Category Archives: Aesthetics

OpenCity Weekly Review


Editors note: Starting today OpenCity Projects brings you a weekly column every Monday morning, rounding up the best in public spaces from around the world.

  • Innovative Park Creates Unusual Combination
    Sherbourne Common, a newly completed park in Toronto, combines sculpture, children’s play areas, grassy expanses, and an urban canal, with an innovative underground stormwater treatment centre that uses ultraviolet light to clean the water before running it through the above ground portion of the park and out into Lake Ontario. (via The Globe and Mail)

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Car-less Kensington : A Good Idea?

I have always loved shutting down the streets in Toronto’s Kensington Market to cars for the final Sunday of every month from May through October. The streets flood with people and performers. It is obvious this is something desperately wanted by many, and some local businesses boom when it happens.

For years I, and many others, have been frustrated that we cannot shut these streets and others around the city to cars on a more regular, if not, permanent basis. I have written about this frustration in the past. It had never occurred to me that there could be a serious downside to creating a permanent no-car zone in a place like Kensington.

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Making Connections at Richmond Street West

By Jake Tobin Garrett

401 Richmond in downtown Toronto is an adaptive reuse of an old tin factory into a hub of artist studios and galleries. Located at the corner of Spadina Ave and Richmond St West, this huge brick building extends its exterior, dotted with old loading docks, one entire full block east to Peter St. Up until just a few months ago, however, the south side of this stretch of road had no sidewalk. In order to walk east, you had to cross the street and use the thin strip of sidewalk there.

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Architecture Envy

I usually like Christopher Hume. His ideas are often clever and insightful and his arguments well thought out. Unfortunately, I can’t say I feel that way about some of his recent articles.

A little while ago he had this to say about the city of Dubai.

Hume’s conclusion that the city has serious problems is undeniable. But the arguments he uses to get there aren’t well-supported and quickly devolve into straw-man attacks that have little correlation to his objective, ultimately serving up as cheap shots. I lived in Dubai for three years and can say with conviction that the place has its issues. So, I hate when I have to defend Dubai, but here goes…

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Architectural Shouting

The ground breaking ceremony (i.e. they put a shovel in the soil, rather than doing anything remotely innovative) this month for the L Tower at Yonge and Front got me thinking about “look at me” buildings. The renders I’ve seen for the L Tower don’t fill me with enthusiasm for Daniel Libeskind’s latest contribution to Toronto’s cityscape, but it can’t be denied that it’s a unique building. And Toronto is beginning to acquire a few examples of stand-out buildings (One St Thomas, for example) that enliven the skyline and streetline.

But what, I wonder, would Toronto make of this? We have our own, rather quieter, version in the shape of the lit up CN Tower. But what would our city look like if every downtown tower adopted this technology – a glorious celebration of energy and diversity, or a rampant cacophony of commercialism?

For my part, I like the dynamic presentation, especially the starfield effect at 5:17, that completely alters perceptions of the building’s shape – but then you have to remember that I used to work in advertising (and even I find the “children of many nations” sequence at 6:05 nauseating).

What do you think? Just a natural extension of “look at me” architecture, or an insidious attempt to extend advertising’s already pernicious reach?

By Andrew Horberry
Andrew is Global Account Director at Imagination, a brand communications agency.

photo by Jphilipg

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First Impressions

Toronto Pearson Airport is our gateway to the world and an entry point for millions to the city. I’ve spent countless hours at the airport, but move through the place on auto-pilot as part of my travel routine. So last night on the way back from New York, I decided to take a step back and see what newcomers experience when first arriving in Toronto.

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Toronto Personality?

You may have noticed new street furniture beginning to roll out across the city. There are lighter glass transit shelters, clunky newspaper boxes and awkwardly curved trash bins. Some functional improvements have been made and the City has achieved its mandate for a more coordinated system.

So, we a have consistency. But what does the new furniture, defined by sterile metal and grey, say about our city? There’s a huge missed opportunity to express personality that is distinctly Toronto. Think London red phone booths and Parisian public washrooms. These unique designs have become associated with those cities. Our design approach feels stuck between generic, inoffensive form and imitation of what’s worked elsewhere like the Time Square-like billboards at Dundas Square.

Why not open ourselves to design that allows us to explore Toronto’s identity and create an ownable image?

At least we have the post-and-ring bike stand. It’s not full of personality, but it’s simple, functional and unique to Toronto. If you haven’t seen the rest of the new street furniture you will — it will be around for the next twenty years.

Wendy Gold, Founder and President of OpenCity Projects, comes from small-town Canada. While living and working abroad, she became fascinated with cities and how people experience them. But it took moving to Toronto to show her the value of a city that embraces cultural diversity and green space.

photo by Jbcurio

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