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CanU 2020- Step up conversation
Access to Nature

Connecting natural systems and smaller urban landscapes across cities and neighbourhoods can provide for a deeper, ecologically resilient public realm that facilitates placemaking, honours culture, and serves the innate human need
for access to nature. 

  September 30th 2020


Jeanna South

Director of Sustainability,
City of Saskatoon


Sheila Boudreau

Landscape Architect + Planner,
Sprucelab/Ryerson University (Toronto, On)


Kelty McKinnon

PFS Studio (Vancouver, BC) 

Michael Ormston-Holloway

Principal + Partner, The Planning Partnership (Toronto, On)

Valeria Pagliaro

Urban Landscape Design Director
and Partner, LAND (Milan, Italy) 

Meet the panel

Access to Nature Recording
Play Video

What we’ve heard

The protection of natural systems and resources, the resiliency of human-made environments, and access to nature stand out even more poignantly than before as key concerns for the future of our planet and societies. We need to think boldly about the encounter between natural systems and urban design, between nature and culture. Both large-scale development and small-scale interventions must be handled in a more radical, cross-disciplinary approach.

Whereas sciences-based approaches should guide decision making there is much to learn from indigenous worldviews regarding our relationship, interconnectivity, and responsibility to the natural world. Sensitivity and openness to other forms of knowledge also remind us of our planning and design fields’ responsibility to ensure all voices in the design of open spaces and the need to create design environments that guarantee citizen engagement.

“ How do you re-value and bring into the forefront
Indigenous ways of knowing? And so, we’re kind of using
the language of colonization, to measure and quantify,
in order to argue and bring into being those larger
systems-thinking changes that benefit more than just
people, but that also benefit animals, trees, all of those
sort of interconnected systems of life.

 – Kelty McKinnon                    





(Listen panel conversation at 30'00)


  • Endorse an all-living-things ethic. 

  • Rethink the duality urban / nature.

  • Plan on a watershed basis. Adopt a systemic, metropolitan-wide approach where green spaces of all sizes work together in a comprehensive ecological framework.

  • Integrate privately-owned and publicly-owned green spaces.

  • Go beyond recreation: think of green spaces as fundamental social and ecological infrastructure.

“ We need to address what are the services that these spaces provide in terms of climate change, carbon sequestration, habitat value, cleaning stormwater, infiltrating stormwater, and those are all measurable. And we do need to […] argue
for a system that will adopt them, because [of] the economic advantages.”



– Kelty Mckinnon                    







(Listen panel conversation at 28'28)

  • Initiate green projects as true opportunities for reconciliation with first nations and métis people


  • Ensure equitable access to green space for all.

  • Develop performance targets and measures of ecological benefits to assess and promote the fundamental value of green systems and infrastructure

“ It’s convenient to build green infrastructure because
if you compare the costs of the green infrastructure
to the cost of the damages that are done when you don’t
have such an infrastructure, then of course flooding
into a city would cost much more than building a retention basin, for instance, so the comparison is quite easy to do,
it’s just that we need to think in terms of prevention rather than trying to put a patch later.”

– Valeria Pagliaro                    


(Listen panel conversation on green infrastructure at 1h04'19)

  • Tax grey infrastructure.

  • Advocate locally so that every city succeeds in developing a Green Plan.

  • Generate local champions that can push the envelope at the political level.

  • Engage in the network of creative cities to exchange and learn from others.

  • Leverage relationships and involve landowners.

  • Ensure all stakeholders come in early in every project to foster common understanding.

  • Plan large scale but develop small scale and step-by-step strategies.

Design differently


  • Create an interconnected network of green patches and corridors throughout the urban environment with green spaces of various sizes and functions.

  • Rethink streets and infrastructure rights-of-way for biodiversity connectivity. ​​

See the Toronto Green Streets pilot projects

  • Breakup monofunctional environments with hybrid and layered landscape and infrastructure components.

  • Rewild the City: bring living systems deep into our cities and introduce true living ecosystems into urban neighborhoods.

  • Set aside land for other species, including wild spaces that are not accessible to people.

  • Choose native trees to serve as host for native insects, birds, etc. Value of trees is immense


Click on pictures to view details

Anchor 1

The panel

Jeanna South headshot.jpg
Sheila Boudreau headshot.jpg
Kelty DSC_7789 (2)300dpi.jpg
2020.08_Michael Ormston-Holloway.jpg
Valeria Pagliaro.jpg

Jeanna South (Host)

Director of Sustainability, City of Saskatoon


Jeanna South is the Director of Sustainability for the City of Saskatoon. Her previous work for the municipality includes Interim Director of Major Projects, Special Projects Manager and Manager of Urban Design. Jeanna is a member and past president of the Saskatchewan Association of Architects and registered with the Canadian Institute of Planners. 

