Toronto may soon be home to a chain of DIY backyard bee hotels and a natural forest in a downtown alleyway. Those were the winning designs selected in the first Homegrown Design Challenge, launched this spring by Workshop Architecture and the David Suzuki Foundation.
The Homegrown Design Challenge invited prominent architects and landscape architects — and members of the public in an open call — to submit ideas for low-cost, easy-to-implement green design solutions for yards, alleys, commercial properties and schoolyards.
The jurors selected two winning submissions: DIY Backyard Bee Hotels, by SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building, and Carolinian Way, a naturalized, forested alley by landscape architect Tawab Hlimi. The two winning submissions shared the $500 in prizes.
Design ideas included proposals to adapt laneways and parking lots to more effectively absorb and filter storm water; to transform schoolyards to create outdoor learning environments that are more natural and ecologically diverse; to foster greater diversity in front yards to support pollinators like bees and butterflies; and to create raised structures that playfully connect residents with lost rivers beneath the city.
The two winning designs and eight invited submissions were shown at the Project Wild Thing event at Fort York, on July 9, and are on exhibition at Urbanspace Gallery from July 10 to Aug. 10.
The hope is that these design ideas will inspire homeowners and property managers to reimagine what’s possible for their balconies, yards and neighbourhoods.
In the meantime, the David Suzuki Foundation is working on pursuing permissions and funding to realize a few of the ideas in the exhibition as demonstration projects within the Homegrown National Park.
At the exhibition, viewers will be able to see the additional eight submissions that were not selected as winners but still demonstrate innovative ideas for easy-to implement green design solutions.
For viewers that live in condominiums and don’t have a yard of their own, TIC TAC FLO, by archiText, proposed a modular water, shade and garden system that allows for balcony and roof-top gardens on buildings that in turn create a potable water source for the building.
Another proposal took an entirely different focus and developed an idea to improve the schoolyard at Ossington Old Orchard Public School into a positive outdoor learning experience.
The school is located on the Garrison Creek Watershed and is part of the green network of the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood; however, the schoolyard currently consists of crumbling asphalt and dangerous slopes.
The proposal, rePLAY, by Elise Shelley Landscape Architect, is a playground renovation that would involve a natural playground area, garden spaces that foster habitat and integrate storm water management, a hillside slide and a climbing structure made from locally sourced tree logs. The proposal also includes outdoor classroom spaces for students.
The exhibition may inspire you to develop a green project for your home, garden or local park.
David Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Nature of Things and author of more than 30 books on ecology.