Safdie Architects’ ORCA proposal envisions the new heart of Downtown Toronto

Hovering above a 10.5 acre urban park, slender residential towers connected by elevated bridges compose this mixed-use urban development proposal by architect Moshe Safdie.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 08, 2021

The mixed-use urban development proposal of ORCA Toronto by architect Moshe Safdie’s Boston-based Safdie Architects aims to weave together surrounding neighbourhoods with an expansive urban park and reconnect the downtown area with the city’s developing waterfront. The proposal seeks to foster a strong communal space, creating a unique experience of the city for both its residents and visitors.

Hovering over an existing 100-meter wide and 800-meter-long rail corridor, the Downtown Toronto project will be developed on a 16.5 acre site situated on the west of the iconic CN Tower. While 10.5 acres is dedicated to the urban park, the remaining six acres will accommodate the residential, office, retail, and transit facilities.

The project is proposed on an existing rail corridor and will be developed on a 16.5-acre site area with 10.5-acre dedicated to the urban park | ORCA Toronto | Safdie Architects | STIRworld
The project is proposed on an existing rail corridor and will be developed on a 16.5 acre site area with 10.5 acre dedicated to the urban park Image: Courtesy of Safdie Architects

“Our design aspires to forge a reconnection in the community fabric by creating a lively park that is economically viable and promises a unique destination experience for Toronto,” shares Safdie, a citizen of Israel, Canada, and the United States. “As an isolated park is unlikely to generate the diversity of activity required to animate the neighbourhood, our design integrates amenities for city life like shops, restaurants, and offices into the park itself, drawing in residents and visitors alike,” he adds.

  • It is proposed as a series of nine towers with one office tower and eight residential towers all connected with elevated corridors which act as interactive spaces for the residents | ORCA Toronto | Safdie Architects | STIRworld
    ORCA Toronto is proposed as a series of nine towers with one office tower and eight residential towers all connected with elevated corridors which act as interactive spaces for the residents Image: Courtesy of Safdie Architects
  • A closer view of the proposed development | ORCA Toronto | Safdie Architects | STIRworld
    A closer view of the proposed development Image: Courtesy of Safdie Architects

The project comprises a series of nine rectilinear towers, including a corner office tower and eight residential towers, with approximately 3000 units all linked together with elevated multi-storey bridges. The design of these towers creates a sense of openness and porosity while allowing adequate sunlight to filter within the spaces. The uniform square openings along with a series of protruding units arranged in a diagonal pattern on the façade help break the monotony of the towers and provide the users spectacular views of Toronto’s cityscape.

The urban park is designed as an inclusive space comprising of smaller parks, open lawns, playgrounds, walking trails, and bike paths  | ORCA Toronto | Safdie Architects | STIRworld
The urban park is designed as an inclusive space comprising of smaller parks, open lawns, playgrounds, walking trails, and bike paths Image: Courtesy of Safdie Architects

Designed in partnership with California-based PWP Landscape Architecture, the multi-level urban park includes various open lawns, playgrounds, walking trails, and bike paths that can be accessed by ramps, escalators, and elevators.

Shops, restaurants, and cafés open up to the park and street at multiple levels  | ORCA Toronto | Safdie Architects | STIRworld
Shops, restaurants, and cafés open up to the park and street at multiple levels Image: Courtesy of Safdie Architects

As per Sean Scensor, partner and lead architect on the project, “ORCA Toronto is a study in balance and integration: between open space and density, landscape and building, private development and public interest."

To ensure the vibrancy of the park, various shops, restaurants and cafes, all open to the outdoor areas of the park at multiple levels and these spaces are seamlessly woven with the park’s landscape. Furthermore, the street is also activated with a continuous retail activity enabled by the retail shops along the front street façade. “The project introduces a new generation of retail, beyond the traditional interior shopping mall; one in which nature and the marketplace are integrated to create an enhanced, singular experience,” adds Safdie.

ORCA Toronto is also designed to create a connection with the neighbourhood by providing easy and direct access to its users    | ORCA Toronto | Safdie Architects | STIRworld
ORCA Toronto is also designed to create a connection with the neighbourhood by providing easy and direct access to its users Image: Courtesy of Safdie Architects

Along with creating a holistic experience for the residents and users, the proposal is also designed to create an increased connectivity with the surrounding neighbourhoods. To facilitate an easy and uninterrupted movement from surrounding streets to the park, direct access points are provided on all north-south cross streets for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Connectivity | ORCA Toronto | Safdie Architects | STIRworld
Connectivity Image: Courtesy of Safdie Architects

Once realised, ORCA Toronto is expected to stand out as an important landmark in the downtown area creating a unique recreational destination for the people of the city.

Project Details

Name: ORCA Toronto
Location: Downton Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Site Area: 16.5 Acres
Building Area: 6 Acres, 10.5 Acres for urban park
Client: CRAFT Development Corporation, Kingsmen Group Inc., and Fengate Asset Management 
Architect: Safdie Architects
Collaborators: PWP Landscape Architecture, ARUP Engineering, Sweeny&Co (Local Architect)

(Text by Khushboo Patel, intern at stirworld.com)

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