Viljo Revell's stark 1965 Nathan Phillips Square fronting Toronto's City Hall two curving towers that surround the saucer-shaped Council Chamber will be renovated by a team of architects and landscape designers who seek to energize the plaza's civic functions with theatrical interventions that sensitively extend the mid-century design's original layout. The proposed design, chosen via a competition that solicited proposals from 48 firms, is by Toronto-based PLANT Architect and Shore Tilbe Irwin & Partners, Chicago-based Peter Lindsay Schaudt Landscape Architecture, and architect/planner Adrian Blackwell.
Borrowing from the ancient Athenian precedent of a stoa (portico) surrounding an agora (public space), the design develops a porous layer of perimeter program elements around the edges of the multiblock down-town plaza. Conceived as outdoor green rooms, the interventions comprise a new Queen Street forecourt, a renovated Peace Garden, the Treetop restaurant, an entry/bike pavilion, and a playground. These spaces will be forested, with a 60 percent increase in trees.
The plaza's iconic elements the Council Chamber, the Freedom Arches, and the Ceremonial Ramp will be retained. A new stage will provide focus for events and is designated as the fourth primary element. New lighting, seating, and "disappearing" fountains will animate the plaza's surface. The dual levels of the existing plaza will receive additional connections via new elevators, stairs, and ramps. New program elements such as the restaurant, a skate pavilion, and an entry kiosk will bridge the levels as well, to provide increased access and communication between each part of the plaza.
The City of Toronto has committed $16 million for the renovation. Construction is expected to begin once the remainder of the $40 million budget has been raised.