Archives for category: fantasy geography

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If you follow me on twitter or instagram you’ll already know about my social media campaign #actuallyasea

Basically, we call Lake Ontario a lake, but I think doing so is an injustice to this massive, powerful, majestic body of water. As I’ve written over at Spacing Toronto, Lake Ontario is actually a sea. The way we talk about things says a lot about our relationship to them, and calling a body of water a lake serves to domesticate it, and dominate it.

A lake is something knowable and safe. Calm waters that you dip your feet in at the cottage.

A sea is a more appropriate word for what Lake Ontario is, and by calling it a sea, we can elevate the status of the waters in our minds and understanding Toronto as “a city by the sea”. We often call the Great Lakes, collectively, “inland seas”, but rarely give them the sea treatment individually. My campaign has mostly focused on Toronto because Lake Ontario is the sea I know best, and the campaign has to start somewhere!

Since writing that post on Spacing, the campaign has really taken off. Many friends and strangers have begun to tweet and instagram using the tag, and a growing body of photos and other documentation is charting the potential of understanding Lake Ontario as the Sea of Ontario (or Ontario Sea, if that floats your boat).

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An example of Instagram posts tagged #actuallyasea. Thank you to @theholygasp, @lindsayzv, @sammytangir, @am__eh and @studiojaywall for your contributions!

I’ve also been gathering more evidence to make the case that Lake Ontario is #actuallyasea, and am excited to provide an update on the campaign:

i. Toronto’s First Nations

In the original Spacing article, I failed to acknowledge Toronto’s First Nations history and their relationship to these massive bodies of water. As a white-settler geographer, it is my responsibility to acknowledge and centre First Nations histories as much as I can, and I apologize for this oversight.

In no way can I speak for the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, or Anishinaabe cultural view points, but many online resources have compiled interpretations of the Great Lakes from a First Nations perspective.

A resource I often use is the Decolonial Atlas. The blog has an entry called The Great Lakes in Ojibwe  that shares the Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) names for the Great Lakes, as it “is the most-spoken indigenous language in the Great Lakes basin.”

The Great Lakes are known as Nayaano-nibimaang Gichigamiin, or, the Five Freshwater Seas. Lake Ontario is known in Anishinaabemowin as Niigaani-gichigami, or the Leading Sea.

I have also heard Gichigami translated as “big water”, “large sweet water”, but what matters is the languages’ distinction between bigger and smaller bodies of water.

Of course, there are many, many cultures and nations today and historically that lived in the Toronto and Great Lakes region, and Anishinaabemowin does not represent all these perspectives. I am striving to understand more about Toronto’s First Nations history and support (not co-opt) the voices of others, so please let me know if I have made any mistakes or oversights.

ii. The Caspian “Sea”

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One of the most contentious parts of the #actuallyasea campaign is that people can’t accept that there is no technical definition of a sea. As I mention in the post, the term sea is more cultural than scientific, and there is no hard and fast definition of lake vs sea. Despite that, most people are inclined to say “Lakes are freshwater, seas are salt water”, and dismiss the entire campaign as fanciful whimsy.

In the Spacing article, I cite the Sea of Galillee as the primary definition-jammer. Known as a sea, it’s technically a lake, and is a fraction of the size of Lake Ontario. Its sea-status makes this biblical body of water worthy of its myth and power.

I always knew that the Caspian Sea was also a potential definition-jammer, but I only recently confirmed that the large body of water between Europe and Asia is (according to Wikipedia) “variously classed” as the “world’s largest lake” of a “full fledged sea”. The Caspian Lake is #actuallyasea as much as the Great Lakes are! Though its salt water, it is a distinct body of water separate from the ocean, and thus could be interpreted as a lake. How confusing! Exactly! According to the fantastic instagram account, AMapADay, “the ancient inhabitants of its coast perceived the Caspian Sea as an ocean, probably because of its saltiness and large size”.

If Lake Caspian is #actuallyasea, and has been known as such for millennia, well then, it’s about time we call Lake Ontario the Sea of Ontario.

iii. The Swedish sjö

One of the things that really jumpstarted the #actuallyasea campaign was when I was showing a friend from Sweden around Toronto, and she kept referring to Lake Ontario as a sea. As I write in the Spacing article, “In Swedish, sjö refers to both lakes and seas, so she wasn’t technically wrong”.

As you may know, I’m currently living in Malmö, Sweden for the next five months – and it was only a matter of time I confirmed this confusion of terms.

