Prix du XXe siècle — 2020 Recipient | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Prix du XXe siècle — 2020 Recipient

Humber Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge

Montgomery Sisam Architects

Award Category: 
Prix du XXe siècle

The Humber River Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge provides a vital link to the waterfront trail system along the shore of Lake Ontario. The design called for an integrated team of engineers, architects, landscape architects and artists, so that the project could provide a narrative of the cultural and natural heritage of the site.

The tied-arch form and cairn-like concrete abutments mark a gateway to what was once a historic trading route of Eastern Woodlands Indigenous peoples, who frequented the site for over 200 years. The steel superstructure connecting the two tubular arches is patterned with an abstract image of the Thunderbird—ruler of all airborne species—an icon of these Indigenous peoples. Etched panels depicting the site’s complex history are located on walkways beneath the bridge deck. Snake and turtle motifs were incorporated in recognition of the natural world at the mouth of the Humber River. 

Structurally, the bridge’s post-tensioned concrete deck is supported by steel beams suspended by stainless steel rods from two parabolic steel arches. The superstructure was fully constructed on the banks of the river before being hoisted into position by a crane and a barge.

In his memoir “Witness to a City,” former Toronto mayor David Miller writes that the Humber River Bridge “stands for the idea that public investments in great public places have enduring value, and that public money can and should be invested in beautiful places that benefit us all.” 
Ultimately the bridge is a place of connection: between Toronto and Etobicoke, but also between the past, present and future.

Jury Comment(s): 

"This contemporary project successfully incorporates iconic aspects of the history and culture of the site while responding to the current needs for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

The Humber River Bicycle Bridge represents a unique collaboration of design disciplines that has resulted in a beautiful engineering and architectural work.  It is also a forerunner in the creation of non-motorized transportation infrastructure and has become a landmark in the community."

Jury members

Click for full version: 
Detail from path that passes underneath the bridge.

PHOTO: Robert Burley

The bridge provides a stunning view of the Toronto skyline making it a popular destination for photo opportunities.

PHOTO: Tom Arban

Construction of the bridge superstructure.

PHOTO: Uncredited 

Relief sculpture of turtle, 20 of which greet visitors as they cross the bridge and reference the natural world which once inhabited the mouth of the Humber River.

PHOTO: Uncredited 

One of four abutments adorned with snake motifs in recognition of the natural world which once inhabited the mouth of the Humber River.

PHOTO: Matias Kunzle

Cyclists and pedestrians utilizing the bridge during the colder seasons.

PHOTO: Matias Kunzle

View from base of the bridge looking east towards downtown Toronto (1994).

PHOTO: Robert Burley

View from base of the bridge looking east towards downtown Toronto (2020).

PHOTO: Matias Kunzle