The city can be abstracted to be understood.

I have lived in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, three cities with comparable old-school style Institutional Universities.

I have noted that each of these universities, the University of Toronto, McGill and Dalhousie though very similar in overall design (a main quad, tower/front steps buildings, institutional architecture), their relationship with the city differs immensely.

Let me convey this visually with some abstract maps.

UofT sits in the middle of Toronto, and though a distinct entity, the city filters through it effortlessly. The effect is a university-city soup — space punctured by normal flows and spaces of city-life, with distinct areas of UofT inbetween.

McGill, also in the heart of downtown Montreal, too is surrounded by city, but keeps it at bay — is a special entity amongst an otherwise flowing urban fabric. But it stands open to the city of Montreal, it’s arms wide open, inviting passersby to use it as a shortcut between downtown and the Plateau.

Halifax’s Dalhousie University is less open to the city that surrounds it. It sits in a quiet corner, it’s back turned to the streetscapes it disrupts. Rock walls and inconsistent street patterns lend to the effect that Dalhousie stands apart from the city, providing only slightly permeable space to those passing through. 

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