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Vänern and Vättern, the Swedish sjös, and the Baltic Sea to the east

And yes, sjö does refer to both lakes and seas. Specifically, it refers to the two large bodies of water in southern Sweden surrounded by land, but is also the term used to describe the Baltic Sea. (It also turns out that sjö is pronounced completely differently than I had initially thought. Instead of syo, it’s more like hweh – how bout that.)

For some context, Vänern, one of the Swedish sjös is 5650 square kilomtres, and Lake Ontario is 19000 square kilomtres. Lake Ontario is most definitely #ActuallyaSjö

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Those are the updates for now – in the mean time, check back on the campaign as it continues to grow on social media, and contribute your own photos of how Lake Ontario is a sea by tagging #actuallyasea!

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Driving along the 401, it’s hard to miss the new cluster of towers that come into view just before the highway rises east toward the DVP/404 interchange. Towering over the 401 at Leslie Street is Ikeatown, one of Toronto’s newest neighbourhoods.

Just as the St Lawrence Market was the commercial heart of early York, Ikea’s energy brings life to the new precinct, attracting visitors from all over Toronto and much further afield.

For now, Ikeatown’s borders seem to be Sheppard to the north, Leslie Street to the east, the 401 to the south and Provost to the west, though with the completion of upcoming condominium projects, the neighbourhood will expand west to Bessarion Street.

Ikeatown

Okay. I admit that the neighbourhood isn’t officially called Ikeatown. It’s formally dubbed Park Place by its developers, probably due to its proximity to the East Don River valley. The name seems a bit contrived, however, as the immediate area has a lot less Park and a lot more Ikea.

The increasingly popular use Ikeatown – or Ikeaville – to refer to this part of town may alarm some Torontonians concerned about the appearance of corporate names on the city’s map. However, just as the Don and Humber Rivers have supplanted themselves in so many of the city’s neighbourhood and street names, it’s legitimate that that an area be named for the most dominant feature of its landscape.

Though Ikea has brought life to the brownfield site since the early late 70s, the residential towers were only built in the last few years, demonstrating an early application of “leading with landscape“. The urban design principle has since been used in other large scale redevelopments like the Sherbourne Common in Toronto’s revitalized Waterfront.

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I visited Ikeatown a few weekends ago to explore the city’s newest neighbourhood. Beyond anchoring the district, Ikea’s influence has made its way into other parts of the neighbourhood’s daily life.

Like the Liberty Village Express, the district has its own micro-transit line. A free shuttle (funded by Ikea) regularly operates from Leslie station, terminating in central Ikeatown, that is, right in front of the Ikea. As I rode the bus, I spoke with a few passengers. Many were residents of the neighbourhood who take advantage of the service to access the TTC as part of their daily commute.

Ikeatowners take advantage of the neighbourhood's micro-transit line

Ikeatowners take advantage of the neighbourhood’s micro-transit line

During my visit, I spoke with many Ikeatowners about their neighbourhood. Confirming my suspicions about how much furniture in their apartments came from Ikea, the answers ranged from “about 50 percent” to “almost everything”. I craned my neck upwards to let it sink in. The neighbourhood’s towers, visible on the horizon for kilometres – are literally full of Ikea furniture.

Even the neighbourhood’s public art is Ikea-ish. The public realm is decorated by enormous framed images of flowers that evoke the ready-to-hang stock images of Manhattan and Amsterdam that adorn apartments worldwide.

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Ikeatown is a name that is just catching on, but its novelty shouldn’t undermine its legitimacy. Toronto’s neighbourhood names are traditionally unstable.  Cabbagetown was originally called Don Vale until changed its name in the 1970s to evoke nostalgia when its neglected Victorian housing stock once again became fashionable. Across the river, Leslieville turned into South Riverdale before reverting back to its original moniker. The Upper Beaches and Junction Triangle, and now perhaps Ikeatown, are more recent cases of Toronto growing, re-inventing and re-naming itself.


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Far from the Bloor Viaduct and the concentration of touristy Greek restaurants, Art of the Danforth is a semi-annual art festival along the “other” Danforth, east of Greenwood to Woodbine.

Last May, I was delighted to participate in the festival in collaboration with Sean Martindale.

Half whimsical art project, half participatory urban planning exercise, Dan/Dani IV invited passersby to participate in various activities that crowned them King/Queen of the Danforth for the day, including the big question, “What would you do if you were King or Queen of the Danforth for a day?”

My contribution to the project was a flag making workshop. I worked with participants to create their own flags to reflect their lives and connection to their neighbourhood.

