York Urbanist

Archive for the ‘Waterfront’ Category

International Waterfronts – Port of Spain, Trinidad

April 23rd, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

Port of Spain, Trinidad

Water’s Edge: Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Paria; Caroni Swamp; St. Ann`s River and mangroves filled and reclaimed

History: Spanish, British then US navy; fishing

Current Use: harbour; tourist

Current planning: Trinidad is allowing waterfront development to proceed relatively unfettered.
this Youtube profile shows that architecture is allowed to be distinguished while the people places remain poorly designed and fear inspiring. The space between buildings and water is confined and the city misses the opportunity to revegetate. Few places in the city are friendly but the less than generous spaces of the water’s edge are not inspiring to change a tourist’s feelings of safety. Carnival is played out on the streets in January-February. But there is a lost opportunity to develop the waterfront for the event.  What the city does well is provision for ocean going ships. The port has generous docking, providing employment to the local economy.  Unless you are cargo on a ship, there is little reason to visit the Port of Spain.

The water's edge is behind buildings.

International Waterfronts

March 21st, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

Harbin, China

Water’s Edge: Hongsung River

History: transportation; Harbin grew from a small town to a northern metropolis since WWII.  It has remnant Russian influences, but the waterfront is all Chinese.

Current Use: recreation and tourism; transportation; winter ice surface

Current planning: magnificent pedestrian way; maintenance is an employment opportunity

Comment: In recent experience, this waterfront is the best used and best articulated for the residents of any in the world.  Harbin is small and new by Chinese population standards. We observed and became engaged in the waterfront like none other we have visited.  The width of the shore between water and city parallels Chicago’s.  But its exhuberance and activity is much more.  We were there in winter and activity was rampant in minus 20 degree temperatures – ping-pong; badminton; volleyball; gymnastics; art; skating; snowmobiling; all this is adjunct to a fabulous broad promenade

Conclusion: We do not have to focus so much on Chicago when innovative examples can be found elsewhere.

Exploring Our Waterfronts

February 18th, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

All of our municipalities have waterfronts, the previous article expressed. In some cases, we simply have to explore and find the potential of those waterfronts.  Politicians and planners alike think of waterfronts as consisting of flat waters serving an historic economic function of harbour or boating.  Therefore an expansion of the idea of types of waterfronts there are.

In the hierarchy of waterfronts are:

  • oceans;
  • lakes and inland seas;
  • rivers and streams; and
  • harbours.
Each has a different characteristic of activity both human and ecological.
Oceanfronts are: Dynamic; Cultural; Public; and Grand
Lakefronts are: Affected by Water action; Exposed; Human Activity; and suffer or benefit from Private ownership
Riverfronts are: Free Flowing; often Green Edged; express New World Heritage; places of Active Recreation; and are composed of varied other uses depending on the amount of flow.
Harbourfronts are: often Hard Edged; human activity; Commercial; Industrial; and usually populated
Understanding the differences will help us to understand the benefits from each. What all waterfronts have in common is the human natural draw to water, flat or flowing, dynamic or apparently stagnant. Water is the essence of life.
Next blog will be International examples in which I have engaged.

The Waterfront Series

February 14th, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

What makes a waterfront?  Seems like a simple question, but our answers may surprise.  The coming series will invite you to examine your municipality and its waterfront.  Unless yours is a prairie desert, you have a waterfront.  It is both a current and historical asset that summons attention.

Historically, villages, then towns, then cities have grown up on the water…the essence of life. Clean water provides a healthy existence in many ways – drinking, washing, cleaning, cooling, heating, power generation, social solace, and recreation.

Toronto for years accepted its central waterfront as its economic generator, ignoring the complexity of its social and recreation benefits.  Today, late in its development, it struggles with what to do because there are so many stakeholders with conflicting visions. John Tory has his work cut out for him dealing with Ontario Place.

In York Region, Vaughan misunderstood that it, too, has waterfront(s). Major rivers, Humber and Don, flow through it, as the rivers’ natural valleys are squeezed and ignored as major assets. Rears of properties back onto the edges of the valleys, disguising this immense benefit, but evidencing the folly of 1980′s planning. Meanwhile, former Mayor Tom Taylor of Newmarket embraced the Holland River as the Town’s core social and recreation asset.  He and the council of the time, by funding a simple trail, invited Newmarket residents to the river’s side, to learn of its history and engage in its calming, albeit minor, flow of water.

The good news in York Region is that TRCA is committed to protection of the valleys.  And the creation of Rouge Valley Urban Wilderness Park http://www.rougepark.com/ is further evidence of the understanding that waterfronts are more than expanses of lakes. 

Stay tuned over the next several weeks.

Mark Inglis is a landscape architect and urban designer who has presented his visions of waterfronts at conferences and to students of landscape architecture. His waterfront works have been expressed in three Canadian provinces, Central America and the Caribbean.