Tag Archive | Urban Planning

Temporal Toronto Mashup

by Ben

Just a quick post to point you towards a beautiful set of pictures on Torontoist.  Alden Cudanin has created a set of seamlessly merged photos of key points around Toronto that combines old timey streetscenes with its modern equivalent.  Check it out here.

The effect of these mashups is stunning: some make me sad for what we’ve lost, like the University and Armoury shot, while others highlight that we managed to preserve some parts of our history.

So, here’s your midday distraction.  Now get back to work!


Demolition by Neglect

Post by Ben

As mentioned previously, my brother is the Executive Director of Jefferson East Business Association.  In JEBAs most recent newsletter there was a little snippet on “demolition by neglect”, which is defined as “the destruction of a building through abandonment or lack of maintenance“.  JEBA has had great success in the past year in charging owners of neglected buildings with demolition by neglect, which “require building owners to maintain their buildings according to pre-established standards; failure to maintain can lead to fines or injunctive relief.”

Demolition by neglect is major problem in Detroit, but is not limited to cities that have borne the brunt of economic hardship.  This past summer I had the pleasure of attending a Jane’s Walk hosted by members of the St. James Town Youth Council in Toronto.  The walk itself was fascinating, especially the portions that focused on “desire paths” (more on that in a later post), but of particular interest was a bit of side information I learned from the youth running the tour.

On this quiet dead end street across from St. James Town there is series of four semi-attached homes.  As you can see on Google Streetview, they are beautiful houses with tons of character, and the street has a rich history outlined beautfiully by Heritage Toronto here.

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The re-birth of Toronto’s waterfront?

Some more details are emerging on Toronto’s waterfront revitalization efforts.  Christopher Hume has a nice write up in the Star today on the proposed “Parkside” development at Sherbourne and Queens Quay, calling the development “the best thing to have been proposed for Toronto’s long-neglected harbour lands in decades.”  If you think that’s a lofty claim, you haven’t seen Toronto’s waterfront.

Having a striking new development is exciting and it’s always great to have architecture that takes risks.  I’m not in love with the cubist look, necessarily, but you never can really get a feel for these things from the renderings.  I do like the attempt to break up the typical glass block in the sky look of Toronto condos.  And if promises are followed up on, I will be happy with the amount of mixed use development involved.  And the promise of 3-bedroom apartments is important in terms of giving families options outside of the typical semi-attached home.

Check out some images from the article below, click to see full size and find the full gallery here.

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Sliding the Past into the Future

Came across this terrific slide show (in more ways than one, waaah wah) posted on the NY Times examining the fall of the Berlin Wall.  First time I’d seen a technique like this presented so elegantly.  Check it out, I guarantee you’ll get hooked on sliding the pictures back and forth. (As an aside, I can’t figure out if photographers were commissioned to recreate the old pictures, or if they are stock photos photo-shopped to match – anyone know?)

Anyway, as cool as this is, the real reason this grabbed my attention was the perspective it offered on both the loss of older buildings in a city, but more importantly the reuse of older buildings.  Some are restored, some are integrated into newer buildings.  Before/after photo comparisons aren’t anything new, but the ability to seamlessly layer the pictures in this way provides a terrific opportunity to examine what happened to the buildings in the photographs.

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Toronto has design lessons to teach?

Don’t you just love when you come up with a timely post that is validated by someone else?

Benjamin Forgey (all the smart people are named Ben) had a nice piece in the Washington Business Journal recounting his recent visit to Toronto and his impressions of the AGO, ROM and OCAD, and what lessons Washington D.C. planners can take.

His take on the AGO is especially nice, and sums up what I tried to express in my previous post by saying the AGO makes me “happy”.  He just does it a bit more elegantly.

Check out the article here, it’s worth a read.

Thanks go to Urban Toronto contributor yyzer for the tip.

Architecture and Anger

Interesting piece from Christopher Hume yesterday examining Alain de Botton’s new book The Architecture of Happiness.  The basic idea is that architecture has the power to influence our emotions positively or negatively (or in Toronto’s case, not at all).  De Botton points to the shift towards modernism in the 20th century, the advent of the automobile, and the decline of female influences in architecture as examples of where missteps occurred.

The result? Architects who engage in “endless ‘professional posturing’ and the absence of beauty as a goal of architecture.”  We are left with architecture that rarely makes our spirits soar, often angers us and typically leaves us unimpressed.  Think of your typical reaction to this scenario: a mid-rise historical skyscraper is slated for demolition; the replacement, a towering glass cube bereft of character, architectural details and, yes, emotion.  I tend to experience equal amounts of despair and resignation when this scene plays out, as it does many times in a city such as Toronto.

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Much delayed Toronto subway extension a go

It appears that the federal government has finally gotten their house in order and is getting much needed funding to the Province of Ontario after 2 years of stalling by the Harper government. The feds are chipping in their $697-million share of the $2-billion dollar Spadina subway extension, according to the Toronto Star.

Any subway extension is good news in my book (even the poorly conceived and pointless Sheppard line, but barely), but this stretch is especially important to Toronto. Take a look at the proposed extension below (for the full view, check out my subway map here):

Image courtesy of Spadina Subway Extension Project

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Goodbye, Gardiner?

On Friday the Toronto Star led with a report that Mayor David Miller has finally gotten behind a plan to start tearing down the god awful Gardiner expressway along the Toronto waterfront. While the proposed plan doesn’t remove the entire expressway, it is a promising start.

The proposed plan (which is light on details) suggests tearing down the 2.5 kms of the Gardiner, from the Don Valley Parkway to Jarvis street. The stretch is highlighted below (click for larger image).

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