Urban Form Principles
CMU / Masters of Urban Design / Summer studio / 2010

Project: The Lower Donlands
Area: 125 hectare (308 acre)

Waterfront Toronto plans to transform the largely underutilized industrial area into new sustainable parks and communities. The naturalization and shifting of the mouth of the Don River is the centerpiece of the plans for the Lower Don Lands.

Traveling to Toronto’s fast growing waterfront with several graduates during the summer of 2010 proved the earlier hypothesis. Adopting the Framework Plan developed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates as a departure into a studio project. A re-naturalized Don River becomes the organizing element for new urban neighborhoods surrounding the river and an open space system that provides for flood protection, restoration of lost habitat, and the creation of open spaces and parks. Our project was a document that explores three design scenarios. Form defining rules were created and pull from cities around the world to be applied and tested for well they create a vibrant urban realm.
The project started by determining the block density for our site, an important issue to resolve in the early stages of design. It was essential to insure that each of the three schemes were developed with the same density level. A Floor area ratio (FAR) of 5.0 would do two things. First, relate well with the density found across the channel. Second it would allow enough flexibility for the three schemes to evolve freely. At the FAR of 5.0 we developed the schemes both digitally and with the massing model in order to push the rule sets for the designs. The rules would fall under a specific focus; view management, solar accesses, massing, or street wall. Specific rules have been defined to create a streetscape that considers human comfort at different activity levels. Setting the extent streets may offer visual stimulus and physical penetrations onto the block to generate higher activity and better community connectivity.

Reconnecting people with the waterfront
Mixed–use neighborhoods: Key to reconnecting people with the waterfront is developing livable mixed- use neighborhoods inspired by their unique locations. The waterfront is a one-of-a-kind environment that should reflect both our city’s global stature and the special virtues of life on the blue edge. They are creating vital and inclusive waterfront neighborhoods by developing communities that include a complimentary mix of residences, commercial, and retail space, and public spaces for all to enjoy.
We developed three scenarios from our rule set by varying different rules to achieve a desired urban form and character. Using the physical model we modeled each scenario and then refined and tested it for environmental performance. By varying the rules we were able to achieve a scenario that creates an ecological corridor through the interior blocks the focus being on integrating green space and making it a public amenity that becomes the dominant character of this scheme. Another scenario focused on making for a vibrant public realm by having a form that allows maximum number of daylight hours into the public realm. In yet other scenario the focus was to maximize private green open space and getting sunlight to maximum of facades of residential units . All the three scenarios explore different ways of integrating green space into the waterfront development through green roofs, terraces, interconnected blocks and thus designing for an active physical,visual and psychological connection to nature. Different schemes try to balance between rules to achieve high density development, environmental performance and sustainability goals.

Solar analysis on the streets

Drawing courtesy CMU / MUD studio
Professor: Jonathan Kline
Ian Myles Newborn
Akanksha Chopra
Lance Claiborne
Cai Zhou
Pin Gao