Archives for posts with tag: geomancy

This post originally appeared on the Jane’s Walk blog

Geomancy, Fortune Telling with Maps, is a practice I developed to invite consideration on how our lives are affected by Toronto’s landscape. It goes deep into place-based identity, inviting reflection on how topography, ecology, history, cardinal orientation, infrastructure and the grid affect our existence and well-being.

For example: The Don River affects a lot of Torontonians, the same way the train tracks we pass over and under every day, the highways we travel along, the city’s waterfront, its buried rivers, and all its hills, valleys and hydro corridors do.

The Don is Toronto’s central river. Its creeks and tributaries criss-cross most of the central city before reaching Toronto Bay, where its flow embraces the electrically charged density of downtown Toronto. It has been home to a distinctly exuberant kind of Toronto culture; the city’soldest neighbourhoods have long perched at the edge of its wide valley. The Don has been the site of most of Toronto’s industrial growth too, especially when we tried to straighten its meandering curves, channelizing it to become a working canal. Further upstream, the Don has been where utopian visions of the city like Don Mills andThorncliffe Park have been dreamed up and realized. Today, it’s again a major site of development, with the construction of the Pan Am Athletes Village and continued efforts to re-naturalize the river’s mouth.

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Image of Toronto’s watershed system by Daniel Rotsztain

I think when people talk about Toronto, they’re talking about the Don River. Yet many Torontonians have lived their entire lives along the Don without realizing it. The ways we commute, on bridges over the ravines that keep the geometry of the grid intact, or in subway tunnels deep below the surface of the city, make it easy to forget that the river even exists. But the worldview the inhabitants of central Toronto has been shaped by the wind, water, climate and electric spirit that is undeniably Don.

Compare this to the Humber—the river that flows through the west Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. Though arguably more important to the city’s history (the site of the First Nation’s route to Lakes Simcoe and Huron, and the first French forts), the Humber has resisted the same kind of industrial exploitation. Its energy is calmer, and reflects the culture and atmosphere of Etobicoke’s bucolic inner suburbs.

Geomancy reminds us that you can’t opt out of geography. The paths we trace with our feet in the city, the ways we get around, the watersheds we live in, affect our perspectives and world view. What parts of your city’s landscape affect you?

Daniel Rotsztain is a Toronto-based urban geographer. Check out hiswebsite and his Geomancy blog to learn more, and say hello onTwitter!

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Last Friday, I debuted Geomancy, Fortune Telling with Maps at the most recent iteration of the seasonal/monthly multi disciplinary art party Long Winter.

Geomancy is based on the idea that we are all implicated in the city, and no one can opt out of geography. The features of the landscape and their histories undeniably influence our being.

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Surveying participants’ present and historical routes through the city, I helped people map their lives, and untangle the relationship between their disposition and the landscapes they most often travel.

I spoke with many people about their routes. There was a person from Scarborough who mapped her relationship with industrial spaces, and a fellow living in Liberty Village who crosses under the Strachan railway overpass everyday. Many people had spent their entire lives in the Don or Humber watersheds.

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All the while, those participating in Geomancy — or waiting their turn — got to enjoy a hot cup of Cedar Tea – harvested from one of Toronto’s forests the previous day and served by the always gracious Walking Philosopher. In his words, we were considering the landscape as we drank it.

As I prepare my application for Guelph’s fantastic Masters of Landscape Architecture program, I realize the Geomancy, or, Urban Feng Shui, could be an effective approach to urban design. Taking a regional scale, the appropriate situation of a park, streetscape feature, or square can depend on the landscape around it: its topography or its proximity to railroads and river valleys and waterways.

I am excited to continue to study Geomancy/Feng Shui, and incorporate it into a future professional practice.

Until then, I look forward to seeing you at the next iteration of Geomancy.

All photos courtesy of RCSTILLS via Long Winter

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We are all implicated in the city. We cannot opt out of geography.

Geomancy, fortune telling with maps, looks at the routes we most commonly traverse through the city, suggesting ways topography, ecology, history, cardinal orientation, infrastructure and the grid affects our being.

Geomancy was first presented at the Algonquin Island Christmas boutique. It will appear next at Long Winter, Year 3, Vol. 2, this Friday December 12 at the Great Hall.

Come, explore your geography with me. Let’s try to understand the intersection of landscape and spirit.

Geomance