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Urban impressions of a small-town architect

Urban impressions of a small-town architect
By Stefano Pujatti -

All living organisms undergo constant change. Often not a continual process, change can take place intermittently in sudden spurts, confounding our perception of the original thing. An obvious example is the metamorphosis of butterflies and frogs. But mammals too in their development from baby to adult pass through an indefinite intermediate phase when they are almost unrecognizable.

For the human species this phase is known as adolescence, a period of uncertainty and upheaval, when bodily changes are accompanied by a change in the adolescent’s perception of the world.

Cities too are organisms, made up of many sub-organisms. Like adolescents, they grow following rules we try to codify, but very often are unable to decipher, let alone control.

In recent decades especially we have found ourselves at a loss as the urban forms we were accustomed to began undergoing rapid change.

At a global level, the European city is by and large in a state of stability, even slightly shrinking. In contrast, some metropolises in America and the developing world are developing rapidly, creating urban phenomena with a global reach.

One of these metropolises to redefine global urban geography is Toronto. Capital of the province of Ontario, Toronto, and the small satellite cities that have sprung up around it to form the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), are home to more than 6 million people (one sixth of the entire population of Canada), with a growth trend of around 100,000 new arrivals every year.

Less “European” than Montreal and more similar to an American city, Toronto in this rapid growth phase is seeking an identity to set itself apart from US cities like Chicago and Detroit.

Like any adolescent, Toronto has at times over estimated its capabilities but at others, failed to recognise its qualities. Young and growing both physically and culturally, it is, however, now becoming aware of its...

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