definition of architect: "someone who loves people"
Sir Ralph Erskine, the eighty year old renown architect was asked by Jan Gehl, the world's foremost researcher - and expert designer on Public Open Space/The Public Realm, to define 'architect'. Erskine response: " Someone who loves people". In the same vein, the definition for landscape architect, urban planner and traffic engineer: "Someone who loves people". Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that many architects, landscape architects, urban planners, traffic engineers, and others involved in designing Toronto's Public Realm - Publicly Owned Open Space - love people.
The apparent "lack of love" for all of the residents of Toronto is matched by the lack of knowledge and design expertise when it comes to The Public Realm - Publicly Owned Open Space.
PUBLIC REALM (Publicly Owned Open Spaces) simply refers to all of the spaces between the buildings in any city that are owned cooperatively, by all the residents in any city. These spaces are - roads, "sidewalks", esplanades, promenades, squares, parks, urban forests, harbours, rivers, beaches, piers, swimming pools, pathways and so on. (Is the PUBLIC REALM - public any longer, when these spaces are privatized? - not likely!) Sometimes the term Publicly Owned Public Open Space is used instead the term Public Realm.
The vast majority of architects, urban planners, landscape architects, road engineers and others involved in designing (mis-designing?) the Public Realm in Toronto - simply not have the appropriate knowledge or experience to design a USABLE - Public Realm.
What is the term USABLE referring to? Most people are familiar with the notion when using the internet. More often than not, folks arrive at a web site where the web pages are so confusing for one reason or another that it's almost impossible to find the information one is looking for - the end result is that people leave that particular web site (many web page designers are confused between "looking good" versus "being good"). Well the same confusion happens when it comes to the design of the Public Realm. Why? Most designers do not understand why and how people actually use the Public Realm - how could they ever design a Public Realm with the needed elements? If these elements are missing, people will not even come to use the Space - and if they come, will not STAY for long or not at all. There is a big difference between knowing how much water a specific kind of plant needs versus knowing the psychology and sociology of how people use (or don't use) the Public Realm. An interchangeable term to the notion of USABLE is LIVABLE. Here is an excellent organization, International Make Cities Livable, click here to view their web site, to get a substantial back ground on what makes any city Livable. Another site that looks at the issue of Livability - with an emphasis on how transportation/parking impacts the Livabilty for the City of Victoria. Click here for this site.
Just how bad is the Toronto Downtown Waterfront - when it comes to a USABLE PUBLIC REALM? It scores a MINUS 970 out of a PLUS 1000. That means it's failing by 970 points just to get a bare pass of Zero! What's missing? Most everything! Click here to see the exact evaluation/scoring for Toronto's entire downtown waterfront ...... which.......sucks badly.
Good waterfront design is relatively simple. As Ralph Erskine states, the first step is that architects, urban planners, landscape architects, road engineers and other people involved in the design of any waterfront need to start loving all of the residents in the city (not just loving the self-centered, self appointed elites).
Next, in the case of Toronto downtown waterfront, they group listed above, need to hire an expert in the design of The Public Realm.
The world's foremost designer of the Public Realm, Dr. Jan Gehl - is available - to come to Toronto and establish a process to repair all of damages made to the Public Realm in Toronto's downtown and downtown waterfront. That's what the Mayor of London, England did - hire Dr. Gehl to deal with the Public Realm in the downtown core of London. Aside from pointing out all of the negatives on the waterfront - several appropriate design notions will be presented here in the near future for the re-development - the revitalization of Toronto's waterfront, into a Usable Public Realm.
Secondly, the City of Toronto could/should hire Dr. Richard Florida to keep the nay sayers at bay. Dr. Florida can explain to us all - that a city dies or lives economically on whether the Creative Class will STAY in Toronto; instead of, moving to another city (Los Angeles or Montreal or Vancouver or.....) . Here is a short video "trailer" to Dr. Florida's new book "The Flight Of The Creative Class" - click here to play. What will keep the Creative Class here in Toronto (read his new book or hire him)? A vibrant, usable Public Realm - that's where the Creative Class hangs out (they don't hang