Category Archives: Identity

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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A Place for Civic Engagement

In recent months, we’ve been inspired by images of protest in Egypt and all over the Middle East. The common platform is central public space where people gather to send a visible, mass message. In Egypt, it’s Tahrir Square. In Libya, it’s Green Square and Martyr’s Square and in Bahrain, it’s Pearl Square.

The lesson seems to be that public space is a critical platform for democracy. The place needs to be central, highly visible, open to everyone and, ideally, has some symbolic, local meaning for people. It could be a square, a main street or a park.

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Torontonians Win Gold for Good Behaviour

On February 28th millions of Canadians watched our men’s hockey team win the gold medal on the brilliant sudden death overtime shot of Sidney Crosby.

At 1:30 PM that day after checking out six packed venues, I was fortunate enough to find the last table in a local pub with seven seats for my seven friends. Following the ‘golden’ goal, the bar poured out en masse to join the pandemonium on Bloor Street. Having lived out of town for the Blue Jays championship victories and the last Olympic Canadian hockey gold medal wins, I had never seen the city like this.

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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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