Architectural Revision

The term "revision" means, literally, to "see again." And in a recent article for the Toronto Star, Christopher Hume inadvertently showed how revision is sorely missing from the urban design dialog today.

Early in the article, which discusses the gentrification of Toronto's Liberty Village neighborhood: "Speaking of parks, there is virtually no green space anywhere here; perhaps the city should finally grapple with the issue of Lamport Stadium, which is so rarely used it could easily be demolished to make way for a park." And then, shortly thereafter: "recycling...old structures ensures a level of integrity and sustainability vital in an age of global warming."

So what gives, Mr. Hume? Why no love for Lamport Stadium.? Surely, if Vienna can figure out how to turn gasometers into a dazzling residential complex, Toronto can pull off the conversion of a stadium into a park without wasting all of that energy by tearing down the existing structure, no? As the urban affairs critic of the largest newspaper in one of the world's few truly global metropoli, Hume is, by default, a major voice in the current discussion on how cities should evolve. It is telling that he would so quickly dismiss a stadium that would probably be relatively simple to convert to public green space.

Culturally, many of us still think of old buildings as things that should be demolished to make way for that which is new, shiny, and more immediately perceived to be "green." But while converting stolid brick warehouses into luxury condo complexes is all well and good, architectural revision is a field with no horizon. Every underused or unattractive building can be rethought and retrofitted to become something that better serves the needs of a surrounding community. It just takes some spitshine and imagination.

How could Lamport Stadium be revised, as a piece of architecture? While an actual Torontonian would probably have the best answer, let's give it a shot. First off, as can be see in the above image, there is very little physical structure to the stadium. The bulk of the site (the playing field) is at-grade, or at least near it. The elimination of any gates or perimeter walls and the conversion of the obscenely large surface parking lot on the southeastern end of the site would create a sizable, T-shaped open green area that could be made quite lovely by a good landscape architect. The wings of green space that currently flank the stadium could be converted to community playing fields with shaded seating areas under the bleacher structures.

The bleachers themsevles provide the best opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking. How could large, clunky concrete structures be revised to serve optimally as part of a public park? While there are many possibilities, the first that comes to mind is: terraced community gardens. With the removal of most or all of the seating and the addition of some permanent soil beds, the porous concrete structures would be the perfect support system for a vertical farm, to be tended by Liberty Village neighbors.

Check out the picture of Lamport Stadium to the right. Cover the steeply-sloped back sides of the bleachers with solar panels or photovoltaics, retrofit what are assumedly locker rooms in the podium under the arched structure, and you've got a zero-energy community center for cold or rainy days. Heck, once you get going, this is more fun than it is challenging.

Revising and rethinking our buildings is a critical step that needs to be taken for us to move closer toward a truly sustainable form of urbanism. What are some strange buildings that could be revised to better serve your city's needs?

(Photos from Google Maps and Flickr user antifuse. The original full-color versions can be viewed by clicking the photos.)

Liberty Village highlights poor planning (Toronto Star)

Creative Recyling: Gasometer City (Treehugger)

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