News & Events

Fourth-Year University of Toronto Students Reimagine Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square

April 14, 2023

On Tuesday, April 4, DIALOG hosted fourth-year students from the University of Toronto in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design to present their final projects.

Urban designer and intern architect at DIALOG, Nicole Nomsa Moyo, also an instructor at the University of Toronto, invited her 40 undergraduate students to present their final exhibition projects at the Toronto DIALOG studio to conclude the semester. The class, called ‘Visibility Through Design’, focuses on celebrating the unseen, and seeking tangible and intangible interventions to better engage with these communities.

“Architects and urban designers are active participants in shaping the culture and identity of the built environment, yet there are so many things we overlook—inclusivity, homelessness, recognizing Indigenous land—all seem to be forgotten in the practice of design,” Nicole shares. “This course was an opportunity to bring some of those topics to life and see how we can address and integrate them into the city’s fabric.” Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, yet there are lost narratives of underrepresented population groups.

The students were tasked with reimagining Yonge-Dundas Square, one of Canada’s busiest intersections and often compared to New York City’s Times Square. Resounding echoes of feedback of the square included not enough green space, feeling overcrowded, too much advertising, not biker-friendly, a lack of cultural representation, and simply underused. The need for bringing a sense of unique Toronto identity and purpose back into the space was apparent.

With only three weeks to complete the project, the six groups of students came up with creative designs for Yonge-Dundas Square paired with a public art instillation to accompany their proposal, all responding to a crisis or topic they felt should become visible. The students took time to reflect from a point of privilege and analyze what is important to the city long term—transit, affordable housing, open spaces, and representation being a few. Many of the interactive art instillations were made of recycled materials and addressed topics like culture, sustainability, and mass consumerism.

After thoughtful research, students came up with a variety of adaptive ideas to encourage the public to indulge and linger, promoting everyday use of the square. Ideas like outdoor cafés, bike underpasses, artist alleys, shifts in traffic patterns, greenspace, amphitheaters, and widened sidewalks all change the flow of movement and bring an intimate sense of belonging to the flexible space. Turning the square into a welcoming destination spot for pedestrians and play, rather than just consumers, was at the forefront of all presentations.

Several DIALOG architects, urban designers and staff watched the presentations and offered considerations and feedback to the proposals. Also in attendance was UofT undergraduate director, Petros Babasikas, who was equally eager to engage with the students.

The critical thinking and inquisitiveness of this next generation of designers and thought leaders bodes well for a hopeful future of inclusive design.

Thank you to all who participated!