Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Park Celebrates Indigenous Culture

Discovery Walk
A new 1.6-acre public park celebrating indigenous culture is planned for downtown Toronto. Dr. Lillian McGregor Park, which will be located along Wellesley Street between Bay and Yonge, is being designed by the award-winning architecture, landscape and urban design firm DTAH, with Metis artist Kenneth Lavallee to create the park’s public art component.

Two major streets run parallel to the site. Bay Street, located west of the park is a transit corridor with high density development. Yonge Street, which is located east of the park is Toronto’s main street. It is one of Toronto’s most prominent retail corridors, and contains Toronto’s most heavily travelled subway corridor.

The park includes a central gathering space, a continuous bench that runs along one path, a “discovery walk”, an off-leash dog park, a sloping lawn, tree groves, and a plaza with seating areas. The central gathering place will have a medicine wheel embedded at its centre. Four crane sculptures will also be placed in the park.

Park Overview Design
The Indigenous theme is carried through several features across the park, aided by the designs of Lavallee. First, the central gathering place is proposed to have a medicine wheel embedded at its centre, while four crane sculptures positioned around the space at the four cardinal points will reflect the meaning of each quadrant of the wheel. Lillian McGregor was part of the crane clan within her tribe, and so the sculptures are meant as a tribute to her.

Wellesley Plaza
As well as the central gathering space, the canopy at the Wellesley Plaza features a feather-shaped cutout, creating interesting shadow patterns on the ground. The rocky outcrop and forested areas evoke the natural wilderness of northern Ontario, from which McGregor originates, and the reed screens throughout the park are in line with this theme.
Overhead view

According to Urban Toronto,One of the main criticisms of the proposed design [by the Toronto Design Review panel] revolved around the fact that the park is built over a parking garage which will require maintenance when its waterproofing reaches the end of its 40-year lifespan—meaning that at some point in the future, the park will need to be completely ripped out and rebuilt. Panel members urged designers and the City to consider what happens after the park is torn up, given that many people in the neighbourhood will have become accustomed to it or will even have moved there because of it. They urged designers to consider the future issues this raises: will the park be reinstated as is, or will it be redesigned, or will certain features be designed to be dismantled and reinstalled after work is finished?” 

Park Features
McGregor was a long-time community leader who had promoted Indigenous culture and education. Dr. McGregor (1924-2012) was a nurse and community leader, acknowledged for her work in promoting Indigenous culture and education. She received numerous awards and recognitions throughout her lifetime, including being the first Indigenous woman to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto, and acted as the University's first ever Elder In Residence. McGregor hailed from Whitefish River First Nation, located near Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario.