When the city embarked on its Parks Renaissance Strategy, we had great hopes for a truly inspired revival of our neighbourhood green spaces. But except for a few bold strokes, we're not exactly on the path to a parks rebirth. Here we catalogue the hits and misses.
Massey Harris Park
(King West near Strachan)
Okay, so Brown + Storey Architects made a mess of Yonge-Dundas Square, with its concrete overload. But at Massey Harris Park they've emphasized green: native plant species and meadows instead of lawns. The fountains embedded in a limestone pad at the southeast end are activated by photovoltaic cells. But it's artist James McLeod's trellis of figure eights, casting ribbons of shadow and light over the park's pathways, that makes Massey come to life.
(Queens Quay West at the foot of Bathurst)
Haunting bronzes. Craggy stone. A minimalist landscape. Everything about Ireland Park, a commemoration of the Irish famine victims who landed on Reese's Wharf in 1847, evokes emotion - grief, desperation, exaltation. It is a ghostly, place, cruel yet beautiful, made more awe-inspiring by the huge grain silos of the Canada Malting plant that function as its backdrop and dominate the site. To the east, the city of hope beckons. Architect Jonathan Kearns and sculptor Rowan Gillespie have carved out a spiritual masterpiece on the lake. A must-see.
(Queens Quay West, south of the Rogers Centre)
It's all the rage among design and architecture types - grassy knolls, smooth curving walkways, tall masts with moon-shaped lights, a beach dotted with cool yellow umbrellas and a catchy name to boot. We're not so mesmerized. It'll be a while before the trees grow large enough and the park's beauty is in full bloom. HTO could use a few more benches. And it's not really a place to play. Swimming and skateboarding are not allowed. But as urban parks go, this one is as close to picture-postcard perfect as we've got. More importantly, it's a much-needed kick-start for waterfront redevelopment.
Downsview Memorial Park, MOTH Gardens
(northeast corner of Keele and Wilson)
You usually can't go wrong with an Italian Renaissance-style garden, but the designers of this one did. High on symbolism, the stone sections of various heights spell "MOTH" when viewed from above - an ode to Downsview's aviation history and the Tiger Moth planes first manufactured by de Havilland. But save for the blue runway lights running into the distance, there's little that's intriguing or inviting about these "gardens." More could have been done to incorporate the row of mature maples along the park's southern flank, where the few people who do bother to stop to take in the scenery hang out. Downsview Memorial, conceived as a public work of art first, fails as a public space.
(Eastern Avenue at Kingston Road)
Interesting concept that doesn't quite measure up. Janet Rosenberg, the landscape architect behind this creation, has won many awards. But too much is wrong with the location - a wedge stuck between a parking lot and whizzing cars on Kingston Road - to make this whimsical attempt at measuring the passage of time really fly. The 3-metre-high measuring sticks that dominate the park are supposed to mark the growth of the young Kentucky coffee trees, but not in the current context (the trees are barely saplings). The brightly coloured Muskoka chairs look like a kitschy add-on. Too bad a swath of nearby Woodbine Park, which is crying for an interesting focal point, couldn't have been freed up to make room for what is right now a half-baked curiosity.