The result was amazing! Beyond some Pizza flags and Ice Cream Cone flags from the youngest Kings and Queens, the result was hyper local flags that included symbols of very small slices of the neighbourhood — a welcome move away from flags that erase the overwhelming diversity of a country under a simplified symbol.

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Imagine a Toronto where every neighbourhood had its own flag, every street, every street corner? We would feel mighty connected to those flags, I imagine — and to those places by extension. Perhaps designating official neighbourhood flags would be the first step toward a decentralized Toronto government, where neighbourhoods could call their own shots, relying on a central city government for services like water and transit. Cabbagetown and the Toronto Island already have theirs!

My favourite flag of the workshop was this one below — the flag, resembling the St Andrew’s cross, was actually a depiction of the paths and gardens of the Robertson parkette at Danforth and Coxwell!

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Making flags with the good people of Danforth East was such a pleasure. Please enjoy the photos, and see you at the next flag making workshop!

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A new project in London proposes converting a bridge over the Thames into a lush, green park: London’s High Line over the river.

I adore this idea. The romance of a bridge is inherent, and we do them a great disservice by purposing them for one simple task: moving cars. The proposed green-bridge would be built across the Thames linking and enlivening two newly built neighbourhoods on the river’s edges.

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The garden-bridge proposal, by Heatherwick Studios, reminds me of a bridge that crosses over Toronto’s Don Valley (and its parkway) that I’ve fantasized converting into a similarly spanning oasis.

From the perspective of driving down the Don Valley Parkway, the bridge already looks wild, with wide green spaces of brush, bushes and trees running along its sides. From satellite imagery I’ve determined that indeed, train tracks run through its middle. Viewed from the road beneath, however, it looks as though a park stretches across the Valley — linking east and west as if protesting the expressway that carved a permanent barrier between the Valley’s edges.

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Amsterdam and Montreal

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The above was presented at the exciting Urban Ecologies conference 2013, which wrapped up today. If you have any questions about Carolinia, please contact me

This post originally appeared on Volume

Ja Natuurlijk (Yes Naturally) is a collaborative art manifestation that is taking place at GEM,Fotomuseum and Gemeentemuseum in The Hague until August 18, 2013. Yes Naturally embraces the increasingly ambiguous space between our ideas of nature and society. The exhibit teases at this contemporary ambiguity, linking the diversity of works on display to two essential questions: What is natural? And who or what decides?

With Artistic Direction from Ine Gevers of Niet Normaal, Yes Naturally showcases international artists’ perspectives on the merging of natures and cultures, making its mission to “not distinguish between human[s], nature and technology.” Establishing at the outset that nature and culture are highly intertwined phenomena — more connected than discrete — the exhibit swiftly departs from old-school Western notions of society as wholly separate from nature, diving into a highly experimental realm between the fields of art and science. The viewer must quickly accept these basic principles –  that there is no such thing as artificial, that nature and culture are one in the same, that cities are ecosystems — or else be left out of the logic and insight provided by the exhibit.

Ja Natuurlijk

While the pieces that make up Yes Naturally range from the silly to the serious, they are all undeniably full of humour. Onslaughts of laughter are inevitable, and will lead to moments of clarity and a deep understanding that humanity and technology are indeed a part of, not apart from a broader terrestrial ecology. The jocularity of Yes Naturally brings with it hilarious and liberating cognizances.

While taking the traditional form of an art exhibit, Yes Naturally is more of a hybrid-species: an art-gallery meets science-museum meets fun-house. The exhibit is spread within the museum, with installations spilling over the walls and spread throughout the museums’ stately grounds. Visitors are first greeted to the exhibit by playful sculptures made from discarded plastic materials, adding colour to the museums’ ornamental pools. These large, floating artworks by Filipino artist-duo Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan are made up of thousands of waste materials that have been ritually transformed into fetishized objects made to protect species and places in nature.

Within the museum’s walls, Finnish artist Antti Laitinen’s video installation Bare Necessities is a humorous critique of the highly romanticized ideal of ‘going back to nature’. Laitinen takes this idea to its bitter end, and shares his experience of going into ‘the wild’ without supplies. Along with capturing humorous images of Laitinen, stark naked and struggling to make a fire, the videos include more solemn moments where the artist, staring blankly over the tree-topped horizon and into space considers the brutish and unforgiving reality of a life ‘back in nature’.

