Case Study: Urban Square

Urban Square

Olive Square Park

North York Centre – Toronto, CAN

1 800 square metres (20,000 square feet)

Olive Square is an exemplary example of public place-making through a transparent public design process, creating a much needed open space amenity in a high-density neighbourhood where there once stood a vacant parking lot.  The design process was all encompassing, involving the Ward Councillor and local residents who struck a formal design steering committee that drove the final design, even voting on the name of the new space – Olive Square!

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This project was also formally presented to the newly inaugurated City of Toronto Design Review Panel as one of the first public open space designs to be submitted to the Panel.

With valuable input from both the Design Review Panel and local residents, the design strikes a balance between the desire for an exceptional space and the limited capital budget available for its construction by using high-quality, local materials and focusing on creating a cherished green space that is fully accessible to the public. Classic and simple design strategies were employed: to extend the fronting streetscape into the square through finely detailed paving treatments; to create a classic open lawn on a raised mound and maximize exposure to sunlight; and to define a pedestrian scaled edge treatment through the use of densely planted perimeters that strategically frame urban vistas. An innovative bio-swale was designed and integrated into this square that captures all of the storm water runoff on the site and naturally filters it before entering the city’s storm sewer infrastructure. This typically naturalized feature was designed to be a part of the space as an innovative urban design element and serves to significantly improve the quality of the storm water runoff before it enters the municipal storm sewer system and back into any natural watercourse.

In the evenings, with the carefully considered lighting design, the space becomes a vibrant meeting ground for a variety of people; meeting friends, enjoying a late night snack, and intersecting experiences of neighbouring residents who otherwise would have no other local urban green space to enjoy. Olive Square Park is a catalyst for all things urban, vibrant, and essential for a new sustainable community green space.