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Building (Award-Winning!) Great Places on the Waterfront

May 28, 2014

Looking at Canada's Sugar Beach from above and to the north

An award-winning design and a unique vantage point for watching the activity in Toronto's working port make Canada's Sugar Beach one of our favourite spaces in the city. (Images courtesy of Claude Cormier + Associés)

By Samantha Gileno

There’s something special about Sugar Beach. You feel it as soon as you get there. Maybe it’s the park’s pink umbrellas against white sand …or winter snow. Or seeing kids of all ages scrambling over candy-striped rocks. Or the incongruous view of sail boats and sugar freighters sharing Toronto’s harbour. Or, maybe, it’s all of them combined…  Whatever it is, we’ve always thought it’s a great place – and now it’s official – Sugar Beach has received a 2014 Great Places Award.

An overhead view of Canada's Sugar Beach

Each year, the Great Places Awards recognize excellence in environmental design. When selecting a project, the jury pays close attention to the relationship between physical form and human activity or experience. They look for projects that “engage our attention and imagination.” And that’s one of the reasons Sugar Beach has been so successful – it grabs our attention and helps us imagine the future of our revitalized waterfront.

Sugar Beach was designed for Waterfront Toronto by Montreal architectural firm Claude Cormier Associés. It transformed a dismal parking lot into beautiful public space while celebrating industrial uses on our waterfront. People of all ages love to sit on the beach and watch the sugar boats unload. It’s a bit like waterfront theatre.

And while it’s known for its white sand and pink umbrellas – it’s much more than a beach. The park also includes a plaza space and tree-lined promenade. The plaza – with its large candy-striped granite rock outcropping – creates dynamic spaces for public events. And the plaza’s three grass mounds give unique vantage points for concerts and performances. Between the plaza and the beach, a granite promenade offers a shaded route to the water’s edge with benches along the way to sit and enjoy views to the lake, beach or plaza. Underground, a network of silva cells is working overtime to make the promenade’s trees grow big and strong and keep them healthy.

Sugar Beach was one of six projects in architecture, planning, landscape architecture, and urban design honoured with 2014 Great Places Awards. The projects will be on display during the 45th annual conference of the Environmental Design Research Association in New Orleans.  Previous Great Places Award winners include the Dublin Grounds of RemembranceThe Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle.

Since opening in July 2010, Sugar Beach has received numerous awards including an Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architecture, a National Urban Design Award and an Award of Excellence from the Toronto Urban Design Awards.

post contributor

  • Samantha Gileno

    Samantha Gileno previously worked at Waterfront Toronto as a communications manager who specialized in all things related to the Central Waterfront and East Bayfront communities.