Tree City

Toronto suffers from neglect. Of all major North American cities Toronto spends the lowest amount on public space. No major city spends less on park operations. Can Toronto survive as urban beauty becomes increasingly important to a city’s prominence in the world marketplace? Will Toronto’s own negligence turn Canada’s central hub into a peripheral global city? Despite its derelict spending, Toronto has the opportunity to convert the city’s one inherent asset into its greatest civic amenity.

We propose to use Toronto’s most distinguishing feature as the park’s primary urban component. Trees rather than buildings will serve as the catalyst of urbanization. Vegetal clusters rather than new building complexes will provide the site’s identity. An urban domain constituted by landscape elements, Tree City attempts to do more by building less, producing density with natural permeability, property development with perennial enrichment. 

Tree City is a feasible urban alternative within the stated available budget. Landscape elements will be planted incrementally over time as funding permits, gradually building up the park’s mass into a flexible patchwork of planted clusters separated by open undesignated areas. 

This will be staged as three long term phases: (1) site and soil preparation, (2) pathway construction, and (3) cluster landscaping. The outcome is a matrix of circular tree clusters covering 25% of the site which is supplemented by meadows, playing fields and gardens. Tree City treats the park as if it is an adult soon capable of sustaining itself rather than a child in need of eternal care. While most infrastructures decrease in value over time, Tree City’s natural network will appreciate as the park matures. We propose that capital generated from the park’s appreciated land value be spent to manage the park’s infrastructure and to support future development in an evolving cycle of implantation and speculation. Tree City is therefore a plan for attainable growth rather than a proposal to create extensive bulk. By forgoing costly buildings in order to dedicate funds for landscaping, Tree City sacrifices the static in order to save what can grow. 

Rem Koolhaas, Tree City (2000)



Rem Koolhaas + OMA, Petra Blaise, Bruce Mau, Downsview Park Competition Winning Entry (2000)