Archive for October, 2006

October 19th, 2006

Remembering Jane Jacobs

Posted in Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

Jane Jacobs

When Jane Jacobs died last spring, many urbanists were surprised by the breadth and depth of the media coverage that followed. Her work was subjected to the kind of widespread attention it hadn’t received in decades; many people were compelled to read or re-read her classics, especially The Death and Life of Great American Cities. But what now? As Lisa Rochon wrote in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail, little has been done in Canada — her home for nearly four decades — to ensure that her ideas will continue to make a difference in the years to come. Unlike some other architecture critics (or should I say starchitecture groupies), Rochon has always recognized the power of Jacobs’ work. It comes as no surprise, then, that she has compiled a pretty solid list of ways in which Jacobs could be memorialized.


October 18th, 2006

Robert Bourassa Is Stealing My Street

Posted in Canada, Heritage and Preservation, Politics, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

I’ll be honest: I hate the sound of Robert Bourassa Avenue. Especially when I face the prospect of living on said avenue. You see, this month is the tenth anniversary of the death of Robert Bourassa, a famously paranoid and tempermental Quebec politician who served as premier from 1970 to 1976 and 1985 to 1994. A new statue has been unveiled in Quebec City, but since Bourassa was one of the few provincial premiers who was a born-and-raised Montrealer — and who represented a Montreal riding for his entire political life — all eyes are on Montreal to commemorate him with something big and noteworthy. Like a major street. A major street around the Plateau Mont-Royal, the densely-populated district from which he hailed. A major street like Park Avenue, my home.


October 18th, 2006

Quebec City Tour: Lévis

Posted in Architecture, Canada by Patrick Donovan

I was planning to make it to Montreal last weekend but my financial situation could only take me as far as Lévis, a short ride across the river. I fancied myself in faraway Hong Kong as I boarded our gros-village equivalent to the Star ferry only to face the brutal reminder that Lévis is nothing like Kowloon. Most of its 100,000 people live in sprawling suburbs. Still, there’s a nice central area that feels like a proper urban neighbourhood.

Rue Bégin, Lévis’ main street


October 17th, 2006

Morning Coffee: Spiderhouse

Sign in the parking lot of the Spiderhouse Café, Austin

On a blog dedicated to urbanism, it might seem sacrilegious to sing the praises of a coffeehouse that has its very own parking lot. But this is Texas we’re talking about, and allowances must be made.

More to the point, this is Austin we’re talking about — a low-slung, laid-back, liberal bastion in the middle of the lone star state — where the café is more central to community life than in any other North American city I have been to. The people of Seattle and Vancouver may love their coffee, but the people of Austin live at the café.

The Spiderhouse is located in an old house on the border between the university campus and the granola-crunching residential enclave of Hyde Park. It epitomizes the only civic movement to which Austin’s hippies and hipsters alike have dedicated themselves without reservation — an endearingly quixotic campaign to confront the forces of corporate homogenization and “Keep Austin Weird.”


October 17th, 2006

Crows Nest Street Fair

Posted in Asia Pacific, Society and Culture by Tony Peric

Most of Sydney’s oldest and now busiest roads were built on ridges of the sandtone that much of Sydney lies on. At the junction of five of these roads, about five kilometres from the Sydney CBD is the suburb of Crows Nest. Aptly named because it towers above much of Sydney. Even in the low rise office block I work in, I can see seventy kilometres to the west and south and to the Pacific Ocean in the east.

Whilst Crows Nest could never hope to match the liveliness of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, it has a vitality rarely matched in Sydney’s north. Here are some photos from the Crows Nest Street Fair taken on Sunday, 15th of October 2006.

Children and adults alike trying to catch bead chains being thrown from the awning of a building.


October 15th, 2006

Le militantisme local

Posted in Environment, Politics, Society and Culture by Owen Rose

Avenue du Mont-Royal

Loin des manifestations chaotiques des années 60/70, aujourd’hui, le militantisme local répond à la complexité de nos milieux urbains avec une sophistication de plus en plus accrue. Dans notre contexte actuel, il faut faire plus que lancer des revendications. Il faut plutôt sensibiliser la population et les instances de pouvoir, soit politique ou économique.

