WSP: Underutilized Open Spaces


The 21st Century has seen exponential growth in downtown Toronto. The City has been grappling with the question of how to preserve and enhance quality of life and social integration as intensification gives rise to increasingly vertical development. The City hasrecently completed a Parkland Strategy for the GTA, and Downtown Parks and Public Realm Plan looking at how to better use public space to serve the needs of the growing number of residents, workers and visitors. The MUCP would be a finer grain study, delving deeper into the potential uses and functions of Toronto’s underutilised, including small or left over, spaces.

Project Description

Develop an overlay to the existing Parks and Open Spaces Master Plans for downtown Toronto to integrate underutilised spaces into the open space network (or another growth centre within the GTA). Students will be challenged to assess what makes a public place successful (why do you chose to spend time there - such as built form; amenities; optimal/minimum size; location and context; materials; access and connectivity; comfort, seasonality and shading, etc.), and identify solutions that reimagine how the City maximises use and benefit from all outdoor spaces. Students will be presented with an opportunity to engage in primary research, as well as gathering information, interpretation and proposed application of global best practices in Complete Community design, with a focus on how to best use traditionally underutilised spaces (both existing and as a part of future development). Creative, bold ideas will be encouraged, and students will have opportunity to hone their ability to critique and evaluate solutions.

Image courtesy of City of Toronto Downtown Parks and Public Realm Strategy


In this project, the client expects the team to design the following:

Students will be expected to develop a creative, evidence-based Master Plan overlay for Downtown Toronto's underutilised open spaces. The students will prepare a thorough analysis, including research into best practices and case studies from around the world of innovative use of public space, and evidence of the social and economic benefit of trailed solutions. Students will assess what combination of different types of open spaces are required to support a complete urban community, and will prepare an inventory of existing and potential open spaces as the basis for an open space master plan. The master plan shall identify potential opportunities to expand the City’s open space classification system, with emphasis on high-performance, multi-functional open spaces, as well as identify implications for existing policy, procurement, urban design guidelines and development controls.

The WSP Student Team

Maria Angela Viaje is a fourth-year student at John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, pursuing a Design Specialist. Maria is interested in global cities, post-colonialism, and keenly aware of the importance of public space in a dense and compact city. Maria is a freelance designer that assisted in designing residential developments, participant in the Lulu Lemon Meditation Pavilion Design-Build Project, and a Dean’s List Scholar since 2018.

Connect with Maria on LinkedIn and view her portfolio here 

Kateryna Gerasymova is a fourth-year student at John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Kateryna is interested in the role of architecture as the “backdrop of human action” and through the WSP: Underutilized Open Spaces project, hopes to unravel the “interconnectedness” between people and architecture as a whole. Kateryna is the Media & Design Director of Enactus UofT St. George, Creative Designer at MYG Star Inc, and Creative Research Director for Bricks for Hope.

Grace Van Der Velden is a fourth-year student majoring in Urban Studies, with a Human Geography and Material Culture Studies Minor. Employing their knowledge of Material Culture Studies, Grace is interested in the theory behind how humans interact with the built form, which is a unique perspective Grace hopes to bring to the student team. Grace was the former Co-President of the Urban Studies Student Union, and a Dean’s List Scholar from 2017-2018.

Connect with Grace on LinkedIn

Daisy (Chengxi) Zhou is a fourth-year student at Rotman School of Management, pursuing a specialist in Management with focuses in Finance and International Business, as well as a minor in Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations with a focus in Modern Standard Arabic. Daisy’s experience working with the Rotman School of Management’s behavioural economics lab (BEAR) provided them with knowledge of design thinking, psychology, and policy analysis, that would be assets to the WSP student team. In addition to their work with BEAR, Daisy is also the Project Lead of the Canadian Undergraduates in Behavioural Sciences (CUBS), and a Compliance Analyst for the G20 Research Group.

Erxun Ta is a fourth-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Information at the Faculty of Information. Erxun’s has seen the development of Shenzhen’s waterfront from a small fishing area into a promenade with programming for all age groups, parks, and cycling and walking paths along the water, and hopes to bring that perspective and understanding of user experience to the WSP project student team. Erxun recently worked on user research and UI design for a healthcare expense management application, a Memory Game Box design, and a campus food truck app design.

View Erxun's portfolio here

Christie Ma is a fourth-year student majoring in Ethics, Society and Law, and Sociology. Christie spent the last semester at University College London, where she explored the connection between architectural concepts and social science theories to critically observe and analyze physical and social structures around the city. Christie is the Co-Vice President of Campus Events, at the University of Toronto Women’s Association as well as the Student Clubs and Groups Assistant for Trinity College Student Life. Christie was the recipient of the Chancellor Scholarship, The Irving Zeitlin Award, and the Director’s Achievement Award. 

Connect with Christie on LinkedIn