By: Yvonne Ho
What is the Living Architecture Tour?
The Self-Guided Living Architecture Tour is a self-guided tour of several green, vegetative roofs and walls found all across the city. Many people aren’t aware of these living infrastructure since most of them are often hidden atop buildings or behind closed doors.
This tour was designed to expose Torontonians to some of the most impressive green roof and wall projects all over our city, with the goal of educating the public about the benefits that these projects bring to the environment and our communities, as well as inspiring them to create their own living architecture in their homes and work places. As of today, 26 spots are highlighted on the map where publicly accessible green spaces can be found – from the Gladstone Hotel to the City Hall podium, which houses the largest green roof in the city. A map of all the stops can be downloaded here.
What was the story and inspiration behind it?
Jonathan Silver, a philosopher with a Masters of Arts (MA) from University of Toronto, was the mastermind behind #LivingArchTOur. Jonathan is an urban interventionist who is interested in exploring unique ways to incentivize environmentally and socially beneficial choices. He does this by creating meaningful experiences that help people understand the connection between their actions and the consequences of these actions. The Living Architecture Tour was born out of this to raise awareness, understanding, and support for living infrastructure projects around Toronto. Some of his other initiatives center around: promoting recycling behaviours, human-centered architecture, and ethically-sourced goods and services.
The maps used for the tour were created by Daniel Rotsztain, otherwise known as the “Urban Geographer”. Daniel is an artist, writer, and cartographer, currently pursuing his Masters in Landscape Architecture. Check out some of his other creations here.
The tours are led by Alejandra Tobar, a recent graduate from the Economics and Environmental Studies program at University of Toronto. She believes in the importance of bringing about urban environmental changes by building partnerships, gaining media attention and involving the public through community outreach initiatives.
What are green roofs and green walls?
“Living architecture” refers to spots where vegetation is incorporated into a building’s architecture.
Green roof development involves the creation of “contained” green space on top of manmade structures. Green roof systems may be modular, with drainage layers, filter cloth, growing media and plants already prepared in movable grids, or loosely-laid/ built-up where each component of the system is installed separately.
Green wall systems are composed of pre-vegetated panels, modules, planted blankets or bags that are attached to a structural wall or free-standing frame. These modules can be made of plastic, expanded polystyrene, synthetic fabric, clay, and concrete and support a great diversity and density of plant species – e.g. a lush mixture of groundcovers, ferns, low shrubs, perennial flowers, and edible plants.
Why are living architectures so beneficial?
Some of the primary benefits of green roofs and walls include:
- Mitigation of urban heat-island effect
- Stormwater management for Toronto’s hydrological systems and underground waterways
- Improved air quality
- Pollination ground for bees and habitat for various bird species
- Decreased energy consumption in buildings
- Humidity regulation and noise reduction
- Improvement in psychological wellbeing and increased work productivity for building inhabitants and employees
By witnessing firsthand the bounty of living, vegetative architecture found in abundance throughout our city, Torontonians are encouraged to question and explore the division between the natural world and urbanized areas. A deep understanding of the importance of connecting nature and city is the first step to building a healthier, more sustainable city for future generations.
How can people participate?
Interested individuals or groups (2-20 people) can book a tour online: http://www.livingarchitecturetour.ca/tours.html
To learn more:
Participate in the tour with Green Energy Doors Open on September 9th – register online to save your spot!
Yvonne is an environmental professional with an educational background in environmental science and sustainability. She has several years of work experience in the environmental non-profit sector— carrying out research on key environmental issues, writing reports and educational articles, executing membership development and outreach initiatives, as well as implementing marketing and communications plans for campaigns. She has a keen interest in renewable energy, impact investing, sustainable development, and environmental laws and policies. Prominent environmental organizations she has volunteered at and worked for include Sierra Club, Environmental Defence, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and Pollution Probe. Yvonne is motivated to work together with like-minded people and organizations towards greater environmental justice and climate action.