There is not much to admire in Toronto's ubiquitous underpasses, nine of them creating points of disconnect along the hydro corridor. One of these, at Dovercourt, is developed here as a prototype that would necessarily be repeated for the other 8, to make the Greenline a continuous route.
Where other cities (Chicago, NYC) developed rail systems that were raised above the level of the street, or below, the rail lines in Toronto have been taken at grade, forcing streets and sidewalk to sink below, separating neighbourhoods north from south, and creating the 'underpass' - dark, uncomfortable and a significant tear in the urban fabric. It is a gaping hole, made by the no-nonsense utilitarian infrastructure laid down with a complete disregard for streets, neighbourhoods, and city. To match a new character for the Greenline, the Dovercourt underpass prototype has been made into a positive social activator of the public realm, a linkage between the street, the bridge and the new gardens of the Greenline.
To bring a continuous cycling and pedestrian pathway along the length of the Greenline, cantilevered pedestrian bridging is constructed alongside the railway bridge structures, ramping and carrying through the 6.0 meter trajectory from one side to the other. Over the new bridge, a spanning ephemeral scaffold is constructed with a glass framework, built high enough to form both a generous sheltered route and a look-out above. The scaffold construction provides a kiosk and storage space for bikes. Its golden, elaborated glass skin on the south side of the scaffold becomes both a solar collector and a new icon of a renewed sense of public space and amenity; a large scale lamp at night, its north surface is a support for art sites, community involvement and notices, events, and advertising potentials for artists, local groups and BIAs.
In addition to the ramps from the Greenline, wide, safe public stairs connect the street to the scaffold passage, lower to upper. This important stair connection is underlined by the stairs' relationship and proximity to new 'Exchange plazas' at street level at each side of the bridge. These hard surface plazas are raised plinths to create punctuations at the level of the street and Greenline route. These plazas, together with the scaffolding, create new landmarks in the city - new public spaces, cycling and skateboard friendly, linked directly to the Greenline with constructed hedges, light space, resting places, bike rentals, transit stops, pop-up cafes, exhibit sites and information kiosks, drinking fountains and washrooms. The new Dovercourt Exchange becomes a pluralistic landmark for passage east and west, north and south, up and down and across.