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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Solid and Memorable Edinburgh

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It’s hard not to compare Edinburgh and Toronto while here —- it’s problematic though because it’s easy to be knocked over by street after street of fairy-tale landscape (somebody I was chatting with referred to it as “shrink-wrapped perfection”) and then get down on Toronto for not having the visual consistency this place does. In a few different conversations, people have mentioned that the history here is a constant presence, and that it’s hard to get out of its shadow and do something new, echoing the sentiments expressed by Eric Rutherford in his uTOpia essay. There are plaques, statues and monuments everywhere, some to big guys like Sir Walter Scott and David Hume and little ones —- like a statue of a dog named Greyfriars Bobby who sat on his master’s grave for 10 years after he died. Sometimes I don’t know if they’re all serious, or if they had a sense of camp back then.

Who were those eccentric beggars? Sounds romantic. There are lots of present day beggars here that seem eccentric too but it might be because they say unusual Scottish things. But plaques like this are good and build up this city’s mythology —- though you can’t escape it here if you tried. That might be something that will change in Toronto as it matures. What is nice about Edinburgh is how solid the public infrastructure is — good signs, no chain-link fences and not a rubbish can with an ad on it in sight.