Leading Edge / Spring 2017
Reimagining Toronto’s Ravines

Daniels students’ projects find new uses for the the city’s neglected river valleys


Artistic rendering of a section of the Black Creek Channel, with murals along the left wall, a bike lane alongside the ravine, and a stairway on the right

Rendering: Stephen Brophy.

Newfoundland native Stephen Brophy, a third-year master’s student at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, remembers the moment he discovered Toronto’s ravines. “I was shocked to find this incredible, untapped reserve hiding in plain sight,” he says.

Last fall, as part of his studies, Brophy, along with other Daniels students, was asked to come up with ideas for underused sections of Toronto’s river valleys. The goal: to tap into the ravines’ potential as a public resource.

Brophy examined an unappealing 3.5-kilometre stretch of Black Creek Channel that, as he describes it, is “almost completely encased in concrete.” His proposal redesigns the channel as a multi-purpose trail along one side, turns a wall into a “canvas” for public art, allows for skateboarding and provides new entry points for greater public access. He suggests carving out an amphitheatre that could be used for community events and school gatherings, but which would also serve to mitigate floodwaters. Brophy hopes his ideas restore “dignity to a marginalized river and its neighbourhood.”

Prof. Alissa North, who taught the course, says she wanted students to rethink the ravines in light of the city’s aging infrastructure, the need for flood protection and the growing number of people downtown seeking outdoor recreation. City planning staff offered feedback on the students’ projects and will get copies to keep, she says.


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