Bare Necessaties

Further into the exhibit, Bio-artist Egied Simons’ works are small aquatic ecosystems, complete with water, flora, and microscopic water-insects, and neatly contained within three aluminum boxes. The lids of the boxes reflect and magnify their contents, creating a luscious and fine grained pattern that looks like a romantic landscape painting when viewed from afar. Simons brings microscopic subject matter typically relegated to the realm of biology and life sciences to a wider audience. His work allows the viewer to gaze into the scientific/organic world of the micro, offering a powerful experience of the incredibly small beating hearts of snail embryos. With his highly contained ecosystems, Simons explores how science and magnification “makes the small tangible, instantly endowing it with significance and emotion”.

Egied Simons

Also making use of ‘living art’ but with a decidedly more political tone, Simon Starling’s Island of Weeds is a refuge for plants. Responding to the Scottish government’s regulation of the growth rhododendrons — introduced from Spain in 1763, and thus deemed a non-native species to be eradicated — Starling has constructed a safe asylum for the offender-organism. In doing so, Starling deconstructs the flawed concept of a ‘native’ plant species. In the context of a highly globalized world — where plant life need not yield to human-defined borders — Starling renders the Scottish government’s policy cruel and ridiculous.

Island of Weeds

While the humorous tones of the exhibit range from hopeful visions of the future, cynical critiques of the present, and appeals from social and environmental activists, Yes Naturally is above all an exercise in absurdity. Within this absurdity, its tricky and ambiguous subject matter is given room to breath, allowing its radical principles to be more readily accepted by its viewers. At the end of the exhibit, gazing over a sun-baked mass of plastic – a piece of the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch retrieved by Maarten vanden Eyed, the viewer is mentally prepared to accept  that plastic from this horrid pollution is natural, a sort of 21st century formation of coral. And while plankton are adapting to this new nature-culture rapidly, physically incorporating the plastic’s nutrients into their metabolism, so should we – conceptually.

Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

As the visit to Yes Naturally comes to an end, visitors get a chance for final reflections with Finnish artist Tea Mäkipää‘s Petrol Engine Memorial Park. Lining the museum’s western wall, abandoned, rusty cars have been ornamentally transformed into large garden beds. Set in the near future, the installation’s plaques playfully proclaim the end of the ‘age of oil’. The car-garden beds triumphantly embrace an unmentioned new world order, fanciful flowers and plants grow organically upwards, embracing the sky – the antithesis of a world of pollution, petrol and plastics. As today’s cars rumble by on the busy city streets, the viewer can contemplate how a change in the order of things — from petrol-economies to something more sustainable, perhaps — necessarily must grow out of the old world order. Shedding the skin of the petrol age, this new age will take up its refuse and trash as resource, and make new out of it.

Petrol Engine Memorial Park

Petrol Engine Memorial Park

Many more works make up Ja Natuurlijk (Yes Naturally), each exploring how culture and nature can reinforce each other and in the process creates conditions for a better world. The exhibition, at the GEM Museum for Contemporary Art, Fotomuseum and Gemeentemuseum, is open until August 18.

The program for Yes Naturally consists of several events and exhibitions at several locations in The Hague. Be sure to take a look at the agenda since there’s a lot to do, see and explore.

torontodam

Click the map to enlarge it!

Readers, I have yielded to that irresistible urge to compare two cities – in a big way. 

I present to you a rough sketch of a comparison between the neighbourhoods of Toronto and Amsterdam, a mash up map that transposes Amsterdam neighbourhoods into the spatial configurations of Toronto, becoming a new city I like to call Torontodam.

Of course, certain liberties are taken – the comparability  isn’t perfect – but there is something to it: Toronto neighbourhoods seem to correspond quite well to their (urban geographer defined) Amsterdam counterparts.

The comparisons are based on geography, culture or a mix of the two.  For example, it works quite nicely that Amsterdam’s Indischebuurt, located in the city’s east, corresponds to Toronto’s Little India, also in the east.

If you are familiar with the two cities, please comment, and help improve the next draft. Some things to hash out: what should Cabbagetown be? Queen’s Park and the houses of Provincial Parliament? Cabbage town? What is Kensington Market — is there really no concentrated grungy neighbourhood in Amsterdam, no Camden Town (London) equivalent? So much to compare!

this is a >> LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE DESIGN PROJECT >>

I’ve been thinking recently how disorienting it would be to rotate an entire intersection, as if it were on a giant lazy susan.

This would be especially disorienting if it were done to an intersection you know quite well – one that you are familiar enough with to anticipate the string of buildings that will follow from it.

