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Contest | Grow op 2016 | Toronto | n´UNDO + Stehan Van Eeden.

Recovery of territorial identity. 

Toronto has a unique territorial identity that already encompasses both a culture and a landscape. Any territory is a landscape, either environmental, social or cultural, and an important aspect of the quality of life for people.

We propose that a reframing of how we understand the boundaries between urban and wild, culture and nature begins with a recognition and respect for the existing territory. Any territory is worthy of respect because it is a limited and finite asset. Therefore any future intervention should be pondered, argued, debated and agreed upon social, environmental, urban, economic, ethical and cultural criteria.

This project proposes an approach that seeks to build understanding of the existing territory. The proposal moves against an additive approach —unnecessary and useless additions to the urban landscape that may mask and distort— but rather seeks to build a deeper understanding of existing condition so that people are able to enjoy it.

The proposal examines the local condition at the scale of 15 minute walk from the exhibition site at the Gladstone Hotel.

Recognition of landscape within the city.

Toronto is situated on a broad sloping plateau intersected by a vast network of rivers, deep ravines, and deciduous forest. Like an city, Toronto is built on a natural territory whose presence emerges through the native species that inhabit it within the city itself.

An intervention is proposed for Grow Op 2016 that values economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability, that prioritizes environmental and territorial conservation and is the result of a process rather simply an object of design.

We propose to map the historic and native tree species that are native to Toronto within a 15 minute walking radius of the Gladstone Hotel. The result is the production and exhibition of a visual catalogue at the Gladstone Hotel during Grow Op 2016 (April 21-24, 2016). The exhibition will encompass three major elements: a map of the vicinity, a visual botanical catalogue of the native tree species found, and action plan for future cultivation of native species by community stakeholders.

In this, through a simple mapping operation of existing trees, we seek to recognize and recover landscape in the heart of the city. Rather than adding additional unnecessary and under-utilized elements or objects to the city, we propose a strategy of subtraction -minimizing elements to appreciate the existing natural wealth. Awareness builds recognition which fuels natural preservation —a true measure of sustainability— for the enjoyment of current and future people within the community.

Native plants

Plants are considered native, indigenous, or endemic to a region if they originated and are naturally occurring in that region. Many “wild” plants that we think of as native species were actually introduced during European settlement to North America. Plants that are native to Southern Ontario evolved here and have adapted to the regional climate, soils and wildlife.

Contributing to Local Ecosystems

The loss of habitat as a result of rapid urbanization in Southern Ontario is affecting ecosystem health and reducing the diversity of native plants and wildlife in natural areas. In addition to the benefits of lower cost and maintenance, using native plants can help sustain local ecosystems. Ecosystems are communities of plants and animals including the physical environment they inhabit. Plant and animal communities are dependent on many environmental factors including sunlight, soil, water, and organic material. Examples of communities found in Toronto are forest, woodland, savannah, prairie, and marsh.

Learning From Nature

When considering the integration of native plants into your garden, you may wish to simply add some native wildflowers to your existing beds with or without a particular goal in mind such as adding colour or attracting butterflies. Alternatively, you may wish to incorporate a native plant community into your yard. Plant communities that have evolved together should require no maintenance, other than protection from urban pressures (i.e. trampling, digging, dumping and non-native weeds). The different plants in these communities have adapted to local soil conditions and climate, as well as how other plants in their community may affect their environment. For example, native trees tend to leaf out late in the spring, allowing native spring wildflowers enough time to flower before they are shaded over. This means that you will save time, money and effort by not having to rake leaves, water or fertilize your naturalized garden.

Proposal from Stephan Van Eeden in collaboration with n´UNDO. For the Gladstone Hotel’s fourth annual Grow Op exhibition, a four-day exhibition celebrates innovative ideas and conceptual responses to landscape, gardens, art, and place-making under this year’s theme, the culture of landscape.

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