Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Messy Urbanism and Brantford

In the recent issue of Spacing Magazine, an excellent magazine that once was centred only in Toronto but I think is on the verge of being the magazine of Canada's Urban Landscape, had an article which examined the messiness that is Toronto. The term is 'messy urbanism' which can be described as a mixture of old and new. There is the cultivated and manicured lots, lanes and green spots that are uniform and then there is the old buildings, that are not gentrified, but are allowed to show their age.

It started with an article a few years ago. It was entitled "Toronto’s Messy Urbanism from the perspective of an Angeleno" . The article was also reprinted in the National Post. The article was written by James Rojas, who founded the Latino Urban Forum.

He spoke at a conference and said this about Toronto:
I spent last week in Toronto and fell in love with what I will call its messy urbanism. The city contains the usual suspects on the menu of elements of contemporary good urban form: mixed-use, bike paths, transit, street trees, etc. However, there’s a sort of less-than-manicured quality to the whole thing, and coupled with a huge diversity of people, the city ends up feeling gloriously messy, in a functional and walkable way.

The City is not of one time period, but is a combination of the time past and the time present. It is the new architecture and the old buildings that remain standing. It is a city where all ages, incomes and combinations meet together. I realize there may not be a utopia, but rather a mixture that represents the city. The old and new stand together, not necessarily as complimenting each other, but make the city what it is. The City is not under control but develops naturally. One author, Mark Hinshaw wrote in his book "True Urbanism":
They try to encapsulate, sanitize, and suburbanize the public realm...There is no room foro messy vitality, spontaneous commerce and idiosyncratic homegrown businesses..In real cities, not everything is tidy. Downtown have many kinds of people with different income levels, and many choices, and some things are simply not photogenic. that is what has always made great cities great.

As all know, Brantford is going through a period of sanitization. The 'urban renewal' of the South Side of Colborne is progress, or happening. Building seen as derelicts of a past time being torn down with the hope of something better, something new and shiny. So the downtown core will be neat, there will be no room for the old and funky.

But can there be this celebration of messy still in Brantford? Or will it be a series of post-modern municipal ugly structures and will shout out 'progress' and sterility. There are still people fighting for the preservation, but I wonder if its now over, the battle has been either won or lost, depending on your point of view. Now the energy should be directed towards making the downtown a vital place in the City. Can commerce, education and culture be brought together for a great place to be.

I went to the site "Principles of True Urbanism" and there is the listing of the principles that make a city great. While messiness is not spelt out, there are a number of points that can exist in the messy. Culture can be messy at times, and in its messiness, is its celebration.

Let's join to celebrate the future urban messiness of Brantford.

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