Maple Leaf, by West 8
West 8 has won the competition for the redevelopment of the central waterfront of Toronto, surpassing firms like Foster & Partners and the ‘projective’ team led by Stan Allan and Sarah Whiting. Foster proposes pavilions that use the iconography of sails, and the Projective team makes variations on the fold (so nineties!). The design of West 8 features a wooden boardwalk along the waterfront, the planting of a lot of trees, and a floating islands in the form of the national symbol of Canada; the maple leaf.
In line with the recent work of West 8 the design is somewhat nostalgic. Conservatism can be productive at times, but the approach of West 8 goes far beyond that. In the The Toronto Star West 8 front-man Adriaan Geuze sounds almost like social engineer Jane Jacobs: “What the waterfront needs is a village-like neighborhood with small-scale buildings where you find shops, bars, nightclubs, institutions…”
A lively urban life is something to fight for, but in the case of West 8 it is too easily translated into the coziness of ‘small-scale buildings’, trees and… a lot of seats at the water. The seats look like the sit-pits of the sixties. Of all competition entries the renderings of West 8 are the most densely flocked with people. I have no idea what all these people are doing on the dead-end wooden piers.
Highly remarkable however is the proposal for floating islands in the form of maple leafs. As a symbol it seems to have only positive connotations – the green Canada. It represents a virtue.
It reminds of accidental (?) ‘Japanese Flag’ at the WFC skyscraper that KPF had to redesign in Shanghai. It reminds also at the palms of Dubai, and of the possible representation of the stars in the layout of the pyramids of Giza. At night the lightened shape of the maple tree takes its place among the stars that are reflected in the water of the lake.
At first sight the problem op the floating maple leaf would be that one would not be able to experience it at ground level. It looks like a feature that the designers had drawn to enliven their presentation panels. The reality is far more sophisticated. Besides the obvious Google Earth, viewers from the TV Tower nearby can recognize the islands. More subtle the biggest floating maple leaf is strictly aligned with the runway of the airport nearby.