1 Peace of our heart
We'd like to have seen this patch of green expanded in the square proper to create a green entranceway. Give us a break from the concrete, please. But few in the design community disagree that the existing Peace Garden, which doesn't feel like a garden at all, needs to be rethought and moved. Plant Architect's winning design proposes a quiet, usable and contemplative space on the square's west flank. But will the fire and water elements shown in the Plant drawings come from the original garden? We're talking here about preserving the square's spirit: embers from the Memorial for Peace in Hiroshima and water from the river that flows through the other atomic-bomb-devastated city, Nagasaki.
2 Making more of Moore
The city's criteria for the redesign spelled out one thing very clearly: Henry Moore's Archer would be off-limits. Too bad the Plant design doesn't do more with the dead zone behind the statue , where the pillars would make a fine spot for, say, rotating exhibitions of interesting art. Let's not forget the Archer's historical significance in the defeat of Mayor Phil Givens, who raised $100,000 in private funds for the bronze after it was rejected by city council. More could have also been done to take advantage of the library at the other end of the square , a forgotten, hidden cultural treasure that should announce itself in the square, not cower in the corner.
3 Mixed greens
Lovers of hard-edged urban spaces say Plant's design includes too much green space , particularly around the edges, softening, even hiding the square from the masses it's supposed to be drawing in. We disagree. The square should be a place for civic action and quiet reflection. Whenever money is short, as it is here, things will have to be done piecemeal, and there will be a temptation to skimp on the green . Let's hope the city invests a good chunk of the change for this reno on the canopy.
4 Mass consciousness
Architecturally speaking, Plant Architect was brave to keep Viljo Revell's iconic elevated walkways. Curious that so many favour tearing down the one feature that truly defines - and contains - the square. Nice touch, too, to put the proposed restaurant behind the elevated walkways so it's not the first thing you see when you enter from the west. What's worrisome is the massing of the restaurant and pavilion along with the Peace Garden and a stage on a fairly confined slice of the square's west edge. There just isn't the room to achieve what's being contemplated without throwing off the scale. A significant chunk of existing green will have to be removed. The rolling hilltop of green overlooking the square proposed in the Rogers Marvel Architects design was a more natural and inspiring stroke.
5 The missing piece
Money. And lots of it. The city has just over a third of the $42 million it will cost to redo the square. We're not saying this opens the door to mass commercialization and a bidding war for naming rights. The management board being contemplated to run the square already seems comfortable with the idea of small plaques for those donating a few million to the revitalization. You gotta wonder what other pieces of the project will be for sale when we already have nature trails brought to us by Loblaws. Do we need to cast a wary glance at the square's impudent cousin at Yonge and Dundas? Irony of ironies is that it was a shortage of cash way back when that caused the original Revell design not to be fully realized. Déjà vu, anyone?