In the early 1980s a coalition of Peace activists petitioned the then-Mayor Art Eggleton to erect a Peace Garden in Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall. Coinciding with the City’s sesquicentennial, the self-contained garden was inserted right in the middle of Revell’s square. In addition to becoming run-down over the years, it was regularly trampled as its position made it a serious impediment to larger activities on the square.

The new Peace Garden at Nathan Phillips Square, relocated to the west side of the raised walkways, creates both a significantly larger place for Peace contemplation and protest, and, a key infrastructural element in the larger conception and strategy for the Square. The Peace Garden is self-contained, yet also acts as a giant staircase to gain access to the upper walkway and new Theatre; it frames a new north-south enfilade of activated landscapes connecting Queen Street to the Law Courts; and, with its tipped planes, covers and acoustically tempers a major exhaust vent from the parking garage below. It transforms an area that was a noisy back-of-house landscape into a calm and richly planted destination to linger in.


View looking at the Pavilion and pool from the north


The garden at night

The two angled, stepped planting planes echo the form of two cupped hands – framing a space focused on the project of peace. They enclose a flexible space suitable for the large annual ceremonial events, classroom-sized groups, everyday lingering, and reinstate the original and restored Peace Pavilion and its iconography, with a new flame and water cauldron set within a reflecting pool. The bronze cauldron symbolically contains the water brought from Nagasaki, with an eternal flame – kindled in Hiroshima – supporting the open corner of the Pavilion. The pavilion is reached via a bridge made with granite from the original garden.


Looking through the garden towards the Theatre


Looking south through the Pavilion


The west planters looking north.


Detail view of the planting and bollard lights.

The planting is predominantly native species, with white-blooming plants dominating the Garden, reinforcing the theme of peace. Planted in linear masses interwoven with seating and crushed granite paths, they reinforce the layered effect of the stepped planes – allowing those seated to be part of planting niches within the larger whole. The diverse collections of grasses, flowers and evergreen deciduous shrubs ensure year round interest within the cascade of stairs. At the west, the white barked birches bracket the garden toward the Law Society of Upper Canada and the lane now closed to vehicular traffic, creating a permeable screen. At the back of this lower stepped plane to the west, a long bench and a row of much-needed bike racks create a new social space near the LSUC entrance. In-handrail lighting and lights washing down along the screen top provide route lighting, while custom designed bench sized bollard lights – based on the pattern of the floor in City Hall – interspersed within the sitting/planting areas provide sparkle, safety and ensure the space is active winter afternoons and night.


The planter screen at twilight.


This hawk took up residence last fall, enjoying the other fauna that occupy the Square. As snacks.


Looking up at the bridge from the Theatre back-of-house area.

Clad with stainless steel grilles to direct parking garage air flow, the large eastern concrete planting plane is held back from the walkways to allow a slot for four ginkgo bilboa, understorey planting, and an extra wide planter edge wall to provide more soft landscape enclosure of the Peace Garden as well as back-of-house seating and loading-in space to support the Theatre. The Garden is open to the main Square to the north and east, maintaining the visual connection between the Eternal Flame and the Mayor’s office, part of the original Garden’s rationale. Large engraved concrete thresholds with stainless steel letters at the north and south announce the name of the garden, and a bridge crosses between the ginkgos – clearly indicating passage into something special and separate from the main Square.


Looking across the bridge to the Law Society.


The western planter and birch grove.


City staff enjoying the garden.


Looking towards City Hall from the south threshold.


Lunch time.

Project for Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization by:

PLANT Architect Inc. | Perkins+Will · Architects in Joint Venture

< project credits : the full competition team >

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