The Globe and Mail’s architecture columnist Lisa Rochon approached Canadian universities for their students’ best ideas to reinvent urban centres. The response, she says, was exhilarating
A high-rise that harnesses the wind
The first submission for The Imaginative City was received from the University of Calgary, by way of an e-mail from Hong Kong. Brian Sinclair, a professor at the Faculty of Environmental Design at the university, leads a research studio that explores the ever-controversial and urban-critical tall tower. This past fall semester, his group of a dozen senior graduate students produced conceptual designs for 100-storey-plus, mixed-use skyscrapers for Calgary. (All of his students have entered their recent designs for the online ideas-rich 2013 eVolo Skyscraper Competition.)
The 102-storey Paskan tower is a project by one of those students, Mahdiar Ghaffarian. “Increasingly our built environment is deemed to be too static and too intractable,” Mr. Ghaffarian says.
The highly organic shape of the building is in response to wind analysis and ways of harnessing wind for mini-turbines located within the tower. Circulation for the ultraorganic building is enhanced through three connection stations of cultural spaces. A sky lobby is featured on top of the creation, education and presentation connectors. The building resembles a massive, multiheaded reptile.
Intriguingly, the building is designed as a living form, using flexible plans and a system of moveable walls that allow it to respond to the needs of users and the seasons. A rooftop dome over a winter greenhouse slides away during the summer to expose gardens to the sky. A very nice touch.
A low-income housing project that feeds its residents
Ryerson University’s Stanley Lung, a graduate student in the Master of Architecture program, lauds the potential of urban agriculture in downtown Toronto. That means buildings that can handle high density while being drenched in water features and life-giving greenery.
His glass towers highlight prominently angled entrance podiums heavily laden in greenery that rise from reflecting pools and gardens on the ground.
What’s important about the project is that it’s designed as low-income housing with major amounts of space dedicated to urban agriculture – enough land, he contends in his thesis, to help feed residents and offset urban poverty. Mr. Lung calls his design “a hybridized building typology.” Cities around the world, from Toronto to Mumbai, could certainly benefit from embracing the hybridized model in which food security is woven into light-filled, eco-green housing.
Caileigh MacKellar and Newsha Ghaeli
A polytropism that remediates water
“Polytropism” – a self-sustaining, floating machine that captures and then recycles plastic waste – was designed with bold vision and impressive detail by Caileigh MacKellar and Newsha Ghaeli, both 24 years old, for McGill University’s Master of Architecture program.
The giant white curved fins, theoretically constructed of carbon fibre, are made up of wave-oscillating pipes whose moving joints generate energy, which is efficiently captured by the machine. The machine is also inlaid with solar tilesto create solar energy.
The machine in this image is located in Lake Ontario off the shores of Toronto, but the original site considered by the young designers was the Sea of Japan, where the machine could generate enough energy to power 30,000 homes. A major water remediation research tower and public education facility descends from the curved fins into the depths.
“When we first developed it, we placed it off the coast of Japan, but the notion really is global. Because the Great Lakes are such an integrated system, the floating machine could help remediate its water to become fully swimmable,” Ms. Ghaeli says.
Toronto should order one of these visionary think tanks now – before other cities do.
Naomi Hébert and Kateryna Rogynska
Adding public space into waterfronts
Naomi Hébert and Kateryna Rogynska, from McGill University, propose a lyrical recapturing of forgotten waterfronts.
Their “social circles’” design was originally conceived as a way to thrust new public space into Manhattan’s East River and celebrate the presence of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. The public is invited to wander along the grassy rooftop trails of a curvilinear park and look down to newly framed sections of the river and a two-storey podium of offices set behind curved walls of glass.
From above, it’s possible to look down into round courtyards with the river operating as a dynamic, ever-changing floor. That’s a compelling gesture, the kind that all too often goes missing in new urban developments. Much like Toronto’s wall of condominiums along the lake’s edge, Manhattan has lost much of its connection to the East riverfront through the construction of large-scale residential towers and institutions such as the UN. By building enchanting, organically shaped parks, that connection is extended and returned to the public.
Reforesting Ontario Place
Christina Pascoa, a third-year Master of Architecture student at the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, has created a compelling argument for the restoration of urban waterfronts, wherever they may be.
In a beautifully rendered image, Ms. Pascoa shows a group of kayakers paddling through lush, purifying marshlands below the 1970s high-tech pavilions of Ontario Place in Toronto. What is currently a tired entertainment zone is reimagined as a coastal habitat for migratory birds where visitors can enjoy reforested parkland, swim at beaches and paddle through lagoons.
Parking lots sprawled along the waterfront would be transformed into a mixed-use neighbourhood. The white pavilions elevated on pylons, originally designed by Craig, Zeidler, and Strong Architects, would be kept intact as a fantastical megastructure. A green-land bridge would connect Exhibition Place and Ontario Place.