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Yorkville Park

October 15, 2014

“Yorkville Park is located in "the Village" of Yorkville on the south side of Cumberland Street running between Avenue Road and Bellair Street.

Unlike most parks, you'll find no grass or benches here. What used to be a parking lot is now filled with gardens, native plant species, prairie meadow, marsh, and trees.  A silver-coloured metal structure houses a waterfall bordering one side of a courtyard. At the other end you'll find a rock "outcropping" (a 650 ton rock, coaxed out of the Canadian Shield and reassembled in the park)

The park draws many visitors, tourists and is a great place for celebrity sightings during the Toronto Film Fest. Workers (like me!) eat lunch and people-watch at the bistro tables and chairs scattered throughout the park.”

History and Descriptions:


Wikipedia Description:

The Village of Yorkville Park is a series of unique gardens located on the south side of Cumberland Street stretching west from Bellair Street. It was designed by Oleson Worland Architects in association with Martha Schwartz / Ken Smith / David Meyer Landscape Architects to celebrate the surrounding neighbourhood and reflect the diversity of the Canadian landscape.

At the east end, a paved square of land is dotted with Scots Pinesgrowing out of circular benches. Further west, is a set of metal archways among a row of crabapple trees. Next, there is a marshy wetland. A silver-coloured metal structure houses a waterfall bordering one side of a courtyard filled with benches and chairs, while a 650-tonne hunk of billion-year-old granite, cut out of the Canadian Shield and transported to the park in pieces, is towards the west end. The westerly exit of Bay subway station arises next to the rock.

The park has received the American Society of Landscape Architects Award 1997, the International Downtown’s Association Award of Merit 1997 and the City of Toronto Urban Design Award of Excellence 1997.


Originally a parking lot converted into a neighbourhood park, it was designed with elements taken from Yorkville’s history and Canada’s diverse geographical landscape. Each landscape represents a distinct garden feature including a grove, herb garden and marsh. This Toronto landmark has received the American Society of Landscape Architects Award, the City of Toronto Urban Design Award of Excellence and the International Downtown’s Association Award of Merit.

This park features: Award-winning design, diverse gardens, unique landscape features

In the 1950s, the Bloor subway line was being built and a row of Victorian row houses were demolished to make way for construction. Residents voiced their desire for a park to be built over the subway, but instead a parking lot was constructed to provide spaces for commuters.

In 1973, the City agreed to create a park, and in 1991 the City hosted a design competition. A jury composed of local residents and design professionals selected Oleson Worland Architects, in association with Martha Schwartz / Ken Smith / David Meyer Landscape Architects, who presented a scheme to turn the parking lot into a park that celebrates the history of the Village of Yorkville and reflects the diversity of the Canadian landscape.

In creating the new park, the objectives were:

·       To reflect, reinforce and extend the Victorian scale and character of the original village;

·       To provide unique, inner-city ecological opportunities for the introduction of and display of native plant species and communities;

·       To provide a variety of spatial and sensory experiences, landscape qualities and park functions;

·       To link the park to existing pedestrian walkways and adjacent areas.

To achieve these objectives the park was designed in a series of gardens. The gardens vary in width and the frames of the gardens are symbolic of the lot lines of the row of houses that once stood on the site. Each contains a distinct collection of plant communities - ranging from upland conifer and deciduous species at the east end of the park to lowland / wetland varieties and a granite outcropping in the central areas to shade gardens at the west end. This contemporary variation on the traditional garden is one that engages the imagination as well as the senses.

In the words of one of the landscape architects, “We designed the park to reflect the Victorian style of collecting. In this case we were collecting landscapes of Canada – pine grove, prairie, marsh, rock outcropping and so on – and arranging them in the manner of the nineteenth century row houses”.

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