You are now in the main content area

More than a simple bench

Architectural Science students convert city parking to zen oasis
Category:Inspiring Industry Leaders
June 22, 2017

Photo: A collaborative initiative among Downtown Yonge B.I.A. and Ryerson University, the student-designed parklet was unveiled to the public on June 16, 2017. Photo credit: Brian B. Bettencourt 

Architectural Science Professor Vincent Hui is always on the hunt for unique experiential learning opportunities for his students. Real-world assignments not only allow his students to build their portfolio, but the opportunity to manage a team, oversee a project budget and collaborate with industry partners. This past November, Hui and Downtown Yonge B.I.A. assigned a new extracurricular design project to Ryerson students that was unveiled to the public June 16, 2017.

The project, a parklet (also known as a sidewalk extension), adds to the amenities of the city streets and provides an inviting atmosphere for the public to rest and enjoy the downtown scenery. Hui invited third year Architectural Science student, Jason Glionna to lead the project. Glionna worked with his fellow students John Benner, Gregorio Jimenez, Tess Macpherson, Joana Benin, Marissa Lu and Diana Sobaszek.

“The parklet is my third extracurricular design project that I have had on the go. This has kept me very busy in between classes, but I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to work with the Downtown Yonge B.I.A., Upper Canada Forest Products, Professor Vincent Hui and my team on this very unique collaboration,” said Glionna. “While we do a lot of teamwork in class, this experience has taught me how to design for and communicate with a client, coordinate meetings, source materials and follow a strict budget.”

Student design team

Photo: The student design team enjoy the parklet and scenery (top row, from left): Tess Macpherson, Joana Benin and Gregorio Jimenez (bottom row, from left): Diana Sobaszek, Marissa Lu, John Benner and Jason Glionna. Photo credit: Brian B. Bettencourt

Located at 15 Elm St., the parklet was opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Tom Duever, dean, Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science, Mark Garner, chief operating officer and executive director, Downtown Yonge B.I.A, and Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and were in attendance.

“In declaring our intention as a city builder, Ryerson made a commitment not just to build new buildings, but to enrich and contribute to public life in Toronto in a variety of ways,” said Duever. “As instructors, we like to challenge our students by having them apply their knowledge to hands-on experience outside of the classroom. It is a great success for the students and for Ryerson to be showcased at such a high level within the city.”

The student team presented several design iterations to the Downtown Yonge B.I.A., who selected the final concept called Kinetics, which was inspired by contours, curves and movement.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Ryerson University, and to be taking the next step in the evolution of Downtown Yonge’s parklet program,” said Garner. “…this parklet helps us move toward our goal of ensuring that this area is livable, as well as economically strong.”

The parklet was built with Accoya wood, a fast-growing sustainable wood that was generously donated by Upper Canada Forest Products. Accoya is frequently used for public installations in Europe, but it is the first time this material was used for an installation in Toronto.

“Thank you to the extraordinary students at Ryerson for their dedication to this installation – I can honestly say this parklet is very beautiful,” said Wong-Tam. “Through the energy of collaboration, we’ve created a higher civic use for what used to be parking places and the result is a visionary design that Torontonians can enjoy all summer long.”


Inspiring Industry Leaders is a series by the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, and Ryerson Today. Each story showcases the opportunities for student learning outside the traditional classroom. From internships to co-ops, conferences and industry travel – Ryerson students are gaining career-focused experience, enhancing their degree and discovering opportunities to make an impact in their field and on society.

Related stories:

Innovation through collaboration

Five tips for amplifying your postgrad experience

Designing with heart

Healthful eats, fruitful careers