A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘jane jacobs

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • The Big Picture shares photos of the South Sudanese refugee exodus into Uganda.
  • blogTO shares an ad for a condo rental on Dovercourt Road near me, only $1800 a month.
  • Centauri Dreams reports on the idea of using waste heat to detect extraterrestrial civilizations.
  • Crooked Timber uses the paradigm of Jane Jacobs’ challenge to expert in the context of Brexit.
  • The LRB Blog reports on the fishers of Senegal and their involvement in that country’s history of emigration.
  • The Planetary Society Blog shares an image comparing Saturn’s smaller moons.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy comes out in support of taking down Confederate monuments.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Chechens are coming out ahead of Daghestanis in the North Caucasus’ religious hierarchies, and argues that Putin cannot risk letting Ukraine become a model for Russia.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at various bowdlerizations of Philip Larkin’s famous quote about what parents do to their children.

[PHOTO] Six photo albums from the Jane’s Walk weekend in Toronto, 2017 (#janeswalkto)

Last evening, I kept my computer busy by uploading the more than two hundred photos I had taken last weekend, during Jane’s Walk in Toronto. At one point, I had planned to take eight, but reality and fatigue intervened so as to limit me to six, five on Saturday the 5th and one on Sunday the 6th.

  • My first was “St. Lawrence Market: Role of Public Markets in Placemaking”, led by Samantha Wiles. Wiles ably took her group around St. Lawrence Market, past the archeological excavations to the market’s north, around its perimeter, and to the south, introducing us to the market’s very long history at the heart of Toronto. Photos are here.
  • In the afternoon, I followed urbanist Richard Longley in his “Harbord Village east side: architecture old, new, diverse, domestic, insitutional, sacred, profane”, taking a large contingent through a rapidly changing neighbourhood south of the Annex. I was particularly taken by the abundance of creative graffiti in the back alleys, especially on Croft Street. Photos are here.
  • Later in the afteroon, I followed Brian Sharwood and Melinda Medley, the bloggers behind OssingtonVillage.com, on a short but information-packed stroll north in Indie Ossington, from Ossington at Queen on the CAMH grounds up to Dundas Street. Photos are here.
  • In the evening, I went down to Exhibition Place for the Ghost Walk led there by Steve Collie. As night fell, Collie took dozens of people on a stroll through some of the locales where ghost sightings have been claimed, from the stacks of the centre’s archives to the barracks where soldiers sent off to war spent their last moments in Canada. The behind-the-scenes perspective it offered of Exhibition Place was a big plus. Photos are here.
  • Late at night, at 11 o’clock, I joined the Nightwalking & Secret Staircases: Baby Point walk led by Oona Fraser. My photo album includes my pre-walk, east from Old Mill station and up Jane Street to the Baby Point Gates. Walking through the wooded parks along Humber River, up and down the stairs, underneath the luminous sky, was magic.
  • Sunday afternoon, after joining a visiting Taiwanese friend for lunch and then doing some independent walking south on Roncesvalles and east on Queen Street West to Dufferin, I joined “Here’s the Thing: A Creative Writing Walk (Part 2 / Downtown)” at Dufferin Station. Led by Denise Pinto and Shari Kasman, this was a guided walk, the participants being given (and providing) prompts at different moments on the walk to write different things. I enjoyed this late afternoon walk, a lot. My output tended more towards prose poetry than fiction, but it was fun regardless.
  • I’m not sure what I’ll do with all of these photos. I doubt I’ll post most of them to this blog, to Tumblr or Instagram. They remain on Flickr nonetheless, ready for you to peruse. (I also have uploaded them all to Facebook, too, so those of you who follow me there can see them there, too.)

    [URBAN NOTE] “Fetish-wear business thrives by finding a niche outside the mainstream”

    Jacob Serebrin’s article in The Globe and Mail about Northbound Leather tells a fascinating story, about how a local company can, by catering to a specialty audience, thriving while staying local.

    Jane Jacobs would be proud.

    For Toronto’s Northbound Leather, getting into the fetish-wear market started by being in the right place at the right time.

