Reflection | Boundaries between the urban and the wild, culture and nature

Location: Toronto, Canada

Year: 2016

Framework:  Grow op

#Borderlines #Territory

Recovery of territorial identity.

Toronto has a unique territorial identity that already encompasses both a culture and a landscape. Any territory is a landscape, whether environmental, social or cultural, and an important aspect of people’s quality of life.

We propose that a reframing of how we understand the boundaries between urban and wild, culture and nature, begins with a recognition and respect for the existing territory. Any territory is worthy of respect because it is a limited and finite good. Therefore any future intervention should be pondered, argued, debated and agreed upon social, environmental, urban, economic, ethical and cultural criteria.

This project proposes an approach that seeks to build understanding of the existing territory. The proposal moves against an additive approach – which generates unnecessary and useless additions to the urban landscape that may mask and distort – but rather seeks to build a deeper understanding of the existing condition so that people can enjoy it.

The proposal examines the local condition on a radius of a 15-minute walk from the exhibition site at the Gladstone Hotel.

Recognition of the landscape within the city.

Toronto is situated on a wide sloping plateau, intersected by a vast network of rivers, deep ravines, and deciduous forests. Like a city, Toronto is built on a natural territory whose presence emerges through the native species that inhabit it within the city itself.

An intervention is proposed for the Grow Op 2016 that values ??economic, social, environmental, and cultural sustainability, which prioritizes environmental and territorial conservation, and which is the result of a rather simple process that is the object of design.

We propose to map Toronto’s historic and indigenous tree species within a 15-minute walk of the Gladstone Hotel. The result is the production and exhibition of a visual catalogue at the Gladstone Hotel during the Grow Op 2016 (April 21-24, 2016). The exhibition will cover three main elements: a map of the surroundings, a visual botanical catalogue of the native tree species found, and an action plan for future cultivation of native species by community stakeholders.

With this process, through a simple mapping operation of the existing trees, we seek to recognize and recover the landscape in the heart of the city. Rather than adding unnecessary and under-utilized additional elements or objects to the city, we propose a subtraction strategy – minimizing elements to appreciate the existing natural wealth. Awareness builds the recognition which fuels natural preservation – a true measure of sustainability – for the enjoyment of current and future people within the community.

Native plants.

Plants are considered native, autochthonous, or endemic to a region if they originate and occur naturally in that region. Many “wild” plants that we think of as native species were actually introduced during European settlement in North America. Plants that are native to southern Ontario evolved here and have adapted to the region’s climate, soils, and wildlife.

Contributing to local ecosystems

Habitat loss as a result of rapid urbanization in southern Ontario is affecting ecosystem health and reducing the diversity of native plants and wildlife in natural areas. In addition to the benefits of lower cost and maintenance, the use of native plants can help sustain local ecosystems. Ecosystems are communities of plants and animals, including the physical environment in which they inhabit. Plant and animal communities depend on many environmental factors, such as sunlight, soil, water, and organic material. Examples of communities found in Toronto are the forest, savanna, prairie, and swamp.

Learning from nature.

When considering integrating native plants into your garden, you may want to simply add some native wildflowers to your existing beds with or without a particular goal in mind, such as adding color or attracting butterflies. Alternatively, you may want to incorporate a community of native plants into your garden. Plant communities that have evolved together should not require any maintenance other than protection against urban pressures (i.e. trampling, digging, dumping, and non-native weeds). The different plants in these communities have adapted to local soil and climate conditions, as well as the way other plants in the community affect their environment. For example, native trees tend to leaf out in late spring, allowing native spring wildflowers plenty of time to bloom before shading. This means saving time, money and effort by not having to rake leaves, water or fertilize naturalized gardens.

Proposal by Stephan Van Eeden in collaboration with n’UNDO. For the Hotel Gladstone’s fourth annual Grow Op exhibition, a four-day exhibition which celebrates innovative ideas and conceptual responses to landscape, gardens, art, and place-making under this year’s theme: landscape culture.