Our urban lives are rooted in the illusion of permanence. Our expectations of what is ahead of us in a city we know well are unwavering. If a city were to change, ever so slightly, deviating from the expected, it would be deeply confusing, disorienting and strange.

I drew these diagrams to conceptualize what rotating a Lazy-Susan intersection might look like.

Lazy Susan Intersection

Going a bit further with the real world example of the intersection of College and Bathurst Streets in the very linear Toronto, I used satellite imagery from google maps to simulate what a Lazy-Susan intersection might feel like from above.

Lazy Susan Intersection 2

And, using the wealth of visual information that google’s street view provides, I went all the way and used photoshop to simulate, quite roughly, the visceral disorientation that might be experienced if a Lazy-Susan intersection were ever implemented. The smaller photos above are the intersection as it is, unrotated.

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College and Bathurst West

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College and Bathurst South

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EAST

College and Bathurst East

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NORTH

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This experiment might be the most disorienting in Barcelona – where the repeating orthogonal intersections of l’Eiaxmple  are already immensely confusing:

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Halifax-01

This is Halifax, today. The main geographical feature of Halifax is that it is a peninsula. Peninsular Halifax protrudes out from the Bedford Basin into the greater harbour. To the west, a thin strip of water known as the North West Arm separates it from Spryfield and the Purcell’s Cove Road area – the “mainland”.

There are no connections over the North West Arm between peninsular Halifax and the mainland – one must travel to where the land connects – at the Rotary – to get anywhere along the western shores of the Arm – a relatively far distance to travel to somewhere that is not too far away, as the crow flies, or the car drives.

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The consequences of this on the city’s collective cognitive geography is enormous. With no connections, the mainland seems incredibly far away, more like the map pictured above. The mainland is also fairly undeveloped — it remains largely forested, and, along Purcell’s Cove road you can access William’s Lake, and Tea Lake, some of Halifax-area’s most beloved swimming spots.

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In the 1960s, an ambitious highway plan would have seen the extension of a highway-like Barrington Street through the downtown, around Point Pleasant Park, and over to the mainland, as roughly pictured in the map above.

The plan, known as Harbour Drive, was never realized, and the highway-zation of Barrington stopped at the Cogswell Interchange.

I often think that the consequences of a built Harbour Drive on our relationship with Halifax would have been profound. Instead of thinking about Halifax-proper as an isolated peninsula, it would form a larger whole, and my life would probably be more integrated into the paths and projects associated with the Spryfield and Purcell’s Cove area.

But while thinking this, I also correct myself because if Harbour Drive was built, it would have been a gross super-highway, leading to the development of Fairview-  & Dartmouth-style suburbs that I would never have any reason to go to – there would undoubtedly be a deficiency of a public realm and walkable, public space.

Since Harbour Drive was never built,  beautiful forests remain.

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It is pity, though, that the mainland seems so far from my life, when it’s actually so close.

It would be so lovely, if pedestrian bridges stretched, across the North West Arm, as pictured above, connecting Halifax and the Mainland –  between the end of South Street and Dingle Park, Point Pleasant Park and Purcell’s Cove. It would bring the forest, the lakes, and the fine air of the mainland closer to our lives, in a lovely, healthy way.

As part of the Dalhousie Gazette‘s fantastic Other Gazette, my brother and I have been taking a variety of Halifax landmarks and transforming them into things they kind of look like.

The feature inevitably grew out of one of our favourite teen pass-times, “Everything is Everything”, a drawing game that involves turning a circle with four spokes into anything your opponent challenges. “Everything is Everything” was also the title of the Fuller Lecture I gave in the summer of 2011.

Look-a-likes may be an exercise in exaggerations – but in a world where the fractal nature of the universe is relatively common knowledge, is it so farfetched to suggest the Halifax peninsula looks like a silly mermaid?

Cross-posted from Spacing Atlantic

HALIFAX – For those who haven’t been scrutinizing the urban landscape for the last few years, the appearance of a centuries’-old house, stilted and shunted to the edge of the parking lot across from the Trident Cafe, must be a mighty strange site.

Having survived the demolition of the neighbouring Victoria Apartments in 2009, the Morris House has since found refuge on an adjacent parcel of land.

Spacing Atlantic reported extensively on the loss of the Victoria Apartments, a beautiful heritage property that has connections with the Morris family, the first and only Chief Surveyors of Nova Scotia. In its later years, the Apartments were a hub for musicians and artists and one of the last vestiges of affordable housing in the city’s South End.

