Located in Toronto's Inner Harbour, this unique park includes grassy hills, a long sand beach extending along the water's edge, stationary yellow shade umbrellas and Muskoka chairs. Stylized as HTO, the name is word play between the chemical element of water, H2O, and the common abbreviation for Toronto, TO.
Billed as "Toronto's Urban Beach", HTO park is an inviting space that highlights contemporary landscape design.
Ground Planes - The site was reformed to create a tilted plane that acknowledges two aspects: the urban side and water side. At selected viewing points, a series of tilted planes break through the surface as places for sitting and gathering. Umbrella-dotted terraces step down to the lake. In addition, a pattern of linear surface planes running east-west across the parks abstractly recall the railway tracks that fed the now-defunct industries of the area.
Water - A series of connected water elements accentuate the theme of water returning to its source. Each element is programmed to celebrate the intrinsic qualities of water. These include motion activated sprays, steam and fog, variations in colour and coloured ice.
Islands - The overlay of green islands provide gently sloping lawns for repose. Islands that meet residential buildings become horticultural to mediate between the public and private. The islands in the slips mediate storm water overflow. Native water’s edge species act as an urban estuary to provide a living filter for micro-organisms.
Expressive Horticulture - The planting strategy involves three basic treatments: sloping lawns, horticultural and bio-remediation islands. Tree planting expresses a north-south gradient from a grove of multi-stem ash at the north, to wind-catching willows towards the water’s edge. Planting of horticultural islands provide interest through the year, and buffer the residential or more private areas of the park. Selected species with winter berries contribute to the idea of the site as a bird and wildlife habitat.
Lighting - Seasonal animation, a sense of identity, playfulness and security is created through the lighting. Tall mast lights act as an ‘area moon’ and is programmed to change seasonally. Lighting transforms the dark surfaces of the water basins. The water’s edge is softly illuminated by a connective glow. The lighting is also a vehicle for creating a sense of theatre and journey on the cultural corridors that line the city to the water.
Beach Furniture - The design calls for informal beach furniture scattered across the south end of the site, transforming it from an urban park to an urban beach.
Over a decade ago, approximately 16 hectares (40 acres) of land within Toronto’s Harbourfront was designated for public parks, waters-edge promenade, and school/community centre users. Since that time, several of the park sites have been developed including the Toronto Music Garden.
At the end of June 2003, Toronto City Council approved a conceptual design for Phase I of the Harbourfront Parks and Open Space System. Phase I was to focus on Maple Leaf Quay East, Maple Leaf Quay West, and their related slips. They were planned to essentially connect Harbourfront Centre with the Spadina Quay Wetland and the Toronto Music Garden.
In July 2004, Mayor David Miller and Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, Chair, Harbourfront Parks Steering Committee unveiled the new location for a waterfront park, HTO.
The winning design team for Phase I consisted of Janet Rosenberg & Associates Landscapes Architects of Toronto and Claude Cormier Architects Paysagistes Inc. of Montreal. Together they created the design known as HTO. The name represents the fundamental changes that will take place in the relationship between Toronto and the waterfront.