Courtyard Urbanism

Courtyard Urbanism

Student Author: 
Peter Bachetti
May 2015
Mona El Khafif

As Toronto’s population anticipates to grow by 23% in the next 20 years the densification of the downtown core becomes problematic. Where and how will this growth be accommodated? At the moment Toronto is building high rise condo towers in order to accommodate these new residents. The issue is that these condo’s are going up faster than the infrastructure that services them. What we don’t want to see is what happened to St. James town. St. James town was the largest high-rise community in Canada. Built in the 1960’s it consists of 19 high-rise buildings (14 to 32 stories). 19,000 people live in the towers making it one of Canada’s most densely populated communities. The issue was that because they were so poorly constructed and didn’t provide enough amenities, such as green space, to the development. As people left to the suburbs it became poorer, eventually some towers were turned into social housing developments. It’s become labeled as a slum. This is a situation that the city of Toronto is and should use as a precedent in order not to make the same mistake again. Recently, we’re seeing the same problem arise with places such as Liberty Village, building poorly constructed condominiums to accommodate growth but not addressing the issue of amenities. In 20 years we could see most of these condominiums becoming slums.

A suggestion of mid-rise typology has been introduced by the city in order to gradually densify and re-intensify the main streets of Toronto by protecting the neighbourhoods that surround them. This typology will allow Toronto to accommodate growth without disrupting the integrity of the neighbourhood areas. Mid rise typology will allow for more daylight enhancing the streetscape. It will provide an appropriate transition of scale from neighbouring buildings and allow safer pedestrian conditions.

Similarly with the growth of population comes the responsibility of providing public spaces to accommodate the resident’s social, cultural and ecological needs. At present date, Toronto’s lack of green space, a dismal 12 sqm per person is the lowest in Canada. A quick scan of the downtown area clearly indicates this phenomenon.

Introducing the courtyard through a mid-rise building typology as a means of integrating public green space into the city benefits not only the residents but the community. Imagine a mid-rise european block typology with an inner courtyard that is publicly accessible scattered along these main arterial roads. Providing a microcosm of public/ private spots that culturally energize these streets while providing social and ecological benefits to the city