Architecture, Public Space
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Airport City

Last week I was part of an Institute without Boundaries charrette, Airport City, that examined how Toronto Pearson International Airport can better integrate into its surrounding neighbourhood and the region in the context of future growth, in relation to community, government and corporate stakeholder needs.

As you may or may not know, Toronto Pearson International Airport has an ambitious goal to become North America’s premier gateway to the globe. It is already one of the fastest growing connection airports in North America and is the continent’s second largest international airport to New York’s JFK. Today, the Airport serves 36 million passengers and by 2030, is expected to double the number of passengers it serves.

Five teams were tasked with specific themes that looked at how the Airport can continue to function and remain competitive through better regional and neighbourhood integration, looking at the Airport’s role holistically instead of treating it as an island. The GTAA needs to ensure that its growth does not negativity impact its neighbours and its projected growth does not, in turn, limit the Airport. Ideally, the Airport and the Region should positively reinforce each other’s growth. The proposals for Airport City with their corresponding themes are listed below:

Theme 1:
Airport as a Regional Centre
How can we define the Airport’s role as a gateway to the Region?


Keys to success:
Universality (inclusive)
Balance (ethical)

Why bring everyone to the airport when you can bring the airport to everyone? Distribute the airport.


Connexus – Connects us is a multi-nodal centre that weaves communities, commerce and environments together thorough a holistic experience creating a cultural nexus of the world.


Through this approach it reduces time, allows for expansion and builds up sub-centres to bridge the region to the world.

Theme 2:
Growth Conundrum
How can the Airport manage two levels of growth: increased traffic at the Airport itself and increased population and activity within the Greater Golden Horseshoe?


Key to success:
The airport expansion is not yet limited by space. The airport requires community buy-in to expand its capacity.


Bring the diversity of the community to the airport and the benefits of the airport to the community.


CAIR – Community airport integration response
Through this approach it facilitates vitality through the balance of airport growth and community benefits.

Theme 3:
Neighbourhood Integration
How can the Airport build productive relationships with local municipalities and industries?


Keys to success:
Break the island effect by building bridges
Better Mobility into Pearson
Incentivize engagement
Mutual benefit for symbiotic relationships
Cultural Hot spots
Diversify ways of engagement


Bridge the Gap:
An ecology of shared priorities co-created between the Airport Community, the employees, neighbour and stakeholders.

“Together, we will attract, serve and delight our Customers by consistently delivering value through innovative products and serves.” – Toronto Pearson 2011-2015 Strategic Plan

Theme 4:
How can the Airport be repositioned as the ultimate mobility hub, a centralized connection point for municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe?


Keys to success:
Identification of possible space to be re-imagined
Design regions around the Airport and scale them up
Multi-use function and customer-orientated values
Decentralized transit nodes to improve coverage
Improved pedestrian connections and the promotion of walking corridors

Live First, Move Second
A mixed-use strategy for the surrounding lands at the Airport to serve as a catalyst for multiple scales of connectivity.


Theme 5:
Economic Multiplier
How can the Airport’s role be leveraged to facilitate further economic development?

Keys to success:
Local development
Exhibition space for the region
Centralization of international business
Regional activation

Lester B. Pearson, More than an Airport
Activating the Regional Economy


Toronto Pearson International Airport will be a regional gateway to the world through initiatives that aim to drive the economy through redevelopment of the airport district to create a progressive economic zone, as well as establishing a network of partnerships that will position Pearson as a leader in regional thinking.

To know what happens next, well you will have to stay tuned. The next level of synthesis of these projects will be presented later this year in a full report which the Institute without Boundaries will release to the public. If you have any comments or questions regarding the proposals, please do not hesitate to engage in the conversation with us.

All images courtesy of Institute without Boundaries

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