Foreign Interventions in (Calle) Honduras

You can tell you’re in Palermo by the names of the streets: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica — every one of them running parallel to the Rio de la Plata a different Central American country. Together with the bright pastels and fluorescents of the buildings that line them, these calles give the Buenos Aires barrio […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Latin America, Politics by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Foreign Interventions in (Calle) Honduras , , , , , ,

Mongkok’s Rural Past

Hong Kong remakes itself with such ruthless efficiency that few physical traces remain of its past. In many neighbourhoods, the only reminders of what came before are the names of streets. Take Mongkok for example. Today, this is one of the busiest and most crowded parts of Hong Kong, a shopping district, transport hub, industrial […]

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September 11th Street

Between Avenidas Juramento and Olazábal, Calle 11 de Setiembre — September 11th Street — is one of the most beautiful in the upscale Buenos Aires barrio of Belgrano. Its trees arch over the rooflines of multistory apartment buildings, meeting above the middle of the street to form a cavernous, emerald archway that resembles the nave […]

An Alternate Map of Manhattan

The original, ca. 1800 Mangin-Goerck Plan (top) and part of the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, as engraved by William Bridges Last month, New York celebrated the bicentennial of one of its most iconic works of engineering and urban design — Manhattan’s grid. The 1811 street layout was officially known as the Commissioners’ Plan, but its […]

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Mosque Street’s Other Name

In contrast to the bland apartment buildings on its south side, the northern side of Mosque Street is lined by a crumbling stone wall and vegetation spilling over from the lush grounds of the Jamia Mosque. If you peek over the wall, there’s a nice view of the mosque, which is the oldest in Hong […]

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Dear Hong Kong: A Letter from Montreal

The following essay appears in the April 2010 issue of Muse, a Hong Kong arts and culture magazine. The same issue also contains my feature-length profile on Hong Kong’s “tree professor,” Jim Chi-yung. The magazine can be found at major bookstores throughout the city. In my neighbourhood, I know exactly what language to speak. At […]

The Many Chinese Words for “Lane”

Suoyi Hutong, Beijing There’s several different names in English for small, secondary streets that run between blocks or behind major roads. Alley and lane are the words most often used in North America, but there’s significant variation in the UK, where regional words like vennel, chare, wynd, twitten and jigger are common. It’s a similar […]

The Mystery of Swiss Lane

Even after seven years of walking its streets, I’m still finding new things in Mile End, the neighbourhood I called home before I left Montreal. Back for a visit last month, I got around mostly by bike, which took me down streets on which I wouldn’t normally walk, like the quiet stretch of Casgrain in […]

The Politics of Toponymy

Few things are as contentious and politically charged as the names of where we live, so it’s not surprising to see toponymy back in Montreal’s political spotlight, three years after the Park Avenue/Parc Avenue/avenue du Parc debacle. Earlier this week, a variety of nationalist groups began to advocate the renaming of Amherst Street, ostensibly because […]

Posted in: Canada, Heritage and Preservation, Politics, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on The Politics of Toponymy , ,

Old China in Yau Ma Tei

While harbour reclamation has made Yau Ma Tei a landlocked neighbourhood, it began life as a waterfront village, with a large Tin Hau temple serving as a hub for trade and activity. When the British gained control of Kowloon in 1860, it laid a grid of mostly numbered streets through Yau Ma Tei. Most of […]

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Canada’s Only Good Boulevard

Canadian cities fail miserably grandiose urban planning. Every single effort at creating a monumental boulevard has resulted in something mediocre. University Street in Toronto, which runs straight into the Ontario provincial parliament building, has a nice median and a good visual terminus, but it’s ruined by drab furnishings and even more banal buildings. Montreal’s René-Lévesque […]

Imperial Pedigree

Peel Street, Montreal I had travelled more than 15,000 kilometres only to stand, once again, at the corner of Peel and Wellington. Of course, it wasn’t the same Peel and Wellington as back home — with a shared colonial past, it shouldn’t be surprising to find some similar street names in both Montreal and Hong […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Canada, History by Christopher DeWolf 1 Comment , ,

Calgary’s Missing Street Names

I’ve always resented the fact that Calgary’s streets are numbered. Not just numbered, but numbered according to quadrant, so that streets are known as 4th Street SW or 36th Avenue NE, and 4th Street and 4th Avenue intersect not just once, but four times, in each corner of the city. What makes this even worse […]

Calgary’s Montreal Suburb

Stroll up the hill just south of downtown and take a look at the street signs: Frontenac Avenue. Montreal Avenue. Wolfe Street. Cabot Street. Montcalm Crescent. Talon Avenue. Laval Avenue. Dorchester Avenue. Where are we? In Mount Royal, of course, Calgary’s most prestigious neighbourhood. I’ve always found it odd that the street names found in […]