Porphyry like natural stone cobbles and setts are front and center in several of Waterfront Toronto’s projects, adding permanence, beauty and creating a fundamental sense of place. The role of natural stone is evident throughout many of the projects. Granite is used in these, but porphyry could be substituted for the same durable and attractive purpose.

Waterfront Toronto has undertaken a multi-year,  multi-location set of projects to reclaim and enliven the waterfront. Among them is the transformation of Queens Quay. What’s now a messy and dysfunctional downtown thoroughfare will become an elegant street shared equally by cars, public transit, pedestrians, cyclists — and trees. The remake of Queens Quay has been in the works for years, but, says Dutch landscape architect Adriaan Geuze, that’s to be expected. In 2006, Geuze’s firm, West 8, won an international competition to redesign the Central Waterfront, the area along Queens Quay from Bathurst to Bay.

“I consider all of Queens Quay a boulevard,” he explains. “It is the waterfront boulevard. But today, it feels dangerous. It is dangerous.” Originally an industrial road to the harbour, Queens Quay has been improved over the years but hasn’t kept pace with the changes happening around it. At the same time, its vast potential has grown more apparent. It will be the spine that connects the waterfront’s various  elements and opens it up to residents and visitors alike.

“There won’t be less traffic,” Geuze says, “but it will be friendlier. We have introduced a DNA of street design in which all these different parts are no longer enemies. It will be very readable. There were a lot of technical problems — unstable ground, bridges, huge amounts of utilities and different ownership. Changes like this take a generation.” Certainly, that’s how it feels. And there are still two years to go before construction ends. From a larger civic perspective, the transformation is also a milestone. Since the 1930s, traffic engineers have avoided boulevards because they are thought to be at odds with their preferred “functional” approach. As Allan Jacobs writes in his definitive volume, The Boulevard Book, “this approach to transportation planning concentrated on auto traffic and strove to achieve a specialization of urban streets according to the movement functions they were primarily intended to serve. It paid much less attention to other appropriate uses of streets.”

West 8  

West 8 is an award-winning international office for urban design and landscape architecture, founded in 1987. Over the last 20 years West 8 has established itself as a leading practice with an international team of 70 architects, urban designers, landscape architects and industrial engineers. West 8’s main office is based at the port of Rotterdam, and has two branch offices in Belgium and New York. West 8’s New York office was established after winning an international design competition for the design of Governors Island Park- a 172-acre island in the New York Harbor.

With a multi-disciplinary approach to complex design issues, West 8 has extensive experience in large-scale urban master planning and design, landscape interventions, waterfront projects, parks, squares and gardens.


The revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront is the largest urban redevelopment project currently underway in North America, and it is one of the largest waterfront revitalization efforts ever undertaken in the world. On a world scale,Toronto’s waterfront revitalization is almost unequalled in size. It’s larger than Lower Manhattan south of Houston Street, and four times the size of Monaco. To get a sense of its proportions on a local scale, the total area being redeveloped is 800 hectares (1,977 acres), which translates into an area roughly the size of Toronto’s downtown core, from Bathurst Street to Sherbourne Avenue and Front Street to Bloor Street.

 Renderings courtesy WATERFRONT Toronto


Porphyry’s composition determines its high compression strength, resistance to stains, slip resistance, and high freeze/thaw ratings.  The stone is the most popular paver in Europe, and is favored for its flexibility in design, beauty, durability and low maintenance requirements. ADA Compliant Porphyry pavers are also adaptable to a permeable paving set. The stone is by far one of the most durable pavers in the world.  These beautiful materials are available from Milestone Imports.   Milestone supports the creativity of architects, planners and designers. Porphyry offers surfaces of various finishes and mixed colorings, tending towards tones of grey, gold, violet and red, depending on where it is extracted.  The products are available in North America from Milestone Imports.  –  www.milestoneimports.com