The project converted a 1980s office building into a centre offering social and cultural support services for the aboriginal community in downtown Toronto. A green roof was conceived as cultural and ceremonial grounds to charge unused space with vitality; to provide urban aboriginals with access to nature, rituals and customs; and to crown the building with greenery and the sounds of drumming and song to project a healthy aboriginal presence to the city.
It is an unexpected experience to find a ritual environment outdoors, in the heart of the city, surrounded by condos and office towers. Traditional elements were made possible with creativity and new materials. The healing lodge’s steel ribs, clad in rusted Corten steel and lined with scented cedar, signify branches and skins. A gas heat source is used to create a rooftop fire pit that meets fire codes.
The green roof is used for a wide range of activities, including: public assemblies and ceremonies; drumming and circle sessions; as well as counseling, meetings, and play. A contemporary iteration of a healing lodge provides the only opportunity to participate in sweat rituals within the city. A sacred medicine garden planted with sweet grass, cedars, sage, and tobacco and a Three Sisters garden of corn, beans, and squash, support cultural heritage and environmental awareness, as well as promote locally-grown ceremonial, medicinal and agricultural crops.
The plant palette incorporates a lush sampling of indigenous specimens from the Great Lakes region, including conifers, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, and herbs. Planting beds occupy the edges, while interior spaces encompass grass berm “teaching hills”, a fire pit with stump seating, and the dome-shaped healing lodge. Water trickles from a low fountain providing soothing natural sounds. Vines grow on the fencing to further enhance the natural experience from the rooftop, protect it from the city’s noise and pollution, and further distinguish the building from its neighbours.
The space is shaped by considerations of sustainability: longevity, ease of maintenance and an informed selection of native species that will withstand harsh urban conditions with minimal water. The project rebalances the building’s footprint and invites users to enjoy a respite from urban life in an intimate and soothing setting.
The project won a Toronto Design Exchange Award in 2010.
Native Child and Family Services of Toronto Roof Garden | Toronto Canada | Scott Torrance Landscape Architect
Year | 2010
Project Location | Toronto, Ontario
Landscape Architect | Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc.
Architect | Levitt Goodman Architects Ltd.
Photography | Ben Rahn, A-Frame Photography