Land Of The Lost, a "ghetto Disneyland" created by artists out of broken toys and rubble on a vacant lot off Lansdowne, met the crushing efforts of a clean-up crew last week.
Seems Channington Developments , which plans to build a townhouse complex on the site, wasn't keen on the lot being converted into an experiment in what Land-lubbers like to call "relational aesthetics," defined as "a cultural practice based on inter-human relations."
A stuffed toy guard dog, sand pail and sign declaring "Land Of The Lost R.I.P." are all that's left of the makeshift urban playground that used to feature a staircase and tower, faux cemetery, bedroom, dining area, dance floor and conversation pit -- all fashioned from furniture dragged to the lot. They're now all sitting in a giant dumpster at the site.
Says Channington spokesperson Phil Weinstein, "They should be smarter than leaving their stuff around. No one knew what it was; it looked like pure junk. They're lucky they weren't arrested. They should have asked for permission.-
True, the lot hosted the odd art party. Organizer Jubal Brown says simply, "Children play in vacant lots because there are no adults, no rules. We built a fun land for ourselves out of the city's detritus."
According to area councillor Adam Giambrone
, the city owns more than 5,000 vacant lots that could be turned over to artists, used for events or made into green spaces, but staff would need to look at proposals individually.
But in general, he says, "it doesn't make sense" to use municipal dollars to clean up the spaces or artify them -- even though the city does spruce up vacant lots by commissioning a mural from time to time. Giambrone says there are a host of safety and insurance issues.
But is the city being a tad overzealous about safety? Toronto Public Space Committee campaign coordinator Jonathan Goldsbie argues that residents in individual neighbourhoods should be able to negotiate with the city or private owners about turning vacant lots into usable spaces. After all, it's residents who have to endure these blights on their landscape, sometimes for years on end.
For those still aching to play in a giant sandbox, Brown's plotting his next event. But you'll have to wait for the full moon.