The Netherlands

West 8 urban design & landscape architecture b.v.

Nico Koomanskade 1021
3072 LM Rotterdam
The Netherlands

+31 (0) 10 485 5801


West 8 Brussels urban design & landscape architecture bvba

Waaienberg 123
1745 Opwijk

+31 (0) 10 485 5801

North America

West 8 urban design & landscape architecture p.c.

2133 Arch Street, Suite 101
Philadelphia, PA 19103
United States of America

+1 347 371 2252

West 8 wins competition for new park in Toronto

TORONTO / ROTTERDAM – On December 18th, 2023, The City of Toronto selected West 8 as the winners of the competition to design a park at 229 Richmond Street W in the heart of the city’s downtown entertainment district. The winning design concept, Wàwàtesí, which translates to “Firefly” in Anishinaabemowin, was conceived by West 8 in collaboration with hcma Architecture and Design, Native Art Department International, MinoKamik Collective, ARUP, KG&A, ERA Architects, and A.W. Hooker.

The Wàwàtesí design concept integrates culture, public art, landscape, light and space for performance. This thoughtful approach provides an engaging 24/7 urban park for visitors, residents and those who work in the area to enjoy.

The winning design emerged from a two-stage design competition, evaluated by a distinguished panel of experts in landscape architecture, Indigenous placekeeping, architecture, urban design, art and climate resilience. Praising the design, the Jury noted in their report that the West 8 team “challenge[d] conventions around public space and public art” with a “clear and poetic narrative” and created “a thoughtful approach to providing a green oasis, with particular attention to the location of trees, the planting palette, and the intent to provide shade tolerant planting in the microclimate under the under the Balcony”. The Jury’s final decision was also informed by public input and comment from a City of Toronto Steering Committee and Community Advisory Group. Over the next two years, including community engagement, the Wàwàtesí concept will be transformed and elaborated further into a more detailed site design. The construction of the City-owned 2,600 square metre park is anticipated to commence in 2025.

The site of the future park is located on the traditional territory of many Nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. We acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.

About the design / Design statement:
Wàwàtesí is a park with a night life and a winter attitude, who is not afraid to share silenced stories and urgent agendas. In a place where skyscrapers have eaten up the city, Wàwàtesí becomes the compass, lighting the trail to renewal and transformation. She is the boutique and alternative backstage platform of Toronto’s Downtown Arts district: an authentic place for people of all walks of life to discover unique integrated experiences of landscape, light, and performance. The concept for Wàwàtesí could create Toronto’s first park with a curator and her own tailored calendar of arts events and installations. This is a place where traditional myths are given contemporary mediums.

Wàwàtesí (Anishinaabemowin: firefly) symbolizes the cycle of life, healing, and the passage of time. Along with the creek that used to cross the site who was buried by Toronto’s rapid urbanization, fireflies have all but disappeared from the urban landscape. Her name calls attention to the power of the unseen and supernatural.

Wàwàtesí invites you to enter a multi-level journey through the woodlands from each of the four directions, as actor and audience in the theatre of life. A stream-like trail leads you along seven stepping stones with different experiential qualities. The Eastern Gateway – humane laneway and park welcome, The Balcony – place to watch and perform, The Riverbed Playscape – with hammocks and slide, The Grove – for fireflies, The Green – to gather, The Source – of water and light, and The Canvas – for light. Her seasonally shape-shifting art piece Aki Illuminations (Anishinaabemowin: Earth Illuminations) celebrates solstice, equinox, and transformation.

“Wàwàtesí is a vision for a transformative world-class park that can become a true place of performance and reconciliation in the heart of Toronto’s arts district. To respond to the City’s innovative brief and site conditions, our team worked in intense collaboration to give birth to a 21st century culture park that aims to be radically inclusive. The design is heavily informed by local Indigenous teachings, art, and philosophy, along with a healthy appreciation for the invisible and sublime, and the dynamic urban life and subcultures of Toronto. West 8 are proud and honoured to be selected to continue developing Wàwàtesí’s unique integration of landscape, architecture, art, and storytelling set within a novel urban ecology.” – West 8 design team

Toronto, Canada

City of Toronto

West 8 – landscape architecture
Minokamik Collective – Indigenous design partner
Native Art Department International – public artist
hcma architects – architect
ERA Architects – heritage and public engagement
kg&a – strategic communications and programming

For more information, visit the City’s website: LINK
Please contact:

Erika Richmond
Project Officer, The City of Toronto
Telephone: (+1) 416-394-5770


About West 8:
West 8 is an industry-leading design agency working across the fields of urban planning, landscape architecture and infrastructure. Headquartered in Rotterdam, and with offices in Belgium and Philadelphia, West 8 has established itself as a leading practice with an international and multi-disciplinary team of 70 architects, urban designers, landscape architects and industrial engineers.