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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The ground is falling!

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 Almost every day I pass the construction on Sherbrooke just below Parc Lafontaine. Work there was started months ago as a result of a large chunk of road falling out, an event resembling the Laval bridge collapse and the structural problems found underneath de Maisonneuve that caused a metro line to close last month. But while most people might think of events with fear, I think of them with a sense of wonder. I’m amazed that these things occur so infrequently. Cities have, for the most part, ceased to have become death traps.

Obviously, cities are not all they could be. A hazy day in Montreal doesn’t make one feel like a beacon of health, but it could be worse. According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, people living in Canadian rural areas have a higher death rate than those living in cities. Issues like socio-economic status come into play here, but perhaps that’s not even the real issue. Perhaps the real marvel of cities is that they’ve been ordered and engineered well enough that large vehicles can travel 50 km/h through the city and only infrequently hit people. Or that we can be on the ground floor of a skyscraper and assume that it probably won’t fall on us. It’s just nice to take a second and consider what a funny thing a city is. When it happens in Montreal that we eye the ground we walk on suspiciously, I guess that’ll be the time to stop thinking about it. But I doubt that that will ever be the case. I just wish they’d finish the construction.



  1. Right, but that’s also time for the city to handle their old sewers. This section is about 120 years old!

  2. One thing that’s interesting is how very fragile our cities are. I was reading a write up in a magazine about a book coming out soon (I can’t remember the name of it) that predicted what would happen to the planet if humans suddenly disappeared. What I read focused just on New York. They said that within the first day, the subway would flood, by the first week, there would be fires and the water would start to cause the supports to erode. By the first month, many buildings would be burnt completely, explosions would have taken out huge chunks of the city and the streets would begin to crack and collapse. After 100 years, a forest would be starting to grow in the city and some of the bridges would have collapsed. It was really interesting to read and just see how much our cities depend on our intervention to continue functioning.

  3. The book is The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman (July 2007; HarperCollins Canada; 978 0 00 200864 8).

  4. Yes, that was it. Thank you. I didn’t know it was out already. That magazine must have been older than I thought.

  5. another interesting book is “after london or wild england” by richard jeffries. it’s more or less the same story, except that it was written 120 years ago and takes place in london.

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