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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

We tear down the good to erect the bad

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Toronto skyline, 1931

Christopher Hume had an excellent piece in the Star yesterday. His opening three paragraphs are a reminder of what we’ve let our city become:

The problem isn’t that Toronto tears down so many buildings, but that it tears down the wrong buildings.

Instead of destroying the good stuff, which is in short supply, we should be ridding ourselves of architectural blight, of which there is plenty.Rather than tearing down landmarks such as the recently disappeared Inn on the Park, the soon-to-be-gone half-round building at Bridgepoint Health (formerly Riverdale Hospital), and the former Bata Shoe Headquarters, not to mention Walnut Hall, the last remaining row of Georgian townhouses in Toronto, which is being demolished by neglect, why not take the wrecking ball to, say, the Holiday Inn on King St. W., the depressing Sheraton Centre across from City Hall, the dreary slabs at Eglinton and Yonge, the three Huang & Danczkay condos on Queens Quay W., Dragon City at Spadina and Dundas, the painfully kitschy New York Towers at Bayview and Highway 401, the bunker-like Metro Convention Centre, even that monument to mediocrity, First Canadian Place?

We haven’t even mentioned the high-rise residential heaps at the north end of Scarborough, the slick banality of Mississauga, those proudly ordinary commercial and condo towers (and condos) in North York, the mess that is south Etobicoke, or sad, desolate St. James Town.There’s so much the city would be better off without. Some buildings were poorly designed by architects who tried but failed; others by architects who clearly didn’t care. Their failure goes beyond questions of taste and aesthetics; these are the buildings that deaden the street, blot the skyline, and suck the life out of the city.

Read the full article here.

Other headlines from today’s media outlets:

“Secret deal” for subway purchase reaches TTC today [ Toronto Star ]
HUME: Hallelujah, we’re capable of change [ Toronto Star ]
City will destory makeshift house under Gardiner this week [ Globe and Mail ]
The Way We Were: on this day in 1931 [ Toronto Sun ]
TTC busker auditions [ CityTV News ]
Urban cemeteries [ Reading Toronto ]
Photo by Toronto Archives: Series 71, item 3784



  1. Hume’s article is totally arbitrary and based solely on personal affection for certain buildings and disdain for others.

  2. How do you measure aesthetics anyway, if not by personal emotion?

  3. If Hume is talking about dreary slabs…why not the Star’s building at the foot of Yonge?