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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The Beautiful Mess of Toronto Laneways, my newest book for Spacing

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There is no public space that holds my heart quite like a laneway.

When I moved downtown in the mid-1990s I began to wander the city’s alleys to marvel at the graffiti and ancient-seeming garages. I was struck by the contrast between how residents were meticulous about the upkeep of the front of their homes but were happy to have their 80-year-old shack out back become wildly dilapidated and overgrown by weeds.


I’ve often compared how we treat these two spaces that surround our homes to going out on a date (stay with me). Before we meet up, we put some time and effort into how we look. We do this with the front of our homes as well. But the way we maintain our laneways is equivalent to how we look waking up the morning after that date next to your new lover, with your messy hair, droopy eyes, and the creeping pangs of a hangover. We love those nights and it’s also why I love laneways.

Of course, I’m not alone in this love affair. There are thousands of others who are also fascinated with laneways, and their interests are varied. Some want to find ways to green laneways, others host gallery events, while some are just looking to give their laneway a name. Possibly the most pressing issue facing laneways is the City’s recent policy change to allow new (legal!) housing units to be constructed. Laneways, in my estimation, offer the greatest opportunity for the city to add density with nary an impact on the oft-cited “character” of a neighbourhood.

Not surprisingly, laneways are one of the catalysts that helped me discover my interest in Toronto and urbanism. Starting the fall of 2018, I took it upon myself to document the laneways in my neighbourhood. Development will certainly change the landscape of Toronto’s laneways in the coming years and it would be a shame to forget the amazingly unique garages, workshops, and structures that have stood for over a century.

So I’m very excited to announce the release of The Beautiful Mess of Toronto Laneways, a collection of the photos by yours truly. It’s available exclusively at the Spacing Store and on our e-store for $25.


One comment

  1. If you ever initiate a Before and After Lane way “House” retrospective drop me a line.