urbanism – landscape – ideas – theory – whimsy

Beautiful Urban Moments – Part V

Dovercourt Park - Spring

One of my favourite Toronto park moments is the allée of silver maples that cuts north-south through Dovercourt Park in the west end. The park is half-way between Dufferin Street and Dovercourt Road, and half-way beween Bloor Street West and Dupont Street. If coming along Shanly Street one block south, you look north up Salem Avenue and are treated to the allée continuing the line of the street through the park.

Apart from the lack of strong formal elements in most Toronto Parks (especially allées), this park is additionally special in that it is a park along the lines of the real English “square”. It is surrounded by small residential streets on all sides, and it is larger than most of the other Toronto “squares”. It successfully works as a whole where so many others dissolve into a collection of uncomfortable uses. The allée also brilliantly divides the park into an open field on the west side (laid out for baseball – I think unfortunately), and a series of more discreet uses on the east side, including a kids playground, a community centre, and tennis courts. If there was a wrought-iron fence around it and the baseball field was just an open field, it could almost be an English “square”.

Unfortunately, the silver maples are (as are so many of Toronto’s majestic Acer saccharinum) reaching the end of their life span. There are gaps in the allée already, and the City has started replanting the missing trees (though bizarrely, by my eye, they are not placing them along the line of the centres of the existing trees, but along their forward edge – very disappointing).

Sometimes simple spaces work best. Many of our new parks, such as the Central Park in the West Railway Lands (Concord Adex Park), or Wychwood Carbarns Park, will be so crammed full of programme, there’s no room for simple space and a grand idea. I can’t help think that we’ve lost something along the way with our busy-body urbanism.

Dovercourt Park - Winter

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Yo what you got against baseball? 🙂 There’s none of that rubbish in the southern hemisphere.
Unless endless rugby pitches count. Not even cold enough to flood ’em and put them to a good use like hockey.

WRT to the planting sites – planting a new tree exactly where an old one was for many years won’t work well in the first decade or so after the old tree dies. there are the old stumps and roots to deal with (a rot accelerant will speed this up, but still), and the soil will be exhausted in that area.

I agree that breaking the line is unfortunate.

Ah, now that’s interesting – I hadn’t thought that the previous trees’ roots would be in the way, but of course that does make sense. Still, it’s too bad that it makes renewing an allée so tricky.

As for baseball – I don’t have anything against the game – it’s not that I’d insist it be soccer or something. It’s only that to my mind baseball is the least flexible way to lay out a field. The gravel/dirt infield (especially if there’s a proper raised mound) plays havoc with any attempt to use the field for other purposes unless you stick to the outfield – and of course whereas with soccer, you remove the posts and it’s gone, with baseball, you have the cage, the infield, the mound – it doesn’t just disappear. Also you can’t divide it up and play two baseball games at the same time the way you can just casually use a soccer/football pitch.

Those are my thoughts anyways.

By the way Mark, when writing about Dovercourt Park, I had in mind that little park near Kingston-upon-Thames’ centre on the way to your first place there from the train station. I believe it’s called Fairfield Park. It has a similar allée dividing it into two parts (in that case, one side soccer fields, one side cricket).

I even found a picture of it online:

Fairfield Park Photo

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