Cities are for a lot of things, but they’re mostly for people. Or should be. We can all point to many examples where the people get overlooked and urban design is driven by something else. Maybe it’s the car that takes precedence, or a building that meets the sidewalk poorly, or maybe people just get overlooked because the designers forgot who they’re ultimately designing for.
Over the last month and a half, I’ve been teaching a brand new third year workshop course at OCAD called Cities for People. With Toronto as our laboratory, we looked at interesting initiatives and designs around the city, and talked about how we could make the not-so-good parts better. We walked around St. Jamestown while hearing about the Mayor’s Tower Renewal program from Graeme Stewart of ERA Architects who originally created the project; wandered south into Cedarvale Ravine from Eglinton West with Todd Irvine from LEAF and Laura Reinsborough from Not Far From the Tree thinking about the urban forest and how to harvest residential fruit trees; wandered the streets of the former Borough of York looking at community art projects with Katherine Earl from Art Starts; and even made our way to Long Branch to see the suburban gardens of South Etobicoke. From the Toronto Archives, Wychwood Park and Green Barns, HtO Park on the waterfront, and the PATH system, Toronto was our classroom.
In part, their main assignment was to pick a neighbourhood that isn’t one of Toronto’s “superstar hoods” (that is, not the Annex, Queen West, Kensington or any of the places we hear enough about already), undertake some primary and secondary research and (quickly!) identify an issue or narrative thread in the neighbourhood that would then be the crux of a design intervention they create to either address that problem or encourage what’s already happening there. Over the coming days we will be featuring some of their work here on Spacing to both show you what some of these talented OCAD students are up to and also to invite our readers to share their thoughts on the work — so stay tuned for more Cities for People.
Photo by John Vetterli.