Sunday, March 08, 2009

Some Urban Thoughts

Maybe I'm not making sense yet here.

Today in the Toronto Star's print edition is a map of Toronto's neighbourhoods as envisioned by the staff of the paper with input - said input is still in progress and will be for some time - from the readership at large. An interesting exercise for me to read through that map.

A friendly acquaintance of mine here in Ottawa, David McClelland, is working between classes at university on a similar project covering Bytown and environs. It's looking rather promising. (I'd also recommend his weblog on Ottawa, the Ottawa Project, for close and ongoing attention.)

Both projects caught my interest for several reasons going back to childhood visits to certain filing cabinets at the Regina Public Library. These filing cabinets held city documents, including blueprints for entire subdivisions, lot plan-type stuff showing where and how big the lots were, where the firefighting infrastructure and streetlights and suchlike would be placed. Absolutely riveting stuff for a kid with the right mindset about maps already. And I had that, and a collection of maps that occasionally exasperated my parents with its scope.

(Name me one kind of collecting habit that didn't exasperate the parents of the kids practicing it, and you may literally kill me with my own disbelief-triggered laughter.)

Getting back to cities for a moment...

I looked at the latest issue of Playback Magazine, with the cover-featured interview with Paul Gross. He made some interesting comments about the nature and role of Toronto as a city, as a Canadian a city where culture is made. I think he may be too close to it these days to see it, but the idea of Toronto in general and its arts community in particular sneering at the other cities of Canada whilst in the grip of some sort of envy of New York City? I'm wondering if maybe Toronto isn't recovering slowly and successfully from that.

I also think Mr. Gross has been partly instrumental in ensuring that slow recovery. He's been actively working on elements of the solution for some time, and being in the midst of all that work - which I've enjoyed over the years, so there's my bias right there - he may be too busy working to see the effect he's having in helping Toronto to truly become its own place, both in isolation and in the context of Canada as a whole.

I may be wrong here. I'm almost certainly rambling, and not even clear if I'm connecting all the involved dots in anything resembling a logical manner yet.

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