RUNNER-UP: Garrison Creek Redux


September 2014

Reclaiming a Riparian Ecology through Public Infrastructure

Sep 28, 2014 3:04 AM
by Aclife -  |  1 Comment

Garrison Creek was a small natural watercourse, about 7km long, flowing southeast into Lake Ontario on the site of the current city of Toronto. As a landscape infrastructure, it facilitated transport, drainage, filtration of stormwater, groundwater recharge, and served as an ecological corridor for the movement and exchange of biota. As the city expanded westwards, the pollution of the creek became an increasingly pressing issue. Starting in the 1880s, the stream was diverted into underground sewers and by 1920, the entire watercourse was integrated with the sewer system. Today, the creek continues to flow beneath the city, and occasionally floods/overloads the sewer system after heavy storms resulting in combined sewage overflowing into Lake Ontario.

Through a network of stormwater swales along vehicular laneways, pedestrian laneways, parking lots, and new developments, a new typology of urban riparian landscape infrastructure emerges, performing the ecological function of the former Garrison Creek by filtering stormwater, recharging groundwater, mitigating the risk of flooding and combined sewer overflows, promoting pollination/exchange through naturalized plantings along corridors, and improving water quality in Lake Ontario for drinking and recreation. The ubiquitous galvanized steel/weathered steel grate becomes the material of choice in negotiating the disjunct between riparian and urban landscapes. This material, allows light and water to filter through, while allowing pedestrians and vehicles to circulate above a reclaimed riparian landscape. Floodplain Forests and Riparian Plazas scattered about the network of planted swales become new typologies of public parks, armatures of an unprecedented experiment in urban ecology

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