An emotional affair, crowds gathered to share the Victoria Apartments’ final moments.

The historic Morris House, the second oldest wood structure in HRM, seems to have been dormant in the years since its rescue from the bulldozer. But appearances are deceiving, and over the last three years a buzz of activity has been surrounding the Morris House, its preservation and its future.

Since they saved the house in 2009, a Joint Action Committee comprised of the Ecology Action CentreHeritage Trust of Nova ScotiaMetro Transit Non Profit Housing Association, and the ARK have been busy preparing for the Morris House’s next life.

It took some time, but the donation of a lot at the south west corner of Creighton and Charles Streets in the North End secured the Morris House’s fate. When it’s moved in early 2013, the Morris House will be expanded and developed as (energy efficient) affordable housing  for nine young adults.

A rendering of the Morris House’s new home, at Creighton and Charles Streets, with an addition still in the design phase

The project is a beautiful mix of elements that would make any local urbanist melt: the preservation of the city’s heritage built environment, the marriage of old and new architectural styles, adaptive reuse of recycled building materials, the provision of affordable housing, and the monumental filling of one of Halifax’s infamous vacant lots.

It’s no wonder the Morris House has been the subject of countless academic and art projects. (Its allure most recently attracted Anna Sprague, who surrounded the house with whimsical white balloons for Nocturne 2012.) Since it was rescued in 2009, the sight of the lonely house has embodied a powerful energy, it’s back turned to the street it used to be an intimate part of.

There’s something captivating about the persistence of the Morris House, its insistence that it continue to be a conspicuous member of the cast of characters that make up Halifax’s built environment. There will also be something magical about witnessing the historic house sail three kilometers through the streets of Halifax when it is moved to its new home in the North End early next year.

With these qualities, the Morris House project is capable of catalyzing a deep conversation about affordable housing and inclusivity in Halifax, a conversation we desperately need to have. The project is also a dramatic testament to the idea that the “greenest building is the one still standing”.

In efforts to raise funds for moving the house, an Indiegogo campaign has been set up. The house is scheduled to move in early January. 2013. Check out the Morris House website for updates and more information.

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Beyond Portland’s downtown, and mostly, in my experience, across the river on the city’s east side, I experienced a very pleasant form of suburbanism.

The cityscape in these parts is characterized by the archetypal suburban elements:  wide streets, stand alone retail plazas, and single family homes with lots of yard space.

The streets, however, were incredibly walkable, and due to Portland’s progressive approach to urban planning, accommodating to cyclists.

As I explored, it became evident that east-Portland is home to a unique urban form: walkable Suburbanism. Yes, the streets were wide, and cars quickly zoomed through them. Cars are not, however, the dominant form of transportation, the standard unit of planning. Ample room is given to pedestrian space, bicycle lanes are omnipresent, and on some streets, light rail takes up a portion of the roadway.

The archetypal suburban architecture also had a walkable spin: retail plazas and restaurants, usually found set back several hundred feet behind immense fields of parking, were rather directly fronted to the sidewalk. Parking, if present, was limited to a small strips in front of stores.

The neighbourhoods were characterized by detached homes, but the area retained its urban feel, with shops and parks nearby.

As developers become more constrained by the cost of goods and transportation and construction, let’s hope they finally heed to the calls of sustainably-minded urbanists. Grey-field sites, such as already developed suburban land, should increasingly becoming the focus of development.

This is the new frontier of urban planning: the densification of the suburbs. Suburbs are already serviced by water, electricity, and transportation, and can easily accomodate more people. Cities, as they are, have vast tracts of land that can support increases of population: we no longer need do to develop farms and forests on a city’s fringes.

Portland’s walkable suburbanism provides a good model for the densification of the suburbs, the real need being in suburbs that have been developed in the last 20 years.

As most of Portland was probably built in the 1950s, an era of suburban city-building that still had an ounce of dignity, its neighbourhoods are well connected, located in walking distance to commerce, and the streets, though wide, are certainly inhabitable. Portland, along with cities like Winnipeg, and inner-suburban Toronto, is lucky to inherit this built form. It is a great mix of the urban and suburban: it heeds to the desires of those who feel they need fresh air and space, but can also be serviced efficiently, is walkable and bike-able, and certainly fosters social relationships amongst neighbourhood fixtures and passersby.

As we densify the suburbs, let’s look to east-Portland for inspiration. Due to history and good conscience, the future is already there, and its thriving.