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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

One for Toronto: Barcelona 1908


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There are probably only two kinds of viewers for this video; the ones who think it’s one of the most enchanting pieces of film they’ve ever seen, and others who go “oh, that’s nice”.

We’re firmly in the first camp at Spacing Ottawa; we’ve watched this video many times, and it never fails to thrill us all over again.

We’re dedicating this post in to our friends in Toronto. It looks like they’re in for a very trying four years under new mayor Rob Ford, who didn’t even wait for his first council meeting to announce that the next generation of Toronto light rail — Transit City, a high-speed streetcar network, with approved funding and already under construction — “is dead”. Many Ottawans thought Larry O’Brien made a big mistake when he lobbied to stop the O-Train to the cost of Ottawa taxpayers of $37 million in penalties to contractors, but Toronto’s taxpayers may now be on the hook for hundreds of millions in compensation to consulting and engineering firms. During his campaign Ford also threatened to “rip up” the existing streetcar tracks on King and Queen streets. TTC’s famous streetcar network is the only one of its kind in Canada, and the closest thing we have to what can be seen in the video.

So if you’ve never seen this before, sit back prepare to be charmed by Barclelona a century ago, filmed from the front window of a streetcar. Scarcely a car in site; pedestrians and bicycles for mile after mile, and a streetscape magnificent and intimate at the same time, functioning like public space should, but so rarely does — like a living room for an entire city.



  1. Given the way the crowds run up to the edge of the track to watch the streetcar go by, and the “daring” way some males run ahead of it … I suspect this was filmed on the opening day for the streetcar, and it was a great novelty for those on the street to see it go by.