Alissa North’s design ideas featured at Harbourfront exhibit
Archived Articles 03 Apr 2008  EWR
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On March 7 Harbourfront Centre launched Toronto’s new exhibition space devoted to contemporary architecture.

The objective of the new architecture gallery is to present exhibitions which will educate, challenge and question the thoughts and the ideas which inform contemporary architecture.

The inaugural exhibition explores the idea of public space. Among the three firms selected to respond to this idea is North Design Office, run by Alissa (Puhm) North and Pete North. Their firm chose the Gardiner Expressway as a public space in need of redesign.

North Design Office, with their idea Re-viewing the Gardiner looks at the void spaces created by the Gardiner Expressway through four modes: photographic, digital film, a scale model, and a glimpse at reality. Hoping to engender a new appreciation for this underused space, the exhibit proposes temporary uses. The exhibition pamphlet notes as follows:

“Urban infrastructures have long been viewed as single use, both in their function and in the space and territories they consume. In their scale, proportional to that of the city, urban infrastructures occupy vast areas of cities, and, therefore, are significant contributors to urban form and the resultant public spaces they create. These interstitial public spaces — under highways, adjacent to rail corridors, and other major transportation infrastructures — are created and forgotten, or reviled as unworthy remnant spaces. The spaces, however, hold potential to bring cohesion to the urban fabric and could, therefore, be regarded as valuable public space.

The Gardiner Expressway

Beneath the Gardiner Expressway lies 20 hectares (50 acres) of open space; an area equal to the size of Grenadier Pond in High Park, two Queen’s Park Circles or 38 football fields. This space lies dormant and unused, as arguments prevail in the city as to what to do with the ailing and often detested infrastructure above it. In the meantime, through an investigation of the Gardiner Expressway — one that might perhaps unveil some of its majestic beauty — a rethinking of its space as viably public needs to occur.”

The work of North Design Office ranges in scale from site specific art installations to architecture and urban design, with an emphasis on landscape architecture. They are committed to the idea that well designed urban environments and open spaces create vibrant communities and ecologies. (Visit

The exhibition PUBLIC SPACE runs until Sunday, April 20. Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queen’s Quay West in Toronto. For more information: telephone 416 973-4000;
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