre amphitheater, which will turn into a “pedestrian walkway” connecting the communities built within the 520-acre site.
Ten areas of approximately 80,000 people will be distributed on the perimeter of the footpath within 40 hectares of parkland for new residents as well as local residents in neighboring neighbourhoods.
More than one million square meters of commercial space will be added to the site. The plan recommends reusing historic buildings such as the airport’s aircraft hangar.
The three core studios interacted with over 3,000 people in their development of the master plan to ascertain what local residents would like to see in a new project. The area will be built over the next 30 years.
The plan outlines green space and railroad redevelopment along with county implementation, but the official number of buildings on the site has not yet been approved by the city.
“It’s like the biggest project in the world you can imagine,” said Kevin Bridgeman, partner of KPMB.
Located at the confluence of two valleys, the complex will connect to an adjacent park as well as the city’s transportation system, allowing future residents to easily navigate the city.
The park’s construction along the amphitheater allows for flexibility as the area’s layout evolves, according to the studios.
“You start with water, gardens, and biodiversity,” Bridgman said.
“Don’t start with blocks and buildings, you start with what matters to people and what will be there for much longer than buildings and people.”
This approach allowed planners to create density without using high elevations, said Michael Sorenson, partner of Henning Larsen Architects. There are actually three train stations on the perimeter of the site.
Sorensen named Paris and Barcelona as examples of high-density cities that do not have large numbers of tall buildings.
“We didn’t invent anything new,” he said. “We’ve kind of taken the best of all worlds, and now we’ve put them together in a new framework.”
“So this is the opposite of suburbia,” he added.
Using a 15-minute city model, the plan allows for a connected community that anticipates a car-free future.
“This is the next level of district planning that really supports this overall approach to planning and there you’re going to really start to see how the streetscape starts to develop, how the files are organized and how the capabilities start in and how important that is, interact and kind of bring everything together”, Sorenson said
Bridgman, who is familiar with Toronto’s strict building codes, said the direction of the airport would make a more ideal living environment.
An airfield oriented with the wind allows the grid that makes up the plazas and lots to be reconsidered in a way that can “really harness the sun”.
The studios agree that the multi-generational aspects of the project will allow for flexibility in design as trends change.
“It will be exciting to see how this grows with future generations organically as a place to experiment with design,” said Bridgeman.
The framework plan follows a series of other mega-city planning initiatives that seek to create new communities on unused land. This year, the Saudi government unveiled designs for The Line – a 500-kilometre linear city intended to house nine million people.
Recently, the flow of developments designed by international companies was announced in Toronto. The buildings are set to contribute to sustainable development along the city’s waterfront, by Adjaye Associates, Alison Brooks Architects, and Henning Larsen.