Archives for posts with tag: ontario


As you may know, I recently moved to Guelph, and am spending lots of time getting to know another corner of the Southern Ontario industrial lands.

Guelph is made up of many neighbourhoods that each have their own distinct feel. (Dare I say, Guelph is a City of Neighbourhoods?)

I live in The Ward.

The Ward was first developed to house factory workers and is characterized by humble brick houses scattered between factories.

Some of these factories are still active, like Owens Cornings Reinforcements on York Road, which putters and sputters all day manufacturing something I still don’t quite understand. Other factories have been long decommissioned, and remain semi-abandonded, with only a barbed wire fence signalling anyone still cares about them. Others have been demolished, leaving behind huge brownfields that have yet to be remediated, subdivided and developed.

Compared to Guelph’s wealthier neighbourhoods, The Ward has always been a bit neglected — but this is a good thing. Without much attention paid to it, its obvious from its ramshackle built form that The Ward was left unzoned for the better part of its existence. This left a lot of space for its historically Italian residents to expand their homes willy-nilly to accommodate their needs – whether that was to add extra bedrooms to their upper floors, or an entire front edition that would house a store front.


The result is an incredibly eclectic neighbourhood, where every house is completely different from the next, each DIY renovation facilitating a need, each random addition representing a very specific human desire.

In The Chronology of City Repair, Mark Lakeman talks about how we are all villagers, and modern city development with its homogenous, top down plans and developments prevent us from expressing ourselves in the places we live, taking away our “villager” status.


Its evident from its ad hoc shacks, its piece-meal additions and its random store front editions, that the villager spirit is very much alive in The Ward.

At least it was alive, at a certain time. With many of the commercial additions now inactive, and many unimaginative new homes, it’s hard to say if the villager spirit still remains as strong as the marks it left in its historic architecture.

Like many neighbourhoods similar to it in cities across the world, The Ward is changing. Its Italian residents are aging, their families living in other, shinier parts of town. Young families are moving in, and housing prices are rising.

Will the new residents of the Ward continue inhabiting this place in an ad-hoc basis, and be able to express their specific needs in the architecture? Do the by-laws, the DNA of the city, allow for a continuation of The Ward’s independent spirit?

Even if the by-laws changed, I believe that the places we live strongly effect who we are. And if there’s anything we can learn from the ramshackle, ad hoc architecture of The Ward, it’s that we can make our architecture work for us.

L'heure de pointe de pizza_colour

Inspired by many hungry hours driving on the 401 between Toronto and Guelph. 


I love the existence of “now leaving” signs in between the towns and cities of Europe. Much like their “now entering” counterparts, a “now leaving” sign is simply the name of the town but with a red cross through it.

These signs will often be on two sides of the same post, marking the literal in-between space in the middle of one municipality and the other. For cartophiles, this is an exciting place to be — a place where you can really “feel the map”.

I have noticed a lack of “now leaving” signs in North America. I find that this marks a sort of geographic dishonesty, as if the town, or city or province is too proud to admit that it has met its end. The example I think about most often is at the border of Ontario and Quebec along highway 401. When you’re driving east toward Quebec, you have no idea when Ontario will end — it’s only the <<Bienvenue au Quebec>> that finally gives it away, and in this way, I feel Ontario resisting the reality of its finiteness.

UPDATE: After speaking with my good pal, the Peripatetic Philosopher, I feel a little differently about the above-described “dishonesty” of the lack of ‘Now leaving’ signs in North America.

Here’s what he had to say about the subject:

“I think the root reason why we don’t have these signs in Canada is because we are less concerned with the identity and boundaries of our towns. This used to be a huuuge concern for Europeans since they have had countless disputes over territory. 

“As much as I’d love to see these signs in Canada, it’s also nice to think that our boundaries don’t really exist. Driving to Montreal, I always look out the window and wonder ‘Is this Quebec? Did we pass the sign. This looks like Quebec’…then I realize I’m still in Ontario. Here, the real demarcation between places is by visual differences in the landscape. and our places are more about landscape than towns. For example, I don’t care about Gwimbelberry or Tinkertown or Haliburton, I care about the Canadian Shield and I don’t need a human-made sign to tell me when I’ve arrived.”