Tommy Thompson Park Pavilion by DTAH. (Image by Scott Norsworthy)

Tommy Thompson Park Entrance and Pavilion

A new gateway to Toronto’s “accidental wilderness”

The Tommy Thompson Park Entrance and Pavilion project establishes a new front door to the Park that is welcoming, engaging, and ecologically sensitive to its context.

Tommy Thompson Park was created by PortsToronto in the late 1950s during the construction of the Leslie Street Spit. Continuous lake filling with construction materials, concrete, earth fill and dredged sand allowed the park to grow to more than 250 hectares in size and stretch over five-kilometres into Lake Ontario.

DTAH were selected by the City of Toronto to design a new public pavilion and outdoor interpretive area at the threshold between the City and the urban wilderness of the Park, along with an improved parking lot and shuttle bus turnaround to be constructed in a future phase.

Location

Toronto, Ontario

Client

City of Toronto

The new Tommy Thompson Park pavilion by DTAH lit up at night. (Scott Norsworthy)

The entrance pavilion is designed as a simple rectangle split in two halves, covered by an expansive cantilevered roof. One half houses public, accessible washrooms, while the other contains an administrative space that overlooks the multi-use trail entrance and supports on-site educational programming.

The cantilevered roof creates an outdoor covered interpretive area that serves as a gathering and educational space.

The design maintains the look and feel of the existing Tommy Thompson Park infrastructure, to strengthen the identity of the Park as a whole, whilst integrating a number of design features that draw their inspiration from the natural landscape and the industrial past of the site.

The use of weathering steel for the pavilion’s soffit echoes the bright red dogwood underbrush that surrounds the entrance site, while the chiselled concrete exposes the gravel aggregates within that were sourced locally. A gabion privacy screen separating the washroom entrances from the restored parking facility displays an interpretation of the generations of rubble used to build the Spit, including brick, concrete, steel, and plastic elements sourced with the TRCA’s permission from the Park’s shoreline. All building materials and systems were chosen for their durability and longevity: they are locally sourced, bird-friendly, vandal-proof, and require little to no maintenance.

The existing dogwood thicket surrounding the parking lot is reinforced with new plantings to protect the sensitive ecology of the Baselands, and an extensive tree planting program of Eastern Cottonwoods and other native species creates a new, green and lush landscape throughout the site.

The entrance multi-use trail is reimagined as a raised pedestrian priority area shared with the pavilion and controlled by a series of gates that aid to eliminate conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. A parallel extension of the Martin Goodman Trail along Toronto’s waterfront allows for seamless bicycle and pedestrian access into the Park, while the tabletop itself serves as a venue for outdoor festivals and events.

The design demonstrates best practices in low-impact development by knitting architectural and accessibility elements into their natural setting, creating landscaped berms and bioswales to support stormwater management, and providing habitat expansion and visual screening strategies.

Learn more about the project on the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s website here.