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Agora Theatre
All photographs and image by ©PLANT Architect Inc.
PLANT Architect Inc. was founded in 1997 by partners Lisa Rapoport, Chris Pommer, and Mary Tremain. This award- winning, collaborative firm branches into the domains of architecture, landscape, ecology, furniture, art, and graphic
design. Synthesizing its expertise in these disciplines, PLANT integrates architectural, sculptural, and landscape interventions
to articulate new meanings, create visceral experiences, and form critical, interdisciplinary dialogues about place, memory, ecology, history, art, and culture.
In 2007, PLANT Architect Inc. won the international competition to redesign the iconic Nathan Phillips Square at the Toronto City Hall, in collaboration with Perkins+Will Canada and Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects. As part of this revitalization initiative, the team drew inspiration from the two main spaces of Athenian democracy: the Agora and the Theatre. The project clearly defines the interior space of theatre and square—a theatre for the city in which both planned and unforeseen events are encouraged against a vast, forested perimeter of intimate, programmed green rooms.
Agora Theatre includes a series of newly built and planted elements including a theatre, terrace, restaurant, skate pavilion, the Peace Garden, and a bike and visitor kiosk connected to the revitalized elevated walkways. The
stage is reconceived as a permanent public landscape, acting as a stair and terrace, connecting the walkways to Nathan Phillips Square, and serving as bleachers for small performances and as a fully equipped stage for larger ones.
The first completed phase in the scheme is the Podium Roof Garden. This three-acre, upper-level park transforms the 1965 iconic City Hall into a modernist heritage site, that is now the largest publicly accessible green roof garden in Canada. The Podium is organized with a sparkling, black-granite paved courtyard that frames the Council Chamber, a striped café that occupies the prow, a perimeter walk with pre-cast concrete pavers, custom furniture and lighting, a walk bordering the towers, and a vast garden. Inspired by Paul Klee’s “Polyphony,” the new garden features a complex mosaic of 23 sedum species inter-planted with 42 species of grasses, alliums, and bulbs-the colors progressing from brighter yellows and oranges in the southwest to reds and purples in the northeast, responding to shade and wind conditions created by the towers.
Sustainability strategies and technologies designed to meet the LEED Gold certification include the reduction of tower-lighting energy from 110 000 watts to 7 000 watts when LED lights are at full intensity. Twelve percent of the vast City Hall block has been transformed from concrete to planting, providing the city center with an additional 4 000 square meters of space for oxygen production, storm water retention, and bee and butterfly habitat, setting a standard for open space development in Toronto.

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