A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[URBAN NOTE] “Public Works: Bringing New Life to a City’s Lost Waterways”

Torontoist’s Peter Goffin reports on a San Francisco initiative that has relevance for Toronto, with its buried waterways like the Garrison Creek.

A pair of San Franciscans have concocted a plan to bring new life to the city’s long-dead waterways through a public art installation. Designer Emily Schlickman and radio producer Kristina Loring will paint the paths of dried-up creeks and streams (which, in that part of the world, are referred to as “arroyos”) onto the asphalt and concrete of the San Franciscan core that now covers them.

The project, called Ghost Arroyos, is one of 50 installations selected for inclusion in the Market Street Prototyping Festival—three days in April 2015 during which experimental “placemaking” projects for improving the major San Francisco street will be put on display.

The exhibit will include only a small section of Market Street, but there are enough ghostly waterways in San Francisco’s past to keep Schlickman and Loring painting streets for years.

The Oakland Museum of California has put together a bountiful online collection of interactive maps and historical paintings to show the city’s natural landscape as it once looked. It turns out the bustling Bay Area was once home to marshland, streams, creeks, and sand dunes, long since dried up or filled in and built over. Not unlike Toronto, except for the sand dunes.

Like San Francisco, we identify as a waterfront city but are also a city of inland tributaries—rivers, streams, creeks, ponds, marshes. Some, such as the Don and Humber, are unavoidable. Others have been long forgotten. But all of them have been manipulated, straightened, buried, narrowed, expanded, walled in, or controlled to make way for roads and ports and buildings.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 31, 2014 at 8:34 pm

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