The design of Evergreen Brick Works transforms a deteriorating industrial site in Toronto’s Don Valley into an environmentally themed community landmark and to engage visitors in experiences connected to nature and the city.
The adaptive reuse of the site’s “village” of 15 existing buildings formed the basis of the revitalization; the principals of “light touch and loose fit” ensures flexibility as programming needs change over time. Combinations of discrete interventions were used, and a network of bridges and walkways connect the buildings, allowing landscape to penetrate the site while maintaining its original character.
To capture the spirit of the historic site and its industrial heritage, the Centre for Green Cities knits the new building into and around the existing elements. Old brick walls, steel structures, and metal sheds are retained and define the footprint of the building. Preserving these features was one of the project’s key challenges, made more ambitious by Evergreen’s objective for a LEED Platinum facility.
The five-storey Centre serves as the head office for the non-profit Evergreen and like-minded social enterprise. The ground floor includes event space, classrooms, interpretative displays and a kitchen for cooking classes. It connects to the Young Welcome Centre, a multi-purpose space with the original brick press and foreman’s shed in situ.
Evergreen Brick Works demonstrates the value of built heritage as architectural and cultural infrastructure of significant worth, and demonstrates approaches to the adaptive reuse of existing buildings – all within an overall framework of sustainability. The industrial legacy of the site remains intact, while its new legacy as a centre for environmental education adds yet another layer to the rich evolving history of the site.