2005 04 01
Toronto, the Clean and Beautiful City-3
imageAt six years, I read the Cat and the Hat many times – fascinated with his ingenious car near the end of the book – in which white gloved hands with cleaning apparatus sprout from the vehicle’s body to tidy up the mess before Mother gets home.

Perhaps Toronto could benefit from a visit by the Cat, I think? Or Mother?

One day, lamenting the trash overflowing from the Tim Horton’s garbage cans near Dundas and Bloor on the Ryerson campus, I am captivated by an unusual machine marked Mad Vac. Could it be? The Cat has landed.
[email this story] Posted by Samantha Sannella / Design Exchange on 04/01
Frank Gehry’s Connection to the AGO
imageWalker Court will be the soul of the transformed Art Gallery of Ontario. Frank Gehry’s done that by design. The way in which you will experience the building relates back to Walker Court, wherever you are in the building. If you’re in the Contemporary Centre you’re looking down on the court. If you’re in the European Galleries you are around the corner from Walker Court. If you’re in the Canadian galleries you have to go through the stairs in Walker Court to get to the second floor. Wherever you are, Walker Court is your anchor.

I still remember, early on, sitting and talking with Frank two years ago. I asked where his artistic epiphany happened – “where was it you realized a life in art was possible”? He said it happened in Walker Court, looking at a painting by the American modernist, John Marin. He described it as an intense moment of looking at this art and feeling the architecture. He would have been about 12 or 13 years old. His memory of Walker Court is that it happened here and no one’s going to mess with Walker Court. In fact, he’s hardly changing it. He’s making it the heart of the architecture.

There’s a real sense of Toronto as a lived place for Frank. That translates directly into the notion of what this place can be. And so it is for me. I’m from Toronto, and the AGO is the museum of my childhood. I came here often as a kid with my dad. When I think about the AGO today, I’m seeing doubly or triply, as a 12-year-old, as an 18-year-old, and now, as the (aging) Director. When there is a place you have experienced certain things, you remember what they meant to you as a child, what that connection was, what that place of wonder was and is today. However you translate it as a kid, you remember it as an adult. I still remember the amazement at the AGO as a place of creativity.

The same is true of Frank. He doesn’t just see the AGO as an architectural problem because he has the skill of an architect and can solve it in an adult way. He’s also seeing it filled with wonder because he’s seeing it with the eyes of a child. I have postcards of the AGO from the 1930s and1940s. They show the entrance Frank used as a child. When Frank walks into Walker Court he doesn’t see what’s there today. The ability to see something through different points of view and different points in your life allows you to be more empathetic with the people who are going to see the building, use the building... I think it strengthens the ability to create that sense of wonder.

Walker Court, 1926 © 2005, Art Gallery of Ontario
[email this story] Posted by Matthew Teitelbaum / AGO on 04/01
More Than Just a Bridge / Visionary Planning in Toronto
imageThe bridge goes up in a dream. It will link the east end with the centre of the city. It will carry traffic, water, and electricity across the Don Valley. It will carry trains that have not even been invented yet.
(Michael Ondaatje, "In the Skin of a Lion")

The City of Toronto, directed by Commissioner R.C. Harris, completed the Bloor Street Bridge (Prince Edward Viaduct) in 1918. This provided essential connective tissue for the expanding city, leaping over the Don Valley. The remarkable thing about this bridge is that it was planned to provide structure and space for an east/west subway line, which would not be built until the 1960's.
[email this story] Posted by David Oleson on 04/01
Speculation Three - Green Infrastructure
imageimageIn 1993, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment issued its first smog advisory. The number of smog warnings since that time has increased rapidly: Toronto has averaged sixteen a year over the past four years. This year, for the first time, an advisory was issued in the winter.

Air pollution is as detrimental as SARS to the city’s well being. Medical care, lost tourism revenue, reduced productivity and negative media reports counter the image of the city as a place to visit or live. That equates to real financial loss.

Studies have shown that one tree close to the source of urban smog is as effective a bio-filter as fifteen trees remote from the source. This suggests that, while the current greenbelt legislation will curb sprawl and increase the density of existing urban and suburban fabric (enabling a mass transportation system and reduced car use), addition planting is still required to significantly improve air quality in the city.

Rather than considering trees as picturesque devices for city beautification, this proposal would treat them as green infrastructure and as necessary as sewers, power, water supply and roads. In the Ontario Planning Act adequate infrastructure is required for development to occur; for example - no sewer, no development.

At present, the city’s planting standards project a mere seven-year life expectancy for street trees. Current planting technology, however, can insure long duration growth. For example, isolation planting eliminates car vibrations, which compacts soil and suffocates the tree. Planted at the same time sewers and cables are placed or replaced, green infrastructure would predate building. Rather than requiring developers to spend money on the landscape after building is complete, trees would already be growing towards maturity long before the final build-out. Money would be generated through the collection of monthly service charges similar to utility fees such as gas, hydro and water.

While most infrastructure is largely invisible, planting trees - a critical machine for air improvement - also pleases the eye. A shady tree-lined road is much more desirable than a barren commercial strip. The shade of a tree reduces air conditioning costs in the summer months. As well, urban trees provide an effective wind barrier at the pedestrian level. Implementing this proposal would increase property values and therefore increase revenues for the city through property tax.
[email this story] Posted by Kevin Weiss on 04/01
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