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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

One Book: The Junction — Victorians and their Bricks

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Pigeons in the Junction


Editors Note: Spacing is pleased to be participating in the Toronto Public Library’s One Book program again this year. This month the library hopes the whole city will start reading Loyalty Management, a poetry book by Glenn Downie, set in part in the Junction neighbourhood. Throughout the month Spacing Toronto will present a series of posts exploring the book. 

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From the poem “Victorians” in Glen Downie’s Loyalty Management:


Within the unrelenting monotony
of one flat red brick on another
the eye alights
on small flourishes:
a fan of verticals over a window
the angling out of
corners like sharp-edged
teeth   In sweat-stained
summer drudgery
without a cold beer in hand   such
tricks were the mason’s play
his material pleasure
& lasting whisper to future
generations: brick
talking about brick


Like many of the Torontonians I’ve come to know in my life, I came to Toronto sometime after my birth. And, like many such adoptive Torontonians, it took me a while to see the beauty in the city. On a grey midwinter day that’s understandable, but the spring reminds me of why the city continues to hold its allure as time passes. It just never gets old, even as it ages. And so much of it is in the details, as Downie notes in “Victorians.” Places in the Junction like the photo above remind me of the fanwork that Downie describes above those old Victorian windows . The conversations that take place between bricks, let alone the conversations that we have on the bricks, give Toronto its endless quality. Places like this one are in constant dialogue with the more rigid formality of building frontage:


Junction alleyway


You will likely never see all of the alleyways and doorways in this city — it’s a near impossibility. But you never know when some Victorian or Edwardian mason, back during the prohibition era about which Downie is writing here, might have left a little sign or a token to you in their brickwork. The city is all around us, winking.

Top photo by Jay Goldman, bottom by Steven Burke



  1. Now that’s a good question! Are we? The scale of so much planning in the city seems to be overwhelmingly large-scale (think waterfront, think TTC expansion planning, think the ongoing Gardiner discussions, and so on). I think street art invites us in, but are we still doing noteworthy things in masonry and construction? I don’t rightly know; the details seem to me to get lost in the scope of many projects. Thoughts? I’d love to see the details brought to light.