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Unpaved Paradise

At the center of a new park where an old parking lot was is a pavilion with distinctive peaked roofing

Ontario Place Apr18 2

The great Canadian artist Joni Mitchell sings, “They paved paradise and put a parking lot,” in her wonderful song, “Big Yellow Taxi.” In Toronto, at the aging, government-owned, Ontario Place, just the opposite happened. Ontario Place opened in 1971 and comprised three artificially constructed islands in Lake Ontario that housed a multi-use entertainment complex. The facility closed in 2012 due to lack of interest and a tight economy.

Recently, the Government of Ontario has begun rejuvenating the area, and as part of that, it built Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail. The trail is 1.3 kilometers and extends along the waterfront with beautiful views of the Toronto skyline. The park spreads across 7.5 acres of what used to be a parking lot for Ontario Place, and at its center is a uniquely styled, steep-sloped pavilion. Toronto-based LANDinc was the lead consultant and responsible for the conceptual design as well as administering the project. It was a high-profile project due to its location as a centerpiece in a large revitalization effort.

Photo: Nadia Molinari

“The pavilion sits at the end of a performance lawn as an object in space that is meant to create some curiosity and wonder, and be a potential meeting place for small events and gatherings," says Patrick Morello, principal of LANDinc.

In a way, the pavilion is a kind of architectural folly. It was envisioned by landscape designers, West 8, New York City, which was part of the team. LANDinc executed the design. But it is much more than a folly. Project manager and designer Bruce Gilchrist with LANDinc, says, “Designed for rest or play, this inviting gathering spot has the capacity to accommodate formal cultural events, community activities and individual picnicking. It features a performance lawn design to withstand the foot traffic rigors of groups of up to 2,000 people.” The pavilion evokes the spruce and pine forests of northern Ontario, which was the design inspiration for the whole park. Braced on heavy timber columns, the framing suggest the tree trunks in a forest, and the steep-sloped roof calls to mind the triangular shapes of conifers. And, the heavy timbers invite comparisons to the industrial design ethos of 19th century Toronto.

The roofing material is Woburn, Mass.-based RHEINZINK America Inc.’s prePATINA blue-grey Double Lock standing seam panels. The blue-grey color further connects the structure to the inspiration of trees. It wasn’t a simple installation as the scopes of work between framers and panel installers seemed to overlap, but careful construction documentation by LANDinc helped clarify all the roles. “A virtual and physical 3-D printed model was constructed by LANDinc,” says Gilchrist “and further evaluated to assist in the fabrication of each material section on the structure.”

Peter Sjourwerman is a manager of Torontobased Semple Gooder Roofing Corp., the panel installers. “The steep pitch of the roof, as well as some complicated intersection of panels, was definitely a challenge,” he says. “But we’ve been working with zinc for more than 20 years and can pretty much fabricate anything. For example, we custom fabricated a radius ridge cap with concealed fasteners for the pavilion in our shop and made all of the custom flashings on-site.”

The design team chose zinc as the metal finish because it connected to the overall design inspiration. “Raw stone, exposed timber and native plan species are only a few gestures that complimented the vision,” says Gilchrist. The zinc also connects to the northern Ontario environment. “When we considered the pavilion and the nearby washroom roof material, we sought out zinc for its longevity and naturally weathering patina.”

Placed as it is along the Lake Ontario waterfront, the structure also needed careful attention to wind uploads. LANDinc pursued numerous structural options. The final design involved a limited number of columns that were connected to footings embedded in bedrock. The slender profiles reduced wind forces on the structure.

The public reaction to the park and the pavilion has been strong. “We have been fortunate in that the public has embraced not only the pavilion but Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail as a whole,” says Gilchrist.