Toronto landmark set for a new look

Nathan Phillips Square is receiving a facelift thanks to an open international design competition.

The competition, which was approved by City Hall in December, 2005, seeks submissions from not only architects, but also landscape architects, planners and engineers from all over the world.

There are two stages to the revitalization project; the first is a written proposal, which competitors will submit just on paper. According to, the proposals are to outline in specific detail what the designers’ intentions are for the square, as well as finances for completion of the project. This stage of the competition called for submissions by Nov. 16, 2006.

The second stage requires designers who made the cut to submit six drawings, ranging from eye-level to sectional sketches, showing the work to be done on the north, east, south and west sides of the square.

According to former Toronto mayor David Crombie, the competition is exactly what the city needs to boost its confidence.

“There are a lot of things that need attention in Toronto,” Crombie says. “Nathan Phillips Square is almost 45 years old now, but it has rapidly become the centrepiece in Toronto’s consciousness. It holds hope for the city of Toronto.”

Square hosts over one-million visitors annually

Nathan Phillips Square is one of Toronto’s busiest activity venues, hosting over 175 events including the Cavalcade of Lights Festival each year. The square is visited annually by over one million people, ranging from tourists to residents of Toronto.

According to Peter Ortfed, professional advisor for the Nathan Phillips Square competition, the revitalization is exactly what the city needs.

“Tourism is already a very significant factor in Nathan Phillips Square,” Ortfed says. “Part of the competition is to come up with facilities that will bring renewed interest to the square.”

Nathan Phillips Square is located directly in front of Toronto city hall, which was also the result of an international design competition, which saw award-winning Finnish architect Viljo Revell’s double half-moon design win in 1957.
Mayor David Miller says Toronto’s desire to clean up the city is not solely located at Queen’s Park.

“A revitalized square will be celebrated proudly for years,” Miller said in a press release. “Along with other new and rejuvenated city landmarks such as the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario.”

Judging the design competition will be a group of six panelists, ranging from renowned architects to an award-winning author.

‘Willing and available to undertake the job’

“We have established a number of categories that we wanted judges to fulfill,” Ortfed says.

“We were looking for people who are willing and available to undertake the job, so we selected people that are experts in their field.”

According to the overall budget for the design project is $40 million with $16 million of that figure going primarily towards implementing the project, as well as $35,000 given to each of the stage two finalists, and $20,000 in prizes being awarded at the judges’ discretion.

According to, stage two submissions were due by Feb. 16, 2007. After that, judges will decide a winner and a runner-up on March. 8, 2007.

No timetable for construction has been set beyond the spring, 2007, decision and Crombie said number of factors will play a role:

“It really depends on the design as well as the resources.”