4.23.2006

urbanity

There's a good story in the Toronto Star today about how great cities are designed, and how Toronto might become one.

It's part of a series in which various people - Toronto Mayor David Miller, critic Christopher Hume, community activists - weigh in on how to improve Toronto. The Star also asked readers to send ideas. Links to those stories are here.

Today's story points out that great cities are often made either by dictatorial fiat - always the case in ancient times - or after a major disaster. Wars, bombings, earthquakes and fire create an opportunity for planned rebuilding. So the writer asks, absent these two factors (we hope), how will Toronto develop its own great style?
For Larry Richards, a professor of architecture at the University of Toronto, that's why all of the new cultural projects need to be a resounding success, as "proofs of excellence."

Will that be enough? Maybe.

"Toronto has to come out of its pessimism and just be more confident and believe that things are possible," says Richards. "If you start believing, then people want to make things happen."

But great cities also have more than a strutting confidence: They combine that with a keen, almost visceral sense of themselves.

"(The writer) Jane Jacobs uses the word `style' in an interesting way," says Richards. "A city and people, no matter what kind of socio-economic status, need to have this identity by way of style.

"What's the Toronto style, the same way you might say Amsterdam has a style or Barcelona has a style? I think we're getting close to knowing that we have that."

Richards — and he's not alone — now finds himself keenly awaiting a movie called The Sentinel, just opening in theatres around the world, and starring Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland.

Like countless other movies, it was filmed in Hollywood North — but with one, portentous difference:

Instead of playing cinematic stand-in for New York, Chicago or London, Toronto will finally be playing itself.
You can send your Toronto ideas to the Star at whatif@thestar.ca.

2 comments:

James said...

Instead of playing cinematic stand-in for New York, Chicago or London, Toronto will finally be playing itself.

Toronto has played itself in a few famous films, but not many. The main one that comes to mind is Videodrome, where the "Civic TV" stations that James Woods's character works at is modeled after our City TV (in its early days, when running soft-core movies on a local station was an innovation).

Diamond Jim said...

And then there's Last Night, which even includes a name-check of Mel Lastman Square, of all things.