Located on the Leslie Spit, Tommy Thompson Park is an integral component of Toronto’s Waterfront. It is largely the by-product of an accumulation in construction waste appropriated by a diverse community of plants and wildlife – a man-made peninsula that presents visitors with a unique urban wilderness.
The integration of a series of small pavilions across the site enhances the already delicate balance between the natural and fabricated worlds. Designed as off-the-grid, elemental shelters with varying degrees of enclosure, these subtle infrastructural interventions – the Staff Booth, the Environmental Shelter, and the Bird Research Station – offer opportunities to rest, interpret, and interact with the park without impacting park ecology.
Each pavilion, fashioned in concrete, clad in weathering steel panels and lined with wood, is inspired by the unique vernacular of the Leslie Split itself. Interventions are minimalist in both materials and systems designed to withstand the harsh elements with minimal maintenance while preserving the intricate language of this distinctive environment and creating places in which visitors can easily pass through, feel comfortable in and gather at. Together, these bespoke, dynamic and memorable elements define an otherwise undefined park-scape and, in so doing, generate a strong sense of connectivity across the site.
With time, however, the pavilions will be stripped back to their elemental materials and taken over by nature in the same way that nature has encroached on the rubble fill that supports the park. Here, architecture speaks to the fragility but also the resiliency and transformative power of nature.