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Toronto: A City Becoming Hardcover – March 28, 2008
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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While MacFarlane's collection is about a city, but as indicated in the book's cover leaf, it's not the static rather about Toronto the dynamic. The book includes twenty-two essays with the objective to not only inform, but also inspire real debate on key issues facing the city. The book's contributors are among the many acclaimed writers, academicians, politicians, television personalities and photographers. They all take a wide variety of compelling and provocative perspectives on Toronto, as it faces the 21st century. The book's main feature is a collection of pictorial-essays by some of Toronto's preeminent photographers, including Michael Awad's unique cityscapes, and Scott Johnston's resonating portraits of Regent Park.
In the introduction MacFarlane begins by describing his home as the house being tall and narrow made of brick which, like much of the red Victorian fabric of Toronto's downtown, was quarried and kilned beside the Don River. He then gives us a little nostalgic picture of the Don Valley as having a kind of `shier-like peacefulness' that would remind readers of the writings of Austen and Brontë. MacFarlane also indicates a remarkable parallel between his house, built in 1887 by a developer and refers to it as a precursor to the condominium buildings whose glass lofted towers are so changing the face of Toronto today.
Former mayor, Mr. David Crombie, in his piece introduces a sobering thought by quoting from the well-known Robert Fullforce's "Accidental City," where he puts his finger on a fundamental truth about building strong cities, not by Master Plans, but through attentiveness to the processes that have created it. Mr. Crombie also mentions that few can doubt that Toronto has made an extraordinary effort in the recent past to provide a new place for its many immigrants from foreign countries and that Toronto has worked remarkably by using its past to shape its future. He concludes his piece with a wonderful concept that it is through exploring our history that we can mobilize lessons from our own experience, and put them in the service of Torontonians in the 21st century.
Soiban Roberts indicates that the city is open for analysis discussion and debate, while he contemplates the publishing phenomena of: uTOpia.
Meric Gertler mentions that Toronto is poised for a new and exciting age. But, despite its enviable strengths, Toronto's creative economy is now at a critical junction. The future beckons, but then why do planning policies stand in its way? He questions.
Scott Johnston presents a beautiful photographic essay on Regent Park that will make people who haven't visited the place become familiar with this Canada's largest and oldest public housing project in the city's poorest neighborhood.
John Allemang's essay, "The Rock of Ages," mentions that there was a time when the spires of Toronto were more than architectural statements. They bespoke social convention as much as they described the spiritual aspirations of a devout citizenry. However, times have changed and in the suburbs new temples, synagogues and mosques are thriving, and in the city's older core the long-established pews cannot afford to be comfortable anymore.
John Barber writes about Toronto's ethnic diversity and believes that Toronto might succeed where other cities have failed.
In a wonderful pictorial essay, David Kaufman presents the `disappearing city.' His photographs are a plea for preservation, not just of buildings that merit a heritage designation, but also structures that have no particular economic or aesthetic value but contribute to the quality and variety of cityscapes.
Linda McQuaig has taken a line out of a famous song and calls Toronto "my kind of town." However, Ms. McQuaig worries that Toronto's celebrated egalitarianism is giving way to increasing domination by the wealthy. She writes that in the latter half of the 20th century, while Toronto aspired to be a city for everyone, with the well-maintained parks, public facilities and recreational areas, she now worries that it is becoming a city dominated by the wealthy. She considers a great city to be more than just a collection of upscale restaurants, elegant concert halls, and luxury spas. Its vibrancy lies in parts in its visible and palpable diversity, reflecting both the indulgent lives of the unduly rich and struggling lives of immigrants, refugees, artists and students.
Michael Awad has taken David Kaufman's cityscapes much further in his wonderful and exceptional photographs. He indicates that as an artist, architect, and urbanist, the city is both the site and the source of all his inspiration. In 2001, he began a practical and conceptual focus on an artistic practice that he terms: the "Entire City Project." In a unique fashion, he has picked the elements of the city, its visual richness and hidden complexities of daily life, pictorially. Many urban narratives are explored, and the hours of walking, cycling or driving through the city are collapsed into continuous ribbons of urban experience revealing unseen visual patterns. These are then collapsed into single images to reveal their true visual intensity and hundreds of thousands of people are captured as they go about their daily routine. His project has required constant experimentation with custom-built cameras and custom imaging software. Both film and digital media are employed, often simultaneously to capture the widest possible range of visual experiences. Finally, prints were created using a hybridized process of conventional chemically-based printing and high resolution digital technologies. His final images range in size from four to 20 feet. These images were so well received that they were exhibited at numerous notable locations, such as the 2002 Venice Architectural Biennale, Art Gallery of Ontario, and
Pearson International Airport. No wonder parts of Michael's pictorial images adorn the dust cover of this wonderful picture-book. Michael Awad is represented in Canada by the Nicholas Metivier Gallery.
