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The Shape of the City

The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning

Foreword by Jane Jacobs
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    The Shape of the City
    Book Description:

    This is a reflective but vigorous statement by a committed urban reformer. Few Canadians are better suited to point the way towards city planning for the future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2810-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Once upon a time visionary thinkers and designers synthesized startling new miracle medications to cure slums, congestion, unpredictable change, and other maladies of cities. Some went so far as to hope the prescriptions could dispose of cities as if they themselves were diseases. The cures were enthusiastically embraced by university schools of architecture and planning far and wide, and subsequently by politicians, civil servants, developers, and bankers in customer cities. Master plans (both the name and the concept reeking of hubris) accompanied by rules, regulations, standards, and subsidies mandated the cures, which were known in their totality as Modern City...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    This book is about the coming of modern planning ideas to Canada and their influence on urban form in Toronto. These ideas were unchallenged – indeed they were lauded – for almost two decades after the Second World War. They were then rejected in the built-up areas of Toronto after a brief and decisive battle, but have continued to flourish at the edges of the city.

    The details will certainly differ, but the broad struggle in Toronto between competing ideas of what a good city could be also happened in most other North American cities during the second half of...

  5. 1 Dreaming of a Better City
    (pp. 3-42)

    By the end of the nineteenth century the sentiment among intellectuals against the city had grown so clamorous that a serious search for alternatives began, one that lasted for almost a hundred years. By the middle of the twentieth century there was enough confidence among the new planners for the American, Clarence Stein, to issue this powerful call for the destruction of the old city and its replacement with the new:

    Existing cities cannot fit the needs of this age without a complete rebuilding. It is not merely that the elements and the details of plan and mass urgently require...

  6. 2 City Building in the Modern Style
    (pp. 43-78)

    The new ideas in planning did not go unnoticed in Canada. Clarence Stein’s clarion call to destroy the old and build the new had been published in full in the Canadian journal,Community Planning Review, in 1952, with admiring comment from Humphrey Carver, Canada’s leading planning theoretician.

    But the influence of the new thought had already been felt. New communities emerged on the edge of Canadian cities during the Great War, then in the developing resource towns after that war had ended. As the Second World War drew to a close, there was a significant outpouring of thought and energy,...

  7. 3 Don Mills: Canada’s First Corporate Suburb
    (pp. 79-96)

    Don Mills is the most influential development in Canada during the twentieth century. The style it established has become so pervasive that many people assume it is the only way residential communities can be built. Moreover, the economic arrangements underpinning Don Mills have been widely used by developers who hope to repeat its staggering economic success.

    In 1947 E.P. Taylor, began to purchase farm land north and east of Toronto. The area he chose was somewhat isolated from the urban area that had developed since the 1830s: the site was cut off from Toronto on the west, south, and east...

  8. 4 After Don Mills
    (pp. 97-134)

    Don Mills was the beginning of almost two decades of experimentation with development on the green fields of the countryside and with redevelopment of the older sections of the developed city. Experiments during this period involved not just new ways of laying out sites, with different kinds of road systems, but also new kinds of building forms, such as high-rise apartment towers and stacked townhouses. The redevelopment of downtown neighbourhoods attempted to incorporate desires for social change, as though the new planning could,sui generis, bring about a new social order. New office complexes provided a radically different tone to...

  9. 5 Rejection of Modern Planning
    (pp. 135-172)

    Early experiments in new-style residential and commercial development met with success. Planners for developers, public agencies, and governments became bolder in their proposals, and few qualms were expressed about pushing aside the old to make way for the new. So many and various were the dreams for refashioning the city during the 1960s that planners often assumed they had a free hand.

    The public, however, interrupted the reverie in short order with struggles around commercial proposals – the Old City Hall, Commerce Court, and Metro Centre – and several neighbourhood urban renewal and redevelopment schemes. By the time the decade...

  10. 6 Creating an Alternative to Modernism
    (pp. 173-198)

    Modern planning spawned its own opposition. The burgeoning new suburbs led not to a decrease in housing prices but to an increase, and many young professionals decided to reject the suburban alternative and live instead in old houses downtown smack in the way of the expressways planned to serve the new communities on the fringes of the city. Together with those who had been involved in saving Old City Hall, and those trying to protect neighbourhoods from urban renewal and private redevelopment, the expressway fighters created a potent political force that elected a reform city council in Toronto in 1972....

  11. 7 The Suburbs Ascendant
    (pp. 199-222)

    Regardless of events in the city, modern planning was ascendant on the fringes of Toronto. Farmers’ fields exploded with residential developments cloned from Don Mills, and a new generation of corporate suburbs emerged with sites larger and schemes more ambitious than Don Mills.

    The provincial government responded by trying to control the extent of new development with the Toronto-Centred Region (tcr) Plan, which, however well conceived, failed for lack of political support. A second level of response emerged, including programs devised to protect farmland, to reduce the price of new homes, and to modify servicing standards to blunt the negative...

  12. 8 Redesign
    (pp. 223-240)

    The culture of modern planning, like all other cultures, will ultimately fade and be replaced. Exactly when and how that happens, or how long it continues to be dominant, remains to be seen: predicting reasons for the decline of a cultural fashion is rarely successful since decline often occurs because of quite unanticipated events and influences.

    In the Toronto suburbs of the early 1990s, modern planning is undergoing substantial strains and is subject to growing criticism. Arguments are made that the results of modern planning are not publicly cost-effective, the social products are undesirable, the environment is damaged, and the...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-248)
  14. Index
    (pp. 249-252)