A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category

[URBAN NOTE] “How to get it right with the Rail Deck Park”

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Robert Wright at Spacing Toronto writes about the need for Toronto’s proposed Rail Deck Park to be done right, from planning to implementation.

In the last few weeks, City officials made a preliminary announcement about a new “Railway Deck Park” for downtown Toronto. This much-needed initiative relative to a large public space in the downtown has garnered a lot of press; if you put your ear to the ground, you can hear the design, planning, and engineering consultants all lining up to take a crack at this potentially transformative project.

Much has been made about Rail Deck Park having the potential to be Toronto’s “Central Park.” But let’s be clear: the space being proposed is 21 acres while Central Park stretches over 778 acres.

Despite the size constraints, this is an amazing initiative but also one that will present considerable design challenges. After all, it will be a deck, a bridge, and it by its very nature, a green roof.

If you look at the Spadina Ave. bridge now, crossing this area from north to south, you will see in profile that there is a large elevation change on both its edges, and that topographical reality have to be navigated to ensure the deck creates both a universally accessible space and a smooth transition north towards the city and south towards the waterfront.

As well, it is difficult to grow things on a concrete slab. The ecological challenges are great, but not technologically insurmountable. In the end, we want a strong, ecologically functioning and resilient park. The deck, in effect, poses the challenge of creating an ecology on a very thick slab that will bring with it all the difficulties of creating a functioning ecosystem that needs both an up and down functionality, as well as side-to-side integration. The soil medium will be one of the keys to a successful implementation as it will become the working surface to allow nutrients, gas exchange, water retention; all the essential elements for long term growth.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto parks suffer from lack of pride”

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Marcus Gee in The Globe and Mail argues Toronto’s parks are neglected. I’ve been to Canoe Landing, by Fort York and Bathurst; his testimony is all too true.

When the City of Toronto assumed control of Canoe Landing, it was in pristine condition. The creative new park with its signature red canoe overlooking the Gardiner Expressway was built by the developer of a vast residential complex, CityPlace. Gabriel Leung, an executive with the company, Concord Adex, remembers the painstaking care needed to make sure the park was in tip-top shape when the city took it over, making it part of Toronto’s public park system.

He has photos to prove it. They show meticulous new landscaping and close-cropped lawns. The giant fishing floats that are another centrepiece of the park gleam in the sun and light up in the dark. So does the stylized beaver dam with its artificial white logs.

But within months, Mr. Leung says, company officials noticed, “to our horror,” that the grounds were already looking tatty and rundown. Ever since, he has been battling with the city over inferior upkeep of the park.

He is so frustrated that he has approached city officials about having the company, rather than the city, do the maintenance. He is certain that if the city handed over whatever amount it spends on the park, he could hire a professional firm to do the work and keep the grounds in a much better state.

Canoe Landing stands as a sad example of a much broader problem: Toronto’s failure to maintain its parks and public spaces. Weedy grass, chipped and rotting benches, fountains that fail to function, dead trees in concrete planters – these things give the city an air of neglect and dysfunction. It’s an embarrassment. A city as big and as rich as Toronto should be able to keep its urban spaces from looking so shabby.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2016 at 5:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Norway’s sailor king: Why Harald V has been sleeping on a yacht moored on Toronto’s waterfront”

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Joe O’Connor of the National Post reveals that the Norwegian king is spending his time in Toronto, on the Lake Ontario shorefront.

His Majesty King Harald V of Norway was sitting at the back of his sailboat, munching on a green apple, reflecting upon the day of sailing that had just been. A day that was not “good,” according to the king. It was not good because the king, a sailor since age two, a three-time Olympian and the skipper of the Sira, a classic eight-metre sloop that his father, King Olav V, had built in 1938, thrives on competition.

Even today, the 79-year-old King Harald wants to win. But on a breezy Wednesday afternoon on Lake Ontario the King and his crew of Norwegians, whom he has been racing with since 1987, did not win. They came ninth out of 12 boats. The dismal showing dropped them to second place overall in the race for the Sira Cup — a coveted international prize that the king’s father donated to the international sailing community in 1983 — that concludes here Saturday.

“I’ve raced all my life,” says the king, who last won the Cup in 2008. “You can’t stop playing, you know? The first time I was on this boat I was two years old. For me, with sailing, it’s about the competition. The wind — the weather — it doesn’t make any difference who you are, before the wind.”

