Measuring the city for humanity.
Last night kicked off part one of the four-part Toronto Trilogy hosted by Architecture for Humanity Toronto at the Design Exchange. It's a lecture series title that would make Hitchhiker's Guide writer Douglas Adams proud.
John Lorinc moderated a panel of three experts in episode one, "Toronto Remembered", or as a pessimist might say: "Some good ideas that failed."
Each speaker took a different avenue for relaying some trappings of Toronto's evolution.
Joint Chair of the Toronto Society of Architects, Antonio Gomez-Palacio talked about the ever-expanding grid pattern of city routes and how the scale went from awesome (walkable in the core) to awful (drivable in the 'burbs). Irony note: the series is sponsored by Audi -maker of suburban soccer moms' beloved A7.
Patrick Cummins from the Toronto Archives took us on a Powerpoint tour of filed-away dreams, like a circular subway, a massive shipping centre on the waterfront, and a classy city square.
If you missed this stuff, you should probably go buy Mark Osbaldeston's Unbuilt Toronto, which, in a shocking spark of forethought, I brought with me and used as an unofficial lecture program. The book got a couple of shout-outs from the panel, so it's expert approved.
Cummins also answered a question that's always bugged me about Toronto: why are so many east-west streets uneven (often forcing you to jog north or south)?
Well, it turns out old-time Toronto's sub-division into privately-owned swaths of land called park lots led to nice north-south avenues, but terrible options for east-west. Dundas is a good example of the jagged line and according to Cummins, one reason we can have Yonge-Dundas Square.
Urban Studies prof emerita Frances Frisken rounded out the night with a three-stage tale of how the TTC went from early glory to recent flops like the shoddy Scarborough line made to showcase, um, Ontario's advanced technology, or finger-crossed hope for future density along the Sheppard stub. Her talk can be heard here.
If there's one thing to improve for future lectures, though, it's the time allotment. 10 minutes ended up being much too brief to provide deep analysis (just enough for priming a general audience) so, sadly, the lecture didn't fully utilize the expertise on hand.