    It happened “by virtue of the fact that we were located at ground zero of what was Toronto’s emerging gay culture in the ’70s,” says George Giaouris, the owner of the leather and fetish apparel retailer and manufacturer.

    This year, Mr. Giaouris is celebrating his business’s 30th anniversary, but it’s really just a celebration of the current incarnation and name of the family business that got its start in Greece in 1961. Mr. Giaouris’s father was making metal closures for small leather goods when he saw an opportunity to expand into making the whole product – things like leather handbags, briefcases and globes.

    A few years later, the family moved to Canada and, by 1970, the business had settled on Toronto’s Yonge Street. It was there that the store, which had started catering to hippies, found it was getting interest from a new market.

    And so it began to cater to a new market: alongside the leather jackets Northbound makes and sells appeared items like leather pants, shirts, chaps and corsets. Other products, like restraints and the category euphemistically referred to as “percussion” are aimed uniquely at a kinkier customer.

    “We were taken by the hand and led down the Yellow Brick Road,” Mr. Giaouris says. But that didn’t present a problem for the family business. “We were a very liberal family, very non-judgmental.”

    Written by Randy McDonald

    October 16, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    [BLOG] Some Sunday links

    • blogTO recommends five Ontario provincial parks for fall visitors from Toronto.
    • Crooked Timber reflects on the “Flight 93” essay of an American conservative.
    • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at the system of T Tauri.
    • Language Log examines the linguistic fallout of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”.
    • Marginal Revolution reflects on Jane Jacobs.
    • The NYRB Daily wonders if Obama could contribute to a parameters resolution on the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
    • Window on Eurasia looks at Putin’s anti-modernism.

    [URBAN NOTE] “Jane Jacobs was wrong”

    Last weekend was all about Jane Jacobs–the Jane at Home exhibit, the Jane’s Walks. This weekend, I’m linking to Noel Maurer’s criticism of Jacobs’ thought over at The Power and the Money. It is thorough.

    Jacobs was truthy. She made claims about social cohesion coming from architecture for which she had no evidence. She refused to acknowledge that the pathologies of American cities in the 1960s were due to racism, not construction. She blasted entirely functional and pleasant “towers in the park” buildings but ignored the way well-intentioned traffic engineers were making suburbs unnecessarily unpleasant.

    There’s nothing wrong with towers in a park, Poppa!

    In fact, you can see how much bullshit she wrote from her defenders. Here is an essay Randy linked to called “Was Jane Jacobs right?” The dude manages to contradict himself. First, he claims that Torontonian neighborhoods have gentrified and become full of retail monocultures because of too much construction. Well, that is the purest form of bullshit: as Randy has documented, rising rents are creating such monocultures in old neighborhoods. Then he confuses typology for hypothesis testing, by showing us that dense districts in Milan are more dense. (No, really. That is what he shows.)

    In a normal world, I might like Jane Jacobs. I am by no means ideologically averse to regulations that drive up housing costs. (Frex, requiring first-floor retail on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn.) She was right about highway building. (I like that Moses built stuff; I am less convinced that he built the right stuff, although really do wish the Cross-Brooklyn existed.) She was certainly right about most urban planning of the time, and her arguments apply to modern suburban planning quite well.

    But we do not live in a normal world. We live in a world where Jacobite (Jacobin?) ideology means that everyone thinks it is entirely okay that the law protects cute streets like mine from the scourge of high rises. (Calling Eric Moore!) Hell, from the scourge of triple-deckers.

    This isn’t actually our block, but tear it down anyway!

    We live in a world where people can pretend that filtering does not exist. (The link goes to a study of the California housing market. Theory here.) And while the worst problems are in fact in the suburbs, where I suspect Jacobs would be fine with replacing quarter-acre plots with “missing middle” construction, the fact that we have decided to preserve our older neighborhoods in amber is creating just as many problems.

    (“Was Jane Jacobs Right?” is here. Other links are in the blog post.)

