The Doctors’ Parkette (was Brunswick-College Parkette)


After a design competition in 2011 and some discouraging years of inattention, the hard-surface area at College and Brunswick has been transformed into a welcoming public space, usable and attractive year-round. It even has a new name. The images and notes below show the changes and outline the way they came about.

Doctors' Parkette, College and Brunswick, December 2017.
Doctors’ Parkette in December 2017. Photo by Richard Longley.

The New Parkette, Summer 2017

parkette seen from north
The Doctors’ Parkette in late August: accessible, handsome, and designed for use

Design Competition, 2011-12

Brunswick-College Parkette: in need of renewal (view from the north)
Brunswick-College Parkette: in need of renewal (view from the north)

As early as 2003, people realized that the hard-surface corner space needed improvement. In 2011, the HVRA mounted a Brunswick-College Design Competition. It received 27 submissions from eight countries.

In 2012, PMA Architects of Toronto joined a committee of representatives from Kensington Health Centre and City Parks (co-owners of the site) plus representatives of Harbord Village, with the goal of producing a single design. Two sets of winning Design Competition submissions (one chosen by a panel of environmental architects, the other by residents of Harbord Village) were examined, along with the most popular features of other submissions.

PMA produced three potential designs, of which Concept 3 was chosen, almost unanimously, by HVRA members at its 2012 Spring Meeting. PMC then refined this design, incorporating community inputs to produce concept 3B. That design is the basis of the one exhibited at a second parkette meeting on June 11, 2012. A PDF file of that design can be downloaded.

Features of the 2012 Design

design drawing of small park with paths, benches, canopies, trees; people walkling and sitting
Drawing of the 2012 design: parkette seen from the south.

The 2012 design reflected preferences expressed by judges and the public in the competition. (The actual rebuild differs, but many details are recognizable in the 2017 photos above.)

  • Safety: the new design reduces opportunities for concealment, principally by widening the sunken footpath to the west of Kensington Health Centre, lowering walls to bench height and placing benches on top of them rather than in front of them, where they catch garbage.
  • Access: will not require steps from north or south.
  • Portuguese paving will cover the main walkway at the west.
  • Three canopy sails: perforated metal for shade, painted in different colours.
  • Lighting will, if possible, be wind- and solar-powered. The popularity of columnar lighting in the Design Competition has been noted.
  • Vegetation: a mix of native trees will eventually provide a dense canopy with clear sight lines between their trunks over low perennial vegetation. The aim is to produce a safe, easy to maintain compromise between intimacy and openness. All vegetation will be protected at its base by a low surrounding curb. Irrigation will be automatic.
  • “Harbord Village” will be engraved in bold letters on the SW corner of the curb.
  • Benches: to be of rot-resistant ipe wood. All benches will have low backs and armrests, for the comfort of older users, with the exception of the benches on either side of the central island, which will have no backrest and no armrests.
  • Tables with attached benches will be circular and fixed in place with chess boards embossed or painted on their surfaces.
  • Sculpture: the central island will be a low (about 1m high) vegetated mound with a central mount for a sculpture. Rather than a permanent sculpture it has been proposed that the mound be occupied by a temporary sculpture for a maximum of one year.
  • Concession stands: (which might resemble those beside Sanderson Library on the south side of Dundas, east of Bathurst) are proposed for the southeast corner of the parkette, on College.
  • Communications: the new design requires removal or re-location of the three existing payphones. Removal is recommended – and the provision of WiFi.
  • Kensington Health Centre sign: to be removed and relocated or replaced by a new sign at a different location.
  • Drinking fountain (for humans and dogs): will be installed in the mid-point pedestrian opening along the west edge of the parkette.
  • Garbage can: one will be installed, likely at the south end of the parkette where it may be easily accessed by those who will use it and those who will clear it.
  • Stage: originally proposed, but not recommended owing to concerns regarding the obstruction it might cause. (A permanent stage will be a feature of the re-designed Margaret Fairley Park after it is rebuilt.)

Naming of the Parkette

In May 2016, as it became evident that the parkette would at last be built, HVRA mounted another public consultation to choose a new name. These were the main specificatations:

  • If the name suggested is to memorialize a person, that person must no longer be living.
  • Names should be limited to three words, with the last word being “Parkette.”
  • Each entry should be accom­panied by an explanation of up to 200 words, describing why this name would be suit­able for this parkette.

Eight nominations were received, and a panel of local residents served as judges: Tim Grant, Chair HVRA; Bob Barnett, President of the preceding Residents’ Association; Celia Denov, long-time resident; Neil Wright, President of the Harbord Street Business Improvement Association; and Gus Sinclair as non-voting convenor. They chose “The Doctors’ Parkette,” submitted by Richard Longley.

These were some of his reasons:

Brunswick-College Parkette is at the south end of a site that has been involved with health care and strongly connected to “Doctors” from the beginning of Harbord Village as we know it:

1889-1953: St John’s Hospital for Women, founded by the Anglican Sisters of St. John the Divine

1953-1997: Doctors’ Hospital, founded by the four Raxlen brothers,noted for its services to the multicultural population of the area

1990: Kensington Health Centre, east of the parkette

1990s: Kensington Gardens Longterm Care Facility, on the former site of Doctors’ Hospital

2011: Chapel of St. John the Divine (last remnant of St. John’s Hospital) became Kensington Hospice

The presence of many physicians in the community, including Norman Bethune (spent one year at age 6 on Robert St), Henry Morgentaler (in building on Harbord), Cyril Greenland, Katharine Hockin.