Submitted by Reza Pourvaziry

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Canada Architecture News - May 16, 2020 - 01:18   4588 views

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Today, we expect our understanding of urban Architecture and the concept of space to transform according to the new social norms and subsequently, I believe, the landscape of cities and settlements will face very deep reform very soon. To prepare cities for the change, we should pay more attention to finite resources and think more about different dimensions of sustainable urban development. In this regard, I would like to share an experience with one of the most important and transformative revitalization projects in Toronto, Canada, known as Regent Park.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Regent Park is a neighbourhood located in downtown Toronto with a complex history that is now recognized to have a good new character in the area. The City of Toronto, close to two decades ago, developed a plan for change in the area and this change has been undertaken since the early 2000s. The name Regent Park for the citizens of Toronto, has become a mixed memory of the old fabric of Regent Park and a newly transformed vibrant community.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

The reason for writing this article is not to judge the project by making bold statements but because I believe there are some fundamentally interesting things happening in Regent Park and as the story continues to unfold, it should draw specific attention from the society. These changes can be recognized as an example contributing to a new approach to urban architecture.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

The project is a 69-acre neighbourhood and it built over half a century go based on popular urban planning, the garden city movement, and with buildings that had interesting types of modernized periods of architecture. 

The history and structure of urbanization are old but based on new approaches, the Regent Park Revitalization project came to life in was led by Toronto Community Housing and developed by the Daniel Corporation.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Urban Architecture 

Urban architecture of Regent Park is based on the conventional modern architecture that emphasizes designing for the middle class, as such, their design does not deviate too much from each other, but for some signature buildings like the Aquatic Centre and Daniel’s Spectrum, they show their attempt to become different with some unique design.

The revitalization project, however, provides an opportunity to create harmony between society and urban architecture using the power of open space, including a public park and other shared community facilities that provide the opportunity to make social connections. From an urban design perspective, the characteristics of urban space could be more emphasized as they are easily not recognizable. In addition, urban architecture is represented by modern housings that feature similar façade and aesthetics that struggle to reflect the society or bring value to people on the street.

Main iconic Architecture

a) Aquatic Centre 

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

The Aquatic Centre is a progressive architecture that architects used technology to transform space, to interact with the city, and the park. From the outside, you can see all of the activities inside and it creates positive sense for the project bringing in positive energy. The form of architecture matches almost with other buildings and there is no contrast.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

But based on the subject, architects had some opportunity to create a play with water, an urban design scenario with water to enrich the meaning of the Aquatic Centre and have interaction with the space, specifically an urban park located adjacent to the center that provides a great opportunity for interaction that the architects did not pay enough attention.

b) Daniels Spectrum

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

The Spectrum is a public space in a joint venture between the Regent Park community, The Daniels Corporation and Toronto Community Housing and Artscape for arts and innovation of youth and it is a place for various activities for NGOs.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

It’s a great popular place and very active.

Every time you visit there is always a new initiative happening. The Spectrum is a great example of social interaction with people to come and enjoy and work. The architecture of the building supports the activities of Spectrum.

Urban Engagement Practices

One of the main highlights of Regent Park is urban engagement practices developed and led by the Daniels Corporation. It is very clear that Mitchell Cohen, President of The Daniels Corporation, as a social activist laid foundations for these initiatives based on different discussions with community members, artists and organizations through extraordinary focus on Youth and women. Spectrum has a footprint of the idea to bring humane and philanthropic approaches to the region and the project is very involved with the society. One example is a collective catering group that community members come together with the passion for art, cooking, creativity and learning that enhances the sense of social cohesion and belonging in the community.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Scale of urban architecture and its function is so important. How can we make great engagement with the people?. That is one of the main reasons of writing this article because at Regent Park, the project leader tries to involve and engage with NGOs, urban leaders, urban thinkers, city changers and activists to upgrade space to provide specific support for people to increase their quality of life. 

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Based on that, the Regent Park project has already approached new generation of urbanization that is beyond physical. It is more based on program and leadership to open new discussions with the new people to come and participate, enjoy and to provide opportunity for young people, women, and the elderly to increase their quality of life. This is one of the main scales of the work that we have seen during many other projects. These programs work as the main body of the revitalization project to a re-habit new network and bring new life to the neighbourhood.

New Process of Revitalization 

Revitalization starts with the people but does not finish with the last phase of the project. Rather It is a non-stop and ongoing process that becomes part of the history of the place that different role players in the area participate through interactional and multi-dimensional approaches.

Spectrum is one of the main best practices that we can learn from and for future revitalization projects, from the starting point to include this kind of public space for the project and allocate a budget to have interaction with the people and with neighbourhoods to establish relationships between them to ensure a contextual and conceptual development.

Looking at Regent Park project, we believe a non-physical revitalization is happening. Of course, urban design can still provide many roles in this regard but so far, the project has been a great achievement.

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

For next revitalization projects, we should place more emphasis on creating different platforms for involving people, especially encouraging young people living in the area to participate in the process of creating the space identify while benchmarking the space including its specific characteristics.

The story of Regent Park is not complete yet. It still presents opportunities to further increase and develop urban engagement and architecture and it could be introduced as a sample of new urban re-development, new urban architecture, specifically during the post-COVID-19 period.  

Regent Park Revitalization: A Practice of Engagement Social Urban Architecture

Perhaps the Regent Park experience could be to bring a new awareness for society to live together, stand together, and help each other for a better quality of life and that is a new definition for Architecture as a discipline to integrate all relevant aspects of development together to change lifestyle to transform for realizing sustainable development.

These photos were taken by WAC's Canada Country Reporter Reza Pourvaziry for World Architecture Community and accordingly the map has been received from Daniels Corp.