Space does not permit me to keep on writing about this wonderful book, but I would urge people, interested in learning about Toronto's past, present, and in giving some thoughts for the future, to browse this book. I am certain it will enchant and tempt you to procure it as a coffee table book. Also, it is an excellent gift for those in other parts of Canada and the world, to tell and show them the pictorial image of a wonderful city, Toronto.
Waheed Rabbani is a historical fiction writer and his books are available on Amazon.
However;the dream of a great vibrant city has escaped Toronto.The city is literally falling apart right before our eyes.It is dirty,unkept,and tacky wherever one goes.
The politicians and bureaucrats are totally lacking in vision ,passion and imagination.The city is infested with leftist,socialist people who have held their positions for decades and are far more interested in maintaining their positions at the trough than coming up with ideas and actions to build a great city. The streets are a mess,dirty,littered with trash cans,bicycle racks,tacky newspaper and advertisment boxes.The planters are left unplanted,broken and an eyesore rather than something that adds beauty to the city landscape.Bloor Street ,though having some fine structures,is a patched up mess of dirty storefronts,posters plastered everywhere,awnings,windows and storefronts left uncleaned for months if not years.It is a common sight on streets to see garbage piled up,often not even in containers.
Overall, there is very little to make anyone want to come and enjoy the city.As the city deterioriates,the politicians concentrate on such triviality as plastic coffee cup lids,bicycle lanes,speed bumps,parking revenue, signs,special permits,fines,and parking meters in every conceivable place where a buck can be squeezed from a visitor.If you are not ultra careful,and misread the many confusing signs,you'll find your car towed away and in a compound where it'll cost you hundreds of dollars to retrieve it.They equipped every streetcar with bicycle racks on the front which nobody wants or uses.They mess around with ethnic food vending carts that has become a joke and ridiculous in cost and permit fees.They institude a 3-cent charge for shopping bags which is a joke from many standpoints.The politicians fight endlessly over office expenses,free lunches,passes and free parking.One politician recently spent $20,000 of taxpayers money on his own retirement party.There is a continual banter of politicians and employees charging everything imaginable to their expense accounts.When you think about it,this all seems to indicate how lacking they all are in running the city.To call the City Administration "A Mad Hatter's Tea Party" would be an insult to Lewis Carroll.
One day while crossing City Hall Plaza,I was approached by a tourist family who asked what they should visit as they had the afternoon to spare.They suggested the Totonto Zoo,but when I explained where it was and what would be involved in getting there and back they dismissed the idea.When they mentioned Kensington and St Lawrence Markets,and I told them what to expect to find there;they looked at the kids and agreed that taking in a movie made more sense. Another time, I was walking up Young Street and stopped to cross College Street.Three well dressed ladies ,obviously tourists,were talking.One said,"Do you really want to continue this walk;there's nothing here but a bunch of junky shops? One replied,"No,let's go back to the hotel,before someone sees us."
What Toronto needs is a total sweep of all the uninspired trough feeders and a replacement with some people with vision and imagination,who want to be in positions to use their experience,to create a world class city;rather than embed themselves into the best paying jobs they could ever hope to land.If you doubt some of the things I have said,read this book,its's all there.
As I write this I am reminded of what the City came up with to celebrate its 200th Anniversary.It was a 12 foot Birthday Cake complete with candles--and they placed it atop the public washroom facility (S--thouse)on the City Plaza.Can't you just see the Mayor and his councillors admiring this masterpiece from the window in the Mayor's office. Toronto has made attempts to get world class events such as the Olympics or a World's Fair,and the city is big enough;but with the type of people holding political office and incompetent bureauacy that is in place,and we see what they have been doing.Toronto doesn't merit or even have the ability to pull it off.