PHILOSOPHER'S WALK

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YEAR: 2012
PROFESSOR: MATTHEW SPREMULLI
TEAM: ANDREW MACMILLAN AND JUNE LEE
LOCATION: UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

The project places great importance on the topological elements of the site by using the path to emphasize the contours left over by the now buried waterway, while preserving the layers of past attempts to shape the park. The new path connects with the existing path, which itself is a myriad collection of many different paths from different times. Rather than attempting to provide a uniform experience of Philosopher's walk, the emergent path becomes a part of a network of many paths. 

The Philosopher’s walk is a scenic footpath in Toronto which runs along the ravine landscape created by the now buried Taddle Creek. The project called for a linear intervention which would take the form of a path and small gathering place design with the intention of altering ones experience of place. The project was divided into three component parts, mapping, the design of a path, and the design of the pavilion. The maps revealed selective information which became the basis of the resulting public space intervention.

 

The path and pavilion utilize an architecture of square wooden planks which articulate in response to the elevation changes in their immediate vicinity. Those planks which cover the walkway are topped with a vegetative layer. The more dramatic elevation changes are fully covered, whereas more soft elevation changes are responded to with only partial, or no coverage. The result is a dynamic morphological response to the existing topology of the site, which impacts the experience of the walkway through the an archaeology of topology. The feeling of entering into the landscape, rather than walking over it, introduces a dramatic shift in the experience of the landscape. Likewise, the greening of the top of those sections which cover the path introduces a secondary topology of valleys and hills giving more green space to the park itself.

The introduction of the pavilion and pond at the lowest elevation with shifting seasonal and emergent programatic occupations, reconnects the history of the now buried Taddle Creek to the current Philosopher's Walk. Just as the the historical occupation on the beds of the former Taddle Creek would have been informal, the new network embraces a casual occupation of site and the chance for a multitude of programmatic possibilities, generating valuable and changing experiences with the site. 

The new network solves a variety of issues which currently distress the site. The haphazard nature of the current path system is embraced for the autonomy it provides the user as much of the former system stays in place. The urban nature of the park, amidst tall buildings and with poor arboreal coverage is resolved with portions of the path which are underground, or fully covered. There is currently a small, and disused bandshell in the park, which remains in the new network, but also the introduction of a large pavilion adjacent to the pond becomes a new space of occupation for activities of all scales and fully open to public occupation.

The central horseshoe where multiple paths meet and diverge, is poised to become an ice-rink in the winter and pond in the summer, reintroducing the memory of the buried Taddle Creek waterway, and bring a sense of place to what previously was an ambiguous and haphazard throughway from one street to another. The pavilion as a deprogrammed space can act as a shelter for various impromptu activities or as a temporary space to support the seasonal activities which take place around the pond area.