toronto
The many organizers of the new Green Line international design competition seek visionary proposals from landscape architects, architects, designers, planners, artists that will revamp the public green space and bicycle and pedestrian access of Toronto’s 3-mile-long transmission line corridor (a.k.a. hydro corridor). The goal is to “imagine the electricity infrastructure as a Green Line — a pedestrian and cycling link across the middle of the city and a public space and recreational amenity to the many neighborhoods across Toronto that it links.” Design teams will look at both the overall vision of the park and identify opportunities for reusing an underpass. The organizers are looking for pragmatic proposals that address safety concerns while also providing new public space concepts and sustainable transportation solutions.

The Green Line passes through a number of neighborhoods in midtown Toronto, from Davenport Village to the Annex. “The Green Line is already well used by local residents. It has splash pads, sports fields, allotment gardens, parking lots and children’s playgrounds, but the spaces are mostly in poor condition and the corridor does not currently provide a continuous physical connection due to grade changes and fencing.”

The vision part of the competition will ask designers to create a “comprehensive” approach that will also tie into Toronto’s cycling network. “The Green Line should be considered as both a series of community spaces and a physical and psychological link across the city.” Green public spaces will need to be designed so they can be used 24/7, 365. Designs will need to be able to be implemented in phases.

For the underpass portion of the ideas competition, designers should provide a detailed approach to “improve pedestrian, cyclist and car-users’ safety and mobility, and make an improved physical, visual and/or psychological connection for the Green Line.” The goal is to create a model that can be used for the eight other underpasses along the line.

This ideas competition also has some unique constraints, which could prove to be an interesting mental challenge for designers. Given the primary purpose of the corridor is to transmit electricity, there are some stringent guidelines for how the public can interact with this infrastructure. There are also some major safety issues: Electro-magnetic fields come off the equipment. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says these fields are a possible carcinogen so “taking practical low or no-cost actions to reduce exposures to young children is prudent.”  Toronto now has a policy of “prudent avoidance” and calls for taking steps to keep young children away from the infrastructure. However, the city also recognizes “that recreational, trail and park uses of hydro corridors have health benefits for children and adults who use them which outweigh any potential risk from EMF exposure.”

The competition organizers intend to show the community the best designs. The organizers say that the ideas “will not be built, but are meant to get the communities who live, study and work near the site to start thinking about its future.”

The jury will award $6,000 CDN in cash prizes to the winners. The bulk of the prize money ($4,500) goes to the vision component of the competition, while the underpass portion of the competition will give out $1,500 CDN in prizes. Winners will also have their work published in a Canadian magazine, Spacing, and will be featured in an exhibition.

Submit proposals before February 4, 2013. Registration is free, but registrants must be members of the Toronto Society of Architects. Students can join for $25 CDN. Full membership is $50 CDN.

Image credit: Green Line ideas competition