À Montréal, au printemps 2002, dans le Plateau Mont-Royal, un quartier en pleine mutation, un nouveau mouvement populaire de citoyens a vu le jour. Ce groupe s’est inspiré de l’idée de mettre la personne avant la voiture en réponse à l’omniprésence des voitures polluantes en ville. Mais l’enlèvement des voitures ne faisait qu’une partie du plan de ce qui est devenu le Comité de citoyens Mont-Royal Avenue Verte.


October 15th, 2006

Two Architectural Hybrids

Posted in Architecture, Heritage and Preservation by Patrick Donovan

All too often, layers of history are lost or obliterated when buildings are enlarged. These two vernacular apartment buildings in Quebec City’s Faubourg Saint-Sauveur are rare exceptions. You can clearly make out the extra storey added in the early 20th-century to these 19th-century mansardes. What’s your verdict: respectful evolution or architectural monstrosity?


October 14th, 2006

The Death of Chinatown?

Posted in Canada, Demographics, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

Apparently, Toronto’s Chinatown is dying. “Most of the good restaurants have gone. Only a few fruit stands remain. Litter swirls around the cold and lonely sidewalks,” proclaimed the Toronto Star last March. As sensational as those claims may be, they merely echo the rumour that has been circulating for years: that the neighbourhood is in its death throes.


October 14th, 2006

One Day in Rome

Posted in Europe by Laine Tam

Waiting for the tram outside Trastevere Station

October 13th, 2006

Morning Coffee: Bridgehead

Posted in Canada, Interior Space, Society and Culture by Ken Gildner

People in the Café

Fair trade coffee has entered the mainstream. Far from its old image as the fringe product that one could only obtain through a shifty-eyed neo-hippie local roaster, fair trade coffee is now recognized by the majority of the world’s large coffee corporations, and some coffeehouses and roasters have worked with the movement to succeed in business while spreading awareness about socially-responsible consumer products.


October 12th, 2006

Post These Bills

Posted in Art and Design, Politics, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf


Concert posters are an essential part of Montreal’s vibrant independent music scene, which has in recent years launched a number of bands into international prominence, such as the Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade.

Posters. For community groups, musicians, activists, small businesses, even people who’ve lost their cat, they’re the most effective way to get the message out. They cover lampposts, service doors, construction hoardings and blank walls, livening up grey and depressing winters and turning underused spaces into interactive bulletin boards where the city’s goings-on are announced to anyone who might be interested. Despite their importance to civic and cultural life however, posters are an all-too-easy target for municipal politicians and bureaucrats who want their city streets as bland and orderly as a Lego metropolis. Posters might seem innocuous, but they are in fact a sign of a city’s vitality and diversity—how municipalities deal with postering is a measure of just how willing they are to accommodate that vibrancy.


October 10th, 2006

Market Day

Posted in Europe, Latin America by Christopher Szabla

Santo Domingo

October 10th, 2006

Savage Beauty

Posted in Asia Pacific, Environment, Film by Siqi Zhu


Manufactured Landscapes follows Edward Burtynsky’s photographic exposition of unprecedented human transformation of the landscape.

Edward Burtynsky’s China photos explore what has always been a veritable fount of intriguing images.  Recalling Antonioni’s 1972 Chung Guo China, which in a coolly detached manner examined the ordinary, everyday facet of a society that was nevertheless rife with political tension, his work, with equal detachment, goes underneath the surface of prosperity, and discovers tension of an entirely different kind: us vs. nature.


October 10th, 2006

Bony City

Posted in Architecture by Owen Rose

stone textures

Montréal limestone
Scottish red sandstone
Ohio sandstone
Indiana limestone
Grey Stanstead granite
New York blue sandstone
Queenston limestone

This is the variety of stone that you pass when you walk down rue Saint-Jacques (Saint James Street) in Old Montréal. Each façade has its own textures and rhythms. Stones are the bones of the earth. They are solid and timeless. I still remember my secondary school geography class teaching me about igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock. I had no idea then how these old boulders could influence the character of a building, a street, or a neighbourhood.