Sheila Boudreau
Landscape Architect + Planner, Sprucelab/Ryerson University Toronto, Ontario

Sheila Boudreau is the founder, owner, and principal of SpruceLab. She is a landscape architect and Registered Professional Planner with over 25 years of professional experience,and undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture and fine art from the University of Guelph, and a Masters of Arts (Planning) from the University of Waterloo. She combines her collaborative nature-based practice with advocacy, teaching, and creative research, with a community focus. Past work includes urban design, City of Toronto, (Toronto Green Streets), Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (The Meadoway, Martin Goodman Trail), and DTAH (Waterfront Toronto’s Water's Edge Promenade, and Evergreen Brick Works). She is an instructor with Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, and the University of Toronto's John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. And she is on the Board of Advisors for Ryerson Urban Water, and Urban Minds. She resides in Toronto with her husband and three children, and is proudly of Acadian, Mi’kmaq and Celtic descent.


Kelty McKinnon

Director / Principle PFS Studio (Vancouver, BC)

Kelty McKinnon is a Landscape Architect and Principal at PFS Studio. With over 20 years of professional experience, Kelty brings a diverse background in landscape architecture, art, and environmental studies to all of the projects that she leads at PFS. Specializing in projects dealing with the public realm, she is committed to the creation of unique, innovative, equitable, and meaningful public spaces. 


Kelty has played a key role in several high profile public realm projects including the international Toronto Harbourfront Competition for which PFS placed second, the winning Redmond Downtown Park competition (recently constructed), Lansdowne Park on the Rideau Canal, the Lower Don Lands Precinct Plan and the West Don Lands Public Realm Plan in Toronto. She has recently completed the Nicomekl Riverfront Park Master Plan with the City of Surrey, working closely with City staff to develop new approaches to parks within flood prone regions. She was involved with UBC’s three year MITACS Study on design approaches to Climate driven Sea Level Rise. She has also been Principal in Charge on several downtown Vancouver projects including Vancouver House, 1550 Alberni with Kengo Kuma, the new Vancouver Art Gallery, 1500 Robson, and Telus Garden. 


Kelty has been an adjunct professor at UBC SALA where she taught design studios and theory courses focusing on the production of emergent landscapes that engage environmental and cultural ecologies. Her studios have dealt with the design of cultural precincts, waterfronts, campus design, parks, streetscapes, and public plazas.




Michael Ormston-Holloway

Principal + Partner, The Planning Partnership (Toronto, On)

Michael is a Partner with the firm, working as a landscape and urban ecologist, as well as certified arborist, with over 15-years experience working in the related fields. Michael specializes in the urban environment, integrating the experience of thoughtful landscape design with the importance of functional ecological systems; working toward better connections with people and their natural environment. 

Michael has successfully integrated the skillsets of design and ecology, while enriching these principles in the built environment, with insight as an arborist, horticulturist, and soil scientist. Together this has provided him with a strong scientific knowledge set that we apply to our projects to inform our designs with increased attention to the natural environment. Michael believes that a detailed understanding of the biotic realm of landscape architecture, and a strong understanding of planting design, ensures a more valuable landscape experience. 


Michael has a unique perspective on water in the urban context, and is regularly promoting projects with a greater application of LID principles, both water-related, and otherwise. Additionally, he has applied sustainable design principles around the management and design of Southern Ontario’s ravines, rivers, and waterfronts, having worked extensively within the Humber River and Don River floodplains, as well as in numerous ravines and sub-tributaries in the City. Designing and revitalizing parks with significant water elements both in Toronto, and abroad, Michael has honed skills of implementing plans that are driven by environmental sensitivity and a functional ecosystem-level approach to design. 


Additional to this, Michael has focussed intensely on the Ontario ecological conditions, having honed his skills as a practising certified arborist and ecologist. In this capacity Michael has helped produce several waterfront master plans, such as the Lower Don Lands, Toronto, ON, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ; reenvisioned and revitalized wetlands such as the Brickworks, Toronto, ON, or Lake Whitney Treatment Plant, New Haven, CT; and, restored ravine parklands and stabilized slopes in Blythwood Ravine, Toronto, Glendon College Campus of York University, and the Lake Huron bluff
in Goderich, ON. 


Michael currently lectures on urban ecology, ecological integrity, landscape restoration/rehabilitation/revitalization at the University of Toronto in the Daniel’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, as well as at the University of Waterloo in the School of Planning division of the Faculty of Environment, and the University of Guelph Arboretum. He has practised landscape architecture and urban ecology in Canada and the USA, currently working on a range of international projects with The Planning Partnership, Toronto, and previously with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, New York.


Valeria Pagliaro

Urban Landscape Design Director and Partner, LAND (Milan, Italy)

Born in Italy in 1980, she was educated as an Architect at Politecnico di Milano and TU Delft (NL). After a short experience in the field of architecture, since 2006 she joined LAND group and is now partner of LAND Italia and Director of the Urban Landscape Design department.

Among other projects, she developed key urban regeneration schemes, such as Porta Nuova, MIND-Milan INnovation District, and MilanoSesto in Milan, Tor di Valle Stadium in Rome and the former Tobacco Factory in Naples as well as Moscow Smart City in Moscow and the Corridor de Biodiversité de Saint-Laurent in Montréal. 


Her experience is focused on imagining, modelling and building the cities of our future. Confronting a constant growth in urban population, landscape design is the common field where environmental protection, social wellbeing and urban infrastructures combine to lead the development of our cities.

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