Home » Urban Design: Toronto Steps Up

Urban Design: Toronto Steps Up

Toronto is only beginning to evolve in the design of public space…the city feels like it was designed by the public works department.

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The UQAM Residences, in Montreal. Image: VoCA

Yes it does and it’s a real shame that it’s taking so long.

After being in Montreal over the holidays, where the UQAM buildings off Sherbrooke are invigorating, challenging, high quality…anything but dull, we came back to Toronto, where the average new building has cheap doors, glass frontage right out onto the streets, few courtyards and shameful quality. (Hello, lower Jarvis Street)

Read THIS article on the Toronto architect who – we are thrilled to see – is changing that.

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The side view of UQAM’s residences. You might not love it, but it’s a lot more sophisticated than…


…this.  Public housing on Jarvis Street, Toronto. Image: torontohousing.ca

And while we’re on the topic of things that should change, why does Toronto still oversalt its sidewalks?  It’s polluting the Don River in a highly problematic way. How does this sit with the Bring Back the Don initiative that started back in 1989? In Montreal they use black gravel.

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Montreal’s gravel. Toronto should use this! Save our environment (and our boots, cars and bikes) Image: VoCA

5 Responses to “Urban Design: Toronto Steps Up”

  1. Bill says:

    I like the black gravel idea, and I also really like Montreal’s colourful, stained glass-sided Convention Centre!

  2. Murray says:

    While there are many things to admire about Montreal, I think it’s a bit misleading to suggest that their ice control program is one of them. It’s highly unlikely that ‘black gravel’ alone was aplied to the sidewalk in your photo, but rather was applied in combination with chemical deicer. Also, temperature plays a large role in determining how best to manage ice and snow, but for the most part, gravel alone would be insufficient.

    But if you really want to cut down on the use of chemical ice control products, stopping personal injury lawyers from filing thousands of slip and fall law suits every year would be a good starting point. There’s a reason they can afford to have full page ads in every phone book in the country.

  3. AC says:

    Thanks Murray, for your comment

  4. BD says:

    There is far more happening in terms of city building and architecture in Toronto than in Montreal. UQAM’s building is great, but frankly it is one of the only ones that jumps out. Montreal is not cutting edge in architecture or city building.

    The exception is of course their amazing bike lanes everywhere and rental network. That is way farther ahead. They also have a better attitude towards street furniture —like attractive lighting and ads on those round pillar things instead of as billboards. This is more attractively done. But they don’t have the recycling programs we have.

    The constant complaining from Toronto about all the thing it doesn’t have gets really annoying, look at all the great buildings that have been built over the last 4 years. Is that happening in Montreal? No it isn’t.

    Toronto of course fails miserably on Condos. This is a sad state of affairs but that comes down to lack of regulations and lack of control over what gets built. We settle for crap when if comes to buildings that are not deemed to be important.

    As for snow removal…Montreal is shockingly bad at snow removal. I have a friend with a disability who could not walk around the city during winter because they don’t remove the snow from the sidewalk. It just sits there and gets trampelled down. They have way more snow, but for god sake clear the sidewalks!

  5. Linda B. says:

    In winter you should count your blessings you live in Toronto and not Montreal.I was in Montreal a couple of winters ago staying with a cousin in downtown on Sherbrooke Street.The sidewalks are sheer ice. Even in front of businesses. Apparently no one feels a responsibility to make the sidewalks safe in front of their property.

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