Banging on trees with sticks. Digging for earthworms. Gathering by the fire. Munching lotus root skewers in the night market. Sipping coffee while watching your kids play. The Rees Street Free Forest – its concentrated landforms and generous, sunny, central lawn—provides ecological and spatial structure that fosters a full and unscripted experience of nature in the city for all ages. Inspired by the biology, thick section, and tactile richness of the forest itself, and the multicultural diversity of Toronto, its physical design unlocks a serendipitous array of arts, culture, and nature experiences on the waterfront. A strong geologic grain shapes four zones in the Free Forest and signals a future for Toronto that is inclusive, fun, and ecologically productive. Immersive Micro-Ravines draw pedestrians across the Gardiner Expressway, frame views of the Lake, and buffer traffic noise. A generous, central civic Clearing encourages casual lounging and lawn sunbathing. Adjacent to the park pavilion, a Kinder-Forest invites free-form wilder play with sticks, rocks, leaves and raw materials of the forest. A Hearth anchors the site at its southeast corner, forming a seasonal template for public artists visible from the Quay. In summer months, a misty “cloud” activates and cools this prominent civic corner. The Free Forest grows spatial enclosure and complexity over time, while preserving large open areas that can change daily and seasonally alongside populations that age and evolve. It propagates a place to breathe deeply, connect with each other, play, and feel free.
The New York based landscape architecture firm SCAPE, known for its lively, systems-scale approach to design that integrates people into the regeneration of functional urban ecosystems, is leading a team that includes BSN Architects, ARUP, Tillotson Lighting Design, and the public art consultant Curio. SCAPE’s approach to urban landscapes is exemplified in the Town Branch Commons project in Lexington, Kentucky, a 2.5 mile hybrid open space network, multi-modal trail, water filtration landscape, and 12 acre park space. SCAPE is also known for its climate resilience work and for projects that engage communities and artists in the co-creation of urban landscapes.