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October 3, 2006
Revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square - a Design Competition
Mayor David Miller announced today that the City of Toronto is launching an international design competition to revitalize Nathan Phillips Square -- the city’s premier outdoor public gathering space, a leading tourist attraction, and national and provincial landmark.

“The City is asking members of the design community to look at this vital public space with fresh eyes,” said Mayor David Miller, “and to instill in us an idea of what Nathan Phillips Square can become as a source of inspiration for all Torontonians."

He said, "The City believes that Nathan Phillips Square’s usefulness and beauty can be improved and revitalized.”

More than 175 events of every variety are held on Nathan Phillips Square annually, drawing more than 1.5 million visitors and making it one of the City’s major attractions. Through a series of well-attended public consultations, it was determined that major design attention is needed in several areas of the square that are under-developed and under-used.

The City of Toronto is inviting Canadian and international architects, landscape architects, planners, engineers and other design professionals to submit design proposals.

An impartial jury has been appointed to judge submissions and select the winning design in a two-stage competition. The jury includes six local and international experts in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture and architectural heritage preservation, and members with artistic experience and community involvement. The jurists are:

• Dinu Bumbaru: Internationally recognized heritage architect, currently policy director for Heritage Montréal and secretary general of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

• David Crombie: Former mayor of Toronto and federal cabinet minister, founding chair of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and currently president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute.

• Eric Haldenby: Architect and director of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, a specialist in the design of cultural sites, involved in research in archaeology and architectural history, and currently co-director of a project on innovative research and design of core areas in mid-sized Canadian cities.

• Frances Halsband: Architect practicing in New York as a partner in the firm of R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects (which has received more than 50 design awards) and a visiting distinguished professor at a number of universities in the United States.

• Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Distinguished landscape architect based in Vancouver, involved in a wide range of internationally acclaimed projects in Canada and the United States.

• Michael Ondaatje: Author whose work encompasses fiction, memoir, poetry and film. He is best known for his novels In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost. He was born in Sri Lanka and came to Canada in 1962. He lives in Toronto.

The City has retained architect Peter Ortved of CS&P Architects Inc. as the professional advisor for the competition.

Ortved explained, “The new design must respect the clarity of the original vision by architect Viljo Revell and reflect the energy, beauty and dignity that the citizens of Toronto value in this great public space.”

To fund the square’s revitalization and restoration, the City has made a $16-million financial commitment and is seeking an additional $24 million in contributions from other levels of government, the private sector and the business community.

“We must forge key partnerships if we are going to realize key public initiatives such as this one,” said Mayor Miller. “I would like to invite private donors and the business community to step forward to provide leadership and help fund the redesign of the square. The revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square is about our quest for excellence in architectural design and better, bolder development across the City.”

More information about the design competition is available at

Media contacts:
Don Wanagas, Director of Communications, Office of the Mayor, 416-338-7134
Sheila Glazer, Manager, Strategic Policy and Projects, Facilities and Real Estate Division, 416-392-0879


Launch of the Nathan Phillips Square Design Competition

Nathan Phillips Square is Toronto’s premier public space and civic gathering place, a leading tourist attraction for the City, and a national and provincial landmark. The design competition will revitalize Nathan Phillips Square as part of the City’s efforts to beautify and restore its public spaces. This revitalization project is a high priority for the members of the Roundtable on a Beautiful City, who advise the Mayor and City Council on policies, programs and activities that will result in a clean, vibrant and beautiful city.

Why a Design Competition?

Major design attention is needed to areas of the Square, which have been underdeveloped, underutilized and poorly used since the Square was originally designed. Many of the structures and facilities on the Square have fallen into a state of disrepair, some have been closed and some no longer meet the needs of today's users and programs. Examples include: the closed Podium Roof; lack of food services; inadequate pedestrian access at Bay Street and Queen Street West; undignified streetscapes; and underutilized green spaces such as the western area adjacent to Osgoode Hall.

Modern-day modifications are required to meet the new functional requirements of the Square and enable the hosting of a greater number and variety of activities and special events. The Square is one of the City’s major venues for such functions—it attracts over 1.5 million people a year—more than the combined attendance at the Royal Ontario Museum and Toronto International Film Festival.

Public and City Council Support for the Design Competition

Preparations for the design competition began in Spring 2005 with a series of well-attended public consultations. The process was designed to identify, develop and fine-tune the public’s views and creative ideas about the Square, and helped to inform and define the needs of the Square as set out in the Competition Brief.

In Fall 2005, support for the competition was received from the Mayor’s Roundtable on a Beautiful City. In December 2005, Toronto City Council endorsed the revitalization initiative and approved a comprehensive framework for the design competition.

Budget Framework

In December 2005, City Council approved multi-year capital funding of $16 million towards implementation of the project, which has an overall estimated cost of $40 million. For the remaining $24 million, Council requested the submission of a further staff report on other sources of funding to implement the project, including private/public partnerships or other orders of government. A fundraising feasibility study is currently being undertaken by an outside consultant to explore and assess the potential for external funding sources for this project.

Competition Brief

The Competition Brief identifies guiding principles for revitalizing the Square, a detailed program description, the budget for project implementation, and the process for submitting design proposals. The international design community, including professional architects, landscape architects, urban planners, and engineers are being invited to submit bold and creative proposals.

Competition Process

The competition is structured as a two-stage open process:
  • In Stage I, all eligible professionals are invited to submit a Design and Experience Statement which must be received by November 16, 2006.
  • The Competition Jury will select a short-list of not more than five submissions to proceed to Stage II. An announcement of the short-listed design teams is planned for December 5, 2006.
  • In January 2007, Stage II competitors will begin preparing detailed design submissions that must be submitted by February 16, 2007, followed by a presentation and public exhibition of final submissions.
  • Final design submissions will then be evaluated by the Competition Jury meeting in early March 2007 to select the winning design submission and team.
  • The winning finalist and the runners-up will be announced on March 8, 2007.



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