Norway’s sailor king doesn’t look or act like one might imagine a monarch would. On his green-hulled boat with the wooden deck, with his crew sitting in a nearby boat enjoying a post-race beer at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club on the Toronto Islands, the king cut the figure of a kindly grandfather (he has six grandchildren).

He was dressed casually: sneakers, white socks, shorts and a matching T-shirt. He crunched happily on his apple, consuming every morsel, including the core, before politely removing his sunglasses to reveal light blue eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2016 at 5:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes the 1970s, when Yonge around Queen was under reconstruction.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about her writing life in New York City.
  • The Crux considers: Neandertal or Neanderthal?
  • Dangerous Minds notes the new Laibach app.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at evaporating hot Jupiter HD 209458b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes Russia’s planned reduction of its crew on the International Space Station.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the reactions of the Trump camp to Hillary’s alt-right speech.
  • Language Hat links to a paper examining the transition from classical to modern Arabic.
  • Marginal Revolution considers the economics of durable art.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at post-Soviet patterns of migration and examines the ethnic composition of Georgia circa 1926.
  • Une heure de peine reports on a new French series on sociology in comic book format.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the legal question of a head transplant.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the violent rivalries of the two Donbas republics and looks at a refugee-prompted restricted movement zone on Russia’s frontier with Norway.

[PHOTO] On how Graffiti Alley in Toronto has the world’s longest Instagram photo

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blogTO has let me know that Toronto’s Graffiti Alley has led to a world record: It is the source of the world’s longest Instagram photo.

Toronto’s Graffiti Alley is one of the most Instagrammed spots in the city – it really does make a great background for broody, pseudo-gritty fashion shoots. But now this downtown laneway is a star in its own right thanks to a new project by Heritage Toronto and Havas Worldwide Canada, an advertising firm.

Called Instatour, this Instagram-based projects stitches together 1,300 separate posts to create the longest continuous Instagram photo in the world. The result is quite stunning, but make sure you check out graffitialley.to on mobile. Simply turn your phone sideways and scroll away.

Local photographer Justin Poulsen documented Graffiti Alley for three weeks earlier this year. His work gives viewers a glimpse at this iconic Toronto spot at a specific moment in time.

“Heritage Toronto is thrilled to be involved in this innovative project commemorating a key site in our city’s intangible cultural heritage,” says Heritage Toronto executive director Francisco Alvarez in a news release.

“It’s a reminder that even our recent past can be fleeting, and how important it is to celebrate moments of creation like Graffiti Alley that create a distinctive sense of place and pride in Toronto.”

The Instagram account, graffitialley.to, is worth checking out. For people not on mobile, the below video provides a taste.

Graffiti Alley Instatour from Havas Worldwide Canada on Vimeo.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2016 at 12:45 pm

[PHOTO] My six favourite photos from the Toronto Islands, 24 August 2016

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I may revisit my tour of the Toronto Islands at greater length tomorrow. I’m very pleased with most of the photos I took. For now, here are six of my favourites, each an image that I think can support a story of some length.







Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2016 at 10:45 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Behind the scenes of Toronto’s $15,000 capybara caper”

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The Toronto Star‘s Robin Levinson King goes into detail about the recent hunt for the capybaras of High Park.

This is the true story of Bonnie and Clyde.

No, not the infamous outlaws who went on an armed robbery spree during the Great Depression. This is about the two endearing but evasive capybaras who escaped from the High Park Zoo, prompting a media frenzy and month-long search and rescue mission.

Lost in the park’s 400 acres of forest, ponds and trails, the mischievous rodents evaded capture for 36 days and cost the city at least $15,000 in services and overtime for about 30 employees, according to emails from the city’s parks and recreation division obtained through access to information laws.

It all began the morning of May 24, when the capybaras, which had been purchased for a total of $700 from a Texas breeder, were dropped off at their pen in High Park Zoo.

Zookeepers had hoped to exchange the duo, who are capable of breeding, for lonely old Chewy, High Park’s OG capybara. But Bonnie and Clyde, as they were later nicknamed by city staff, had freedom in mind and went on the lam.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 25, 2016 at 5:45 pm


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