East York Mirror
Old tires may not seem like the most sustainable items out there, but thanks to an initiative by the Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS), Evergreen Brick Works and two Humber College grads, the public is catching a glimpse of their potential.
The students, Gloria Perez and Jessica Gafic, designed a new space at the Brick Works using recycled tire products as a surface. Titled “On the Riverbank,” the space consists largely of tires that have been converted into a walking surface.
“These types of projects get at the heart of how simple ideas can be impactful and important,” said Brick Works executive director Geoff Cape.
Perez and Gafic, both of whom are recent Humber College interior design grads, won a competition among Ontario post-secondary students for the honour of being able to design the space. The duo also took home $3,000 in prize money.
“I was always an advocate of sustainability, but this pushed us in a different direction,” Perez said. “Being interior designers, we typically think about interior design, so it was a challenge designing an outdoor space.”
On the Riverbank includes a wide, light blue path that mimics the shape and colour of Mud Creek, along with rubberized climbing areas for children, mulch, red maples and perennials. The path is made of springy SofSURFACES tiles, which are created out of recycled tires. The climbing areas and even the mulch also make use of recycled rubber.
Using recycled tires opened the graduates’ eyes to the possibilities that can be opened up when a little ingenuity is applied to an item many believe to be destined for landfill.
“It made me wonder what can happen to other things we use every day and how they can be incorporated and recycled,” Gafic said.
The fast-draining, mold-and-mildew-resistant rubberized surfaces are particularly beneficial for an area such as the Brick Works, which has experienced flooding in the past.
OTS executive director Andrew Horsman said the winning design was selected from a pool of 17 entries, all of which came from college and university students. He outlined the challenges facing the design teams, who had to create their designs using at least 40 per cent recycled rubber products.
“(Competitors) were told what the sightlines were and given a video tour, and we talked as well about how the space is used,” he said. “If it was only used as a play place, that would mean different parameters than something that’s used for play and for leisure but that also has to accommodate having five-ton trucks driven over it, which is the case with this space.”
For Gafic, seeing the design she helped create actually installed at the Brick Works makes what was already a special place for her even more special.
“I did my wedding pictures here and I usually come here with my dog,” she said. “That’s why we were both interested (in the competition); we both use (Brick Works.)”
Cape pointed out that the project - and indeed, the entire competition - dovetailed nicely with Evergreen’s own mission.
“It was what we wanted - a passive recreation area where kids could run around and do what they want,” he said. “But it also makes use of an item that a lot of people don’t see as being recyclable and finds a new use for it.”
Following the success of Perez and Gafic’s design, the OTS is holding its second design competition using recycled tires, with teams asked to revitalize a space at the Metro Central YMCA in downtown Toronto. For more information, visit www.otsdesignchallenge.com