Toronto Community Housing project finds success by placing tenants at its heart.
The decades old Lawrence-Orton community is quietly being transformed into something more responsive and liveable. This is something residents feel proud of.
The truth is that much of the social housing built during the 1950’s – 1970’s was doomed to fail for reasons both physical and cultural. Drew Sinclair describes it as “the prioritizing of efficiency over vitality.” Not only were amenities kept to a minimum, there was an underlying reluctance to design for pleasure, resident interaction and security. These sorts of things were lost in the search for something more “rational” and economical. This is beginning to change.
In addition to bringing the tower and townhouse complex to a state of good repair, SvN, with ERA Architects, is adding a daycare centre to the original 1976 high-rise structure and overhauling a community gathering space as well as an existing courtyard. The daycare, situated along Lawrence Avenue East, will serve multiple purposes. Aside from providing spaces for more than 50 children and facilities for residents, it will enable Lawrence-Orton to present a new face to the city, one clearly designed to bring visual pleasure, transparency and a sense of welcome to the neighbourhood.
Regarding the design of the courtyard, “the tenants’ first concern was safety,” says Drew Sinclair. “Tons of children were involved in our consultation sessions. They talked about their fear of the place they live. Teens told us there was nowhere for them to congregate. We had in to introduce a multi-generational aspect and provide amenities for children under 11 and adults over 80.”