Written by Jonathan M. Kearns, B.ARCH, OAA, MRAIC, MRIAI, RIBA

Location

The southeast corner of Bathurst Quay (Now Eireann Quay) was identified as the most appropriate waterfront location for Ireland Park. Both Kearns and Gillespie were determined to secure a waters edge setting for the ‘Arrival’ group of sculptures, as water offered the physical connecting medium between Ireland and Canada. However, of upmost importance, this location for Ireland Park offered the prospect of unobstructed views of Toronto’s majestic city skyline and the morning sunrise to the east, with the tranquil waters of the harbor in the foreground.

Concept

This is not a typical Toronto park – it is an emotional and evocative place that might call up long lost memories of destitute ancestors arriving from blight ravaged Ireland on our Canadian shore with hopes for a new life in a new land. The park design consciously looks to create a feeling for the kind of landscape that was left behind in Ireland – a bare and craggy western landscape comprising poor agricultural land on which the Irish tenant farmers could only subsist by growing potatoes in the smallest of fields. It deals with the contrasting human experiences of devastation and hopefulness.

Context

The 45m by 25m park landscape is defined on the south and east sides by Lake Ontario, on the north side by the Canada Malting grain silos and between these edges by six new oak trees, located immediately south of the silos. The grain silos are by far the most dominating feature of the park. Due to their size and height, they cut off the park from the sounds of the city beyond and help create the tranquility of the park

Design

A starkly minimal landscape is being created through the predominant use of a single material: stone. Stone paving, stone seating and a five-meter high limestone sculptural installation of rough stone all contribute to the Below the oak trees and facing the City of Toronto stand Rowan Gillespie’s powerfully gaunt figures of famine migrants making their final landing in Canada. The existing concrete silo structure is treated as an element that is in and of the Park and not outside it, for this reason the northern boundary of the Park extends to the centerline of the southernmost silo cylinders.

Ireland Park - cylindarContrasting with the rough, craggy stone landscape is a tall illuminated cylinder of stacked glass approximately six meters in height. Symbolic as a beacon both of the ‘new world’ and the hopefulness for the future of the arriving migrants, the glass tower contextually relates to the adjacent concrete silos and forms an icy material counterpoint to the rough stone landscape of the park. The glass tower, similar in proportions to the concrete silos, stands alongside three interactive computer screens that give visitors access, at a touch, to the story of the park, the famine tragedy that it commemorates and an acknowledgment of those who made the park possible. The tower is constructed of stacked cast glass forming a circular wall. Internal illumination produces a greenish watery light as it passes through the thick cast glass. The glass ‘silo’ houses all of the Park’s controls and utilities, power, data and communication line.

 

Ireland Park Constructions Team

Jonathan M. Kearns,  Kearns Mancini Architects

Landscape Architect

John J. Quinn, Quinn Design Associates, Inc.

Construction Management Services

Kenaidan Contracting Ltd.

Masonry Contractor

Trinity Custom Masonry Ltd.

Landscaping

Cathal Boyd, Shamrock Garden & Landscaping

Structural Consultants

Scott Wallace Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd. Tom O'Rourke O'Rourke TH Structural Consultants

Electrical Consultant

Tony McDonnell, McDonnell Engineering

Quantity Surveyor

Colin J. Kelleher Partner, Helyar

Electrical Engineer

Tony McDonnell, McDonnell Engineering

Lighting

Chris Nelson Nelson & Garrett Inc.