Building Magazine


Student-designed urban hub unveiled at Toronto Central Grosvenor St. YMCA Centre

The concourse area of Toronto Central Grosvenor St. YMCA Centre in downtown Toronto recently underwent a sustainable makeover, and was officially unveiled to the public on Thursday. Three University of Toronto students, Greg Bunker, Jessica Wagner and David Garcia were the winners of the 2013 OTS Design Challenge for their conceptualization of the urban space. The creative design was constructed in 2014 using recycled tire products.

Originally launched in 2011, and led by Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS), the competition encourages design students to showcase their creativity in a sustainable way by revitalizing outdoor spaces with products made from recycled tires. Participating teams of Ontario post-secondary students had a chance to win up to $3,000 in scholarship funds, with the top team winning the opportunity to see their design built in the concourse area of the Toronto Central Grosvenor St. YMCA Centre.

“We’re very happy with the winning design and proud of what these forward-thinking students have helped bring to life in this bustling urban space,” said Andrew Horsman, Executive Director, Ontario Tire Stewardship. “We hope that the competition has encouraged future designers and thought leaders to discover the value of using recycled products in landscape design, and start incorporating them into their work.

The winning design was born as a result of an intensive two-day ‘Design Jam’ in 2013, in which students worked directly with YMCA representatives, recycled tire product manufacturers, and sustainable design professionals to develop innovative solutions to the specified design problem.

Students presented their concepts to a panel of judges including:

  • Alex Versluis, vice president, property management, YMCA of Greater Toronto
  • Elise Shelley, landscape architect
  • Joe Lobko, principal, DTAH
  • Mathis Natvik, principal, Natvik Ecological
  • Shawn Micallef, columnist for The Toronto Star and editor at Spacing Magazine

Designs were judged using a set of pre-determined criteria including originality, feasibility, sustainability and innovation. The winning design prioritized functionality and accessibility, while adding a pop of colour to the space. The concourse area was repaved with green and beige SofSURFACES tiles, while recycled rubber blocks were installed to offer an inviting space for YMCA members. The design also incorporated a stylish and functional new bike parking space for members – a key consideration for this busy urban hub.

“As a charity, creating environmentally sustainable spaces is an important part of the YMCA’s commitment to building healthy communities across the GTA,” said Alex Versluis, Vice President, Property Management, YMCA of Greater Toronto. “We value strong community partnerships and we were pleased to see young people come together to create an innovative space that can be enjoyed by our members for years to come.”

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