York Urbanist

Archive for February, 2012

Exploring Our Waterfronts

February 18th, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

All of our municipalities have waterfronts, the previous article expressed. In some cases, we simply have to explore and find the potential of those waterfronts.  Politicians and planners alike think of waterfronts as consisting of flat waters serving an historic economic function of harbour or boating.  Therefore an expansion of the idea of types of waterfronts there are.

In the hierarchy of waterfronts are:

  • oceans;
  • lakes and inland seas;
  • rivers and streams; and
  • harbours.
Each has a different characteristic of activity both human and ecological.
Oceanfronts are: Dynamic; Cultural; Public; and Grand
Lakefronts are: Affected by Water action; Exposed; Human Activity; and suffer or benefit from Private ownership
Riverfronts are: Free Flowing; often Green Edged; express New World Heritage; places of Active Recreation; and are composed of varied other uses depending on the amount of flow.
Harbourfronts are: often Hard Edged; human activity; Commercial; Industrial; and usually populated
Understanding the differences will help us to understand the benefits from each. What all waterfronts have in common is the human natural draw to water, flat or flowing, dynamic or apparently stagnant. Water is the essence of life.
Next blog will be International examples in which I have engaged.

The Waterfront Series

February 14th, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

What makes a waterfront?  Seems like a simple question, but our answers may surprise.  The coming series will invite you to examine your municipality and its waterfront.  Unless yours is a prairie desert, you have a waterfront.  It is both a current and historical asset that summons attention.

Historically, villages, then towns, then cities have grown up on the water…the essence of life. Clean water provides a healthy existence in many ways – drinking, washing, cleaning, cooling, heating, power generation, social solace, and recreation.

Toronto for years accepted its central waterfront as its economic generator, ignoring the complexity of its social and recreation benefits.  Today, late in its development, it struggles with what to do because there are so many stakeholders with conflicting visions. John Tory has his work cut out for him dealing with Ontario Place.

In York Region, Vaughan misunderstood that it, too, has waterfront(s). Major rivers, Humber and Don, flow through it, as the rivers’ natural valleys are squeezed and ignored as major assets. Rears of properties back onto the edges of the valleys, disguising this immense benefit, but evidencing the folly of 1980′s planning. Meanwhile, former Mayor Tom Taylor of Newmarket embraced the Holland River as the Town’s core social and recreation asset.  He and the council of the time, by funding a simple trail, invited Newmarket residents to the river’s side, to learn of its history and engage in its calming, albeit minor, flow of water.

The good news in York Region is that TRCA is committed to protection of the valleys.  And the creation of Rouge Valley Urban Wilderness Park http://www.rougepark.com/ is further evidence of the understanding that waterfronts are more than expanses of lakes. 

Stay tuned over the next several weeks.

Mark Inglis is a landscape architect and urban designer who has presented his visions of waterfronts at conferences and to students of landscape architecture. His waterfront works have been expressed in three Canadian provinces, Central America and the Caribbean.

Glacier Walk Design Update

February 9th, 2012

It is indeed a pleasure to see a federal agency making a decision on the bold Glacier Discover Walk design. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/controversial-glacier-project-in-jasper-national-park-wins-approval/article2332254/

Seniors Segregation

February 6th, 2012

Gerontologist Karl Pillemer was on CBC’s Tapestry yesterday. His perspective on aging caught my attention. Ours is the first generation to be segregated from society so distinctly. In the past, the over-60′s were called elders and were resources to the coming generations. Today, we provide them with accommodations remote from the family, set amongst others of like age. This intergenerational exchange is a valuable tool missing from life.

Centre for City Ecology

February 1st, 2012
Healthy Communities, Uncategorized

Just heard on CBC that a book club is being formed by Centre for City Ecology. They are starting with Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Jane Jacobs was a phenomenon. The book is a great guide for designers. I just hope its pedestal is not raised so high as to ignore that its writing is set in the 1960′s and that communication and transportation modes have created change.