As an experience design company, FORREC is primarily known for creating thrilling, exploratory and immersive guest experiences that create long lasting memories. What you may not have known is that prior to being a leader in the theme park and attractions industry, FORREC began as a landscape architecture company over 30 years ago – and that focus is still very much present in everything we do. Our team is skilled at master planning some of the world’s most successful entertainment destinations and Ontario’s most distinctive urban spaces. We are especially experienced and innovative when it comes to designing and master planning public spaces and the outdoors. It’s at the heart of what we do.
Recently, FORREC took on an exciting exercise where our team envisioned the revitalization and transformation of a public space within the Leslie Slip area. Inspired by the dynamic context of the Port Lands, the area’s flourishing ecosystem, and myriad of economic and recreational services, FORREC designed The Generator as part of a local design competition. Located at the confluence of water, industry, urban agriculture, recreation, and ecology, The Generator provides workers, gardeners, and recreationalists a unique place to rest, play, and explore. This bold park recharges the heart, body, and mind.
The Generator Specs
The Generator consists of seven key components: The Canopy, Gallery Lookout, Maple Grove, The Pollinator Roof, The Earthworks, Paper Birch Walk, and Swamp White Oak Promenade.
The Canopy – A dramatic circular form, the Canopy creates a highly visible landmark for people to locate. This universal symbol for the seasons and the cardinal directions offers workers, cyclists, and urban farmers an inviting rest stop protected from sun, rain, wind, and dust. Large metal mesh ‘curtains’ protect from wind while allowing light and framing views.
Gallery Lookout – The Gallery Lookout provides spectacular views of the surrounding area and highlights the park’s natural features.
Maple Grove – Native Silver Maples and Red Maples provide shade, respite, and a place to play, enjoy a picnic, or hold an urban farmer’s market.
The Pollinator Roof – Designed to promote biodiversity, a mix of native grasses and wildflowers such as sweet grass and milkweed create a resting and foraging place for birds and insects. A view over the grasses evokes the large wetland that was once in this area before lake filling and industrialization. Perforations in the corten steel ‘skirt’ cast interesting daylight patterns to area below the roof and artificial light effect to the Gallery after dark.
The Earthworks – At the Earthworks’ amphitheater seating, guests can enjoy programmed and informal events and take in views to shipping and port industrial activity on the shipping channel. Sloped walkways to access The Gallery are surrounded by Little Bluestem grass, a native Ontario prairie grass that moves in the breeze and turns a beautiful earthy red tone in the fall, with straw-coloured foliage that remains during the winter. Large red oaks provide shade and become a beautiful red in the autumn.
Paper Birch Walk – Public art follows the train easement with embossed images of native plants on steel panels. Salvaged concrete slabs planted with native birches and sumac evokes a natural setting like the Niagara Escarpment.
Swamp White Oak Promenade – Salvaged wood benches and recycled timber decking form a promenade along the water’s edge, shared by five swamp white oak trees inspired by the former wetland in the area.
Five Key Elements to Consider
When designing The Generator, FORREC planned with five key elements in mind: Sustainability, Community Engagement, Indigenous Consultation, Public Art, and Lighting.
Sustainability – Offering sustainable solutions is always top of mind for our team and we ensure all design elements meet the Toronto Green Standard Consulting requirements when working on public spaces. Sustainable strategies include: Biodiversity garden on Gallery roof; Photovoltaic panels; Salvaged concrete used for Paper Birch Walk; Steel with high recycled content; and 100% recycled material for decking along Promenade and Gallery walkway.
Community Engagement – By creating a venue for performance, creation and installations, a new asset to Toronto’s entertainment industry — art, film, music, and design — is generated.
Indigenous Design Consultation – Within Canada, it is very important that we acknowledge our Indigenous communities and their land and consult them in any of our landscape revitalization projects. Indigenous values need to be considered in the design process which can be done by imbedding traditional knowledge and promoting the creative and environmentally conscious use of construction materials.
Public Art – Toronto’s eastern waterfront calls for an art presence that reflects the natural advantages of the space both in terms of its Indigenous history and future possibilities. The Generator’s design includes mirrored and reflective surfaces combined with natural visualities rooted in the Indigenous plant life of the area to reference and highlight the continuous state of change nature undertakes.
Lighting – To animate the park after sundown, lighting is key. FORREC designed lighting features that turn the space into a unique night-time landmark and offers people a fun and immersive experience. This approach creates a strong sense of duality between the day and night-time character of the space.
Located at the junction of industry, recreation and ecology, The Generator is the hub that activates this dynamic and sustainable public space. It also offers key lessons and insights in what it takes to create an accessible, vibrant, and innovative public outdoor community that honours its past and heritage.