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The ideas that sparked Evergreen Brick Works

Published on April 29, 2020

Ten years ago this September we opened the doors to Evergreen Brick Works. But well before the marketplace began bustling, songs and laughter were heard in the Children’s Garden, and hands got digging in the greenhouse, Evergreen had invested eight years in planning, designing, proposing, constructing and piloting to transform the abandoned brick factory to community hub.

One of the initial concepts that launched the project was the idea of a native plant nursery that would provide youth with employment and skills-development opportunities, propagate native plants that would support the delivery of our mission and generate a financial return that would support our charitable mandate.

Great idea– but where?

Evergreen set its sights on reimagining a derelict industrial property nestled in the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley— an abandoned brick factory called the Don Valley Brick Works. The original renderings, created by Evergreen’s artist-in-residence Ferrucio Sardella, captured some of the early ideas that inspired the site we know today.

From these initial concepts to opening day in September 2010 to the present day, the Brick Works has evolved to become a leading example of adaptive reuse, thriving community hub and a demonstration site where the world can experience sustainable practices that enable flourishing cities of the future.

Here is a peek at some of the original renderings that inspired the Brick Works.

Childrens Garden digital rendition. Children playing in greenspace, Valley chimney visible

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The Children’s Garden. One of our most popular destinations on-site was inspired by the natural landscape and designed by kids. With 20 years of working with school groups and greening spaces in our back pockets, Evergreen built the Children’s Garden as the hub for experiential nature-based education at the Brick Works. Later in 2018, the Children’s Garden underwent capital redevelopments to improve the base infrastructure and add new features to the beloved landscape. The new Water Works Studio made that year was part of the original design proposal for the space!

Digital rendition of skating rink, people skating beside heritage kilns

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The Skating Rink. Yes, skating was part of the Evergreen Brick Works plan since the beginning! During construction in May 2010, Evergreen laid down the foundation for the rink, a sustainable cooling system that would redirect heat to the adjacent enclosed building. From the very first winter, only three months after opening, Koerner Gardens was transformed into the picturesque skating rink that we’ve come to love each winter.

Koerner Gardens people planting and exploring

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Koerner Gardens. When it’s not a skating rink, it serves as a public space surrounded by the magic of green gardens below exposed beams of the old brick factory. This great idea was made possible by the generosity of donors Michael and Sonja Koerner. And the space continues to evolve. In 2019, our dedicated donors Rosanne Berry and Stephen Young helped revitalize the gardens to make them even more bright and beautiful!

Koerner Gardens, people gardening and exploring

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The Kiln Building. Originally proposed as an extension of Koerner Gardens, Evergreen began redevelopment in 2018 to transform this space into what is now the national hub for Future Cities Canada. Fully enclosed, the TD Future Cities Centre is now a dynamic year-round space to showcase and celebrate ideas and solutions on thriving and sustainable cities from across Canada and the world.

Ideas - forming them, adapting and scaling them - are at the heart of what Evergreen does. Interested in learning more about what brought Evergreen Brick Works to life? Read Transformation: the Story of Creating Evergreen Brick Works, produced after the site officially opened. We’ll be sharing more stories about the history of Evergreen Brick Works throughout the year to celebrate turning 10.