Sherbourne Commons, Toronto, Canada

Source: Tom Arban.


PFS Studio

Type of Area

Natural lake

Land/water interaction


Built Environment Types

Highly built
Low green

Scale of Impact

District/ neighbourhood

Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Moderate site

Project Types

Green infrastructure
Outdoor Recreation
Infrastructure regeneration

Urban/ Rural

Inner urban area

Visibility and Openness

Partly contained
Partly enclosed

Combining Engineering with Art and Design

The Sherbourne Commons is a brownfield regeneration project located on 1.47 hectares (3.63 acres) land along a neglected area of Toronto’s waterfront with a post-industrial heritage. The project was designed by landscape architects PFS Studio and Associates for the Waterfront Toronto and made open to public in 2010 before completion in 2011.

The public space has been created by developing a connecting park equipped with storm water treatment facilities. The park presents a concept interweaving landscape design, architecture, engineering and public art. The place caters to a large, mixed use waterfront community and has become a popular flexible waterfront park with the essential facilities for a diverse community.

The park offers places for tranquillity and places for recreation and active socialising. For children, the park provides many opportunities for play, information gathering and relaxation that also includes children’s playgrounds. 

The main landscape and sculptural features installed in the park form a composition of storm water collection and purification before discharge into Lake Ontario. The water treatment system consists of an UV treatment unit, a water cascade with a series of light showers and a bio-filtration plant bed and aquatic grass beds.

The civic amenities, green space, lawn, splash, plaza and pavilions complement and are integrated with the nature-based solutions. The park provides an opportunity for activities in all seasons and different times of the day.

The water treatment units, especially the water showers, create visual interest as well as active water interaction opportunities. It is a good example of reconnecting and re-engaging people with the old and forgotten waterfront.The park exemplifies landscape design for public engagement with nature, community integration and increased opportunities for socialisation, sustainability and innovation.

The sustainability features incorporated in the park include easy access to public transport, bicycle storage, reduction of light pollution as well as water efficient planting. The project saves a huge amount of potable water by treating and reusing storm water. Overall, the park offers a destination for recreation and relaxation in a dense and busy urban environment while preserving the Genius loci

Perception and Meaning

Focal point

Health and Wellbeing

Place affordance
Increased physical activities
Increases socialisation
Aesthetic experience

Interaction with Water


According to the ratings this project is highly accessible. High variability in scores were found for rest of the aspects. Design quality and site planning and circulation of people scored very well, although the project is considered expensive to maintain because of all the pumps and other technical equipment.

The protection of cultural heritage was rated lower, since there is none to take into account. In terms of facilities and amenities, the site received good scores for lighting, the range of facilities and accessibility of facilities. It is rather wind exposed.

The site provides good amount of seating facilities and quality of nature experience. In terms of health and well-being the site received good scores for safety and sense of place aspects with excellent scores for the opportunity for sensory stimulations.

Water connectivity was highly scored for promoting water visibility and access to water. For physical activities, children play was scored highest followed by informal sports opportunities. The site design divided the sites very well into different zones for activities. Water sports do not of course feature here, nor does access from the water and so water safety equipment is not needed..