the bentway transforms space under toronto's expressway into a community venue

the bentway transforms space under toronto's expressway into a community venue

the city of toronto presents the transformation of the bentway, a 1.75km space under the city’s gardiner expressway. the ongoing project will revitalize the route into a vibrant public place where visitors can experience a diverse mix of activities and programs. the initial phase, completed january 2018, gives new life to the industrial area as a vital artery for pedestrians and cyclists, stitching together seven neighborhoods, expanding access to key landmarks and creating a new gathering place for toronto’s growing population. the multifunctional space is an expression of toronto’s unique creative energy and serves as an example of how the re-use of infrastructure can support new forms of public life.

bentway toronto
all images by nic lehoux



the unprecedented project is funded through a partnership between the city of toronto and philanthropists judy and wilmot matthews, who contributed $25-million to the project. judy and wil were inspired by the vision of urbanist ken greenberg and landscape architecture firm PUBLIC WORK to re-imagine the expressway as a new model of shared public space activated by year-round programming. the bentway’s design and programming are rooted in its built environment and the layered histories and potential futures of the area. extensive public consultation with local residents informed both PUBLIC WORK’s design of the physical environment as well as the programming, which is now being brought to life by the bentway conservancy, a new not-for-profit that manages, operates and programs the space.

bentway toronto



PUBLIC WORK’s starting point for the design was the expressway’s array of concrete columns known as ‘bents.’ these elements can either function together or on their own to offer spaces for a diverse range of programming and events from passive, contemplative spaces to creative hubs and public markets. the expressway provides a canopy at varying heights, while the bents offer structural support for clamps, cables, power and lighting, designed to meet both the requirements of large performance groups and the needs of fringe productions. on the ground, the project knits together public and private land, treats storm water and repurposes displaced soil to establish a new topography.

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project info:


project title: the bentway

client and management team: the bentway conservancy in partnership with the city of toronto and waterfront toronto, enabled by judy and wilmot matthews foundation with ken greenberg

design lead/landscape architect: PUBLIC WORK

design advisor: greenberg consultants

structural engineer: blackwell

lighting design: tillett lighting design associates

electrical engineer: DPM energy and e-lumen

civil and mechanical engineer: WSP

signage and wayfinding: bespoke cultural collective

architect (strachan gate building): gensler

architect (skating building): kearns mancini architects

structural engineer (skating building): RJC

geotechnical engineer: amec foster wheeler

fountain design: DEW inc

irrigation: smart watering systems

location: gardiner expressway — from strachan avenue to bathurst street, toronto, canada

status: ongoing, initial phase completed 2018

photography: nic lehoux

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