    What I’ve long found to be Jacobs’ greatest weakness, as a thinker, is a relative lack of detail. There are analyses, but no numbers, just bold extrapolations, jumps into the beyond, failures of imagination. This is the central problem I found with her The Question of Separatism, which has a convincing analysis of the problems of marginality for Québec, acknowledges that an independent Québec may not break through and would in fact incur new costs with sovereignty-association, but recommends a break for it anyway. With cities, even Jane at Home noted that Jacobs did not imagine the possibility that the drift to the suburbs could be reversed.


    Written by Randy McDonald

    May 14, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    [URBAN NOTE] On my three Jane’s Walks

    Especially if you include my Friday visit to the Jane at Home exhibit, this weekend has really been one dominated by the legacies of Jane Jacobs. As my aching feet remind me, this Jane’s Walk weekend I did three different walks, each taking me around a different part of my broader neighbourhood.

    I will be posting more from these walking tours later, photos mostly.

    [URBAN NOTE] “Jane Up North”: Shawn Micallef on Jane Jacobs in Toronto

    Shawn Micallef’s Curbed article looks at the import of Jane Jacobs locally.

    The Eaton Centre is one of Toronto’s most visited attractions, a downtown mall that runs the length of a superblock between two subway stations. The massive, glass-vaulted space is modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, but instead of a neo-classical aesthetic, the massive building was space shuttle cool when it was plunked down into the urban fabric in 1977. An ongoing renovation has meant ever-present construction material, covered in a slick marketing campaign called #ToTheCity, with pictures of urbanites doing urban things like riding bikes and standing on street corners, with inspirational, urban-minded quotes scattered throughout. For many months, on what will be the Canadian Nordstrom flagship store, was a Jane Jacobs quote: “Cities can provide something for everybody when they are created by everybody.”

    Jacobs’s quote was next to one from hometown hero Drake, “When I think of myself, I think of Toronto.” Neither the Drake nor the Jacobs quote required context or an explanation of either source’s pedigree. It’s unlikely a retail management company anywhere else in North America would assume that Jacobs wouldn’t require a line of biography. But Jacobs is the patron saint of urban-minded Toronto, a benevolent specter watching the evolution of the city she called home for the second half of her life.

    Jane Jacobs’s name appearing in Toronto is not unique nor a surprise, but finding it at the mall defies local conventional wisdom. The mall? Ewww. Urbanista Toronto is rife with the sentiment that the Eaton Centre is a place to be avoided at all costs. Inauthentic, crass, and boorish, it’s for people who’ve not yet been enlightened to a better urban way of life, one of cozy neighborhood strips with cafes and cupcake stores. Conventional urban wisdom here might suggest a much more appropriate place for a Jane Jacobs quote is a few kilometers west at a building well known in arts and culture circles in Toronto: 401 Richmond. A massive former factory that produced lithography on tinware products, its various sections were built between 1899 and 1923, but today it’s filled with arts organizations, galleries, studios, magazine offices, artist unions, designers, podcasters, and even one fellow who still fashions pieces of guerrilla art out of copper and other bits of metal and attaches them to utility poles around the city. Jane Jacobs quotes and pictures are here, too, part of an exhibition on her life and work that has been permanently installed inside, but her connection to this building is even deeper.

    In fact, 401, which the Zeidler family purchased in 1994, is an illustration of Jacobs’s arguments about urbanism and a piece of her legacy in Toronto. Eberhard Zeidler, the patriarch, was the architect who designed the Eaton Centre. When the Zeidlers purchased 401, the old steampunk neighborhood around it, once the heart of Toronto’s schmatte trade, was dead. “There was one restaurant in the area, just a greasy spoon. Now there has to be like 20 or 30 in that section there,” says Margie Zeidler, Eberhard’s daughter and the driving force behind what would become the vital building beloved by so much of Toronto today. Today that 1994 landscape is unimaginable and the building is at the heart of one of the most intense areas of development in North America, with condo towers sprouting where there were once acres of parking lots and buildings left fallow after deindustrialization.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    May 7, 2016 at 6:34 pm