Toronto Lands Corporation: Reimagining School Yards


The model for outdoor play and educational space at TDSB schools is rooted in traditional low-rise school design on sites with significant amounts of dedicated green / open space (often around 2 hectares). However, increased development pressures and the TDSB’s need to address school maintenance backlogs have led to considerations of incorporating schools into larger new development master plans and / or redevelopment plans, including in the podiums of residential condos as well as office towers. Similar experiences can be found in other large cities, such as London, New York, etc.

Project Description

With the integration of schools into the podiums of residential towers and other mixed-use building, TDSB students’ outdoor spaces will have to take a different form. The sharing of city-owned green or park space may not always be available or may be far more limited in size, when compared to a traditional school site. This requires a complete rethinking of what outdoor play and educational space looks like and how it is used – including considerations of the health and safety of TDSB students. Key factors for consideration in the design of future outdoor school spaces may include (but are not limited to): - the avoidance of shadows on play spaces; - ensuring the adaptable use of these spaces; - the ability to segment limited outdoor space for use by multiple school users at the same time; - ensure the spaces are resistant to wear under heavy usage; and - met the City of Toronto’s public realm urban design objectives (eg. minimizing barriers to community access)


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

What benchmarks / design principals can be drawn from the experiences in Toronto, throughout Canada, and around the globe to better inform and guide the TDSB in designing outdoor play and educational spaces for schools in mixed-use developments? Local references can include newly completed schools, like Jean Lumb Public School, City of Toronto guidelines – such as the Growing Up Urban Design Guidelines, as well as areas where these best practices may be required in
 redeveloping areas like Scarborough Junction, Yonge/Eglinton, and the Golden Mile.

More information available in the supplementary attachments provided by the Client in the Onedrive folder here.

Prepare a report that includes the following:

  • Literature review, summarizing best practices from areas currently responding to similar pressures
  • Decision-making process (DMP) flow chart that considers and incorporates a range of likely variables that can be used to inform decision-makers on options / likely outcomes
  • Templates / examples that draw from the items above, that show what the decision-making process / outcomes could be in 2-3 sites that could potentially require this type of analysis (examples to be provided by TLC staff)
    • A summary of best practices that can be used by TLC as benchmarking tool
    • A design prototype for outdoor space, based on their best practice research