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Writing the City — Passing through the passages of Yorkville

November 20, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (0)


Last week our final stroll this fall left from reference library mothership in Yorkville. A night walk through the sparkling city, the idea was to see the mix in Yorkville and pass through some of its passageways. Like the wanderer can famously do in Paris or Edinburgh, we can pass through Yorkville not just on the streets, but through passageways (like Edinburgh's "closes") and indoor retail corridors (like Paris's arcades). Despite the rapid growth in the neighbourhood, there's still much small scale, though there is some development pressure are particularly special parts of the areas. (Yorkville will be part of the Big Idea I'm going to present at next Monday's Idea Jam at the reference library come check it out).

Here's the route we took on this walk.

Our large group stopped at the now-disused presentation centre for the Four Season's hotel across the street. Such massive, solid buildings for temporary use. Somebody in the group said they would make good cottages.


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We checked out some of the public spaces created by recent development. Here's the courtyard at 18 Yorkville, designed by Toronto landscape architect Janet Rosenberg.

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Just down the street all 50 of us wandered through the new "rose" pathway pattern created by Montreal landscape architect Claude Cormier in the new Four Seasons courtyard. The "steam" wall wasn't on though — that's the wall you see in the back of the above picture. It produces a misty steam at regular intervals when working.

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Bright lights and some of the preserved Old Yorkville homes on Hazelton Avenue.

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We slipped through the series of outdoor courtyards and passageways that run alongside the Hazelton Lanes mall and condos — the old Victorian houses were preserved and partially incorporated into the 1970s structure, a very typical Toronto blend of old and new. If we weren't such a large group, we'd have passed through the Lanes indoors, but security might panic and think one of the notorious Library Gangs of Yorkville was invading.

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We all crowded into one of my favorite places in Toronto, York Square, built in 1968.  Not just an early post-hippy Yorkville development, it is one of Toronto's earliest adaptive reuse projects of this era that saw the Avenue Road Victorians connected to modern buildings designed by architects Jack Diamond and Barton Myers. Here we are in its courtyard, though soon it may be filled in as a condo proposal for this site has been made. Modern heritage is at the most risk of being cast aside right now during its awkward teenage years (at around 40 or 50 yrs old for buildigns).



We stopped at the Yorkville Park's Canadian Shield rock to look at the park itself, built over the subway, and Cumberland Street that does "up and down" fairly well, something that often doesn't work in Toronto as people here tend to like commercial spaces on the same level as the sidewalk.

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We ended in Cumberland Terrace, the mall across the street from the reference library. It's a block-long passage, and a bit of a museum of 1970s mall design, but it too is slated for redevelopment so check it out while you can, especially the cone of silence above and post-psychedelic tile work.

Photos in this post by Laura Headley and Phyllis Jacklin.


There are a 1000 stories in the naked city, as the saying goes, and you should be writing some of them. Writer in Residence Shawn Micallef will be encouraging people to write about their city. Follow along here on city explorations and journeys into the library stacks. Shawn will also be posting some of the city-writing that he receives from people like you.

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