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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Laneway Housing: a new series looking at the Toronto-based work created by students in University of Toronto’s laneway studio.

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As a Canadian Journalism Fellow at U of T’s Massey College this year, I was able to sit in on a laneway studio led by Toronto architects Brigitte Shim, of Shim – Sutcliffe Architects, and Donald Chong of Williamson Chong Architects. The studio consisted of numerous site visits to laneway and small-site residential homes across Toronto, (including the award-winning home pictured above in Summerhill by Superkül) and in-studio design and critique sessions. It’s one thing to write about architecture and the final product, as I have done for some time now, but another to see the creative process at work. That process has always been something of a mystery to me — as are many creative processes I’m not involved in — so it was extremely valuable to watch it unfold.

Starting today, we’ll present some of the students’ final projects from the studio here on Spacing. Brigitte and Don began by getting students to research urban conditions in Toronto and three other cities (Tokyo, Melbourne and London UK) and how laneway or “mews” housing has been done there, including looking at specific new projects. After this the students turned their attention to Toronto, finding and researching a small site in the city, and coming up with a housing scheme for that site.

It should be noted that students learned in site visits that, by far, the major stumbling block to getting this kind of housing built in Toronto is getting services (emergency and utility) to the more isolated laneway sites, bureaucratic and logistical challenges that often take years longer than the actual design process.

Enjoy the work, but do also comment on it as getting feedback from you, our smart readers, can be as valuable as that received in professional critique sessions. And it also makes for better architects and, ultimately, a better city.

The first post, by Utako Tanebe, is here.

The second post, by Sarah Miller, is here.

The third post, by Christopher Chan, is here.


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