Fourth Wall: Upgrading the Clamshell

This series features highlights from the ongoing exhibit The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall. The exhibit, on now at the Urbanspace Gallery, considers possible avenues to break down the barriers to participation in civic life that exist at Toronto’s City Hall.

Previously, we discussed how the geography of local representation has changed in this city over the past two centuries. Like it or not, these days 100 Queen St. West is the heart of our local democracy. Yet, very few citizens walk through the buildings (heavy!) doors to attend council meetings or find out more about how to get involved with the City. Here are a few simple ideas to make City Hall more hospitable to citizens.

First Floor

The first floor of City Hall is designed to be welcoming for developers and tourists. Looking for a building permit? No problem. Something to do with the kids? They’ve got you covered. But if you’re looking for a ward map, a meeting calendar or information about City Hall process, unfortunately you are out of luck. Of the 144 different flyers and leaflets available in the front lobby, not a single one of them is about City Hall or municipal government. This great video from My City Lives that illustrates a visitor’s experience of the first floor.

Wireless Access

Businesses know that one of the best ways to attract customers to come and stay a while is to offer free wi-fi. Since 1994, universities, civic buildings, libraries, restaurants and airports have been offering the service to customers. Currently, you can only access wireless in the City Hall branch of the Toronto Public Library. If officials at City Hall flipped the switch, citizens would be better able to attend meetings during work hours, understand proceedings by accessing reports, agendas and other documents and further promote civic engagement by talking about City Hall proceedings on social media platforms.

Would these improvements to 100 Queen St. W. entice you to visit City Hall more often? What further improvements would you like to see made?


The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall is on at the Urbanspace Gallery (401 Richmond St. W.) until the end of January. The building is open weekdays, 7am to 7pm, and Saturdays, 9am to 6pm. Curated by Dave Meslin, Research by Hilary Best, Design by Adam Zinzan-Harris.