James Parakh
Urban Design Manager
City of Toronto Planning Division, Toronto

In the past 50 years, tall buildings and their relationship to the streets and open spaces has evolved through various scales and typologies. As place-makers, how do they contribute to a successful public realm?

Case studies from Battery Park City on Manhattan's southern edge, Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, a mixed-use development in downtown Dubai, One Shenzhen Bay, and a new master plan proposed for Toronto's East Harbour all explore a return to an urbanism that re-focuses the tall building neighborhood back to the pedestrian scale. Intrinsic themes include how open space is conceived, how streets are animated and how tall building positioning effects micro-climate and pedestrian comfort.

Towers that were well set back from the street surrounded with amorphous open spaces have evolved to a better street relationship. Always important to the urban habitat, open spaces have also evolved to be spaces that are carved out from the urban fabric, framed by active uses and take on a spatial character and typology that best serves its function. Existing heritage buildings as a first resort should always be retained and restored. These elements of our history always make the urban design richer, giving the tall building a sense of place. We have also learned that a mix of uses helps create complete communities adding vibrancy and increasing walkability of a plan. Lastly, considering climate change and sustainability are essential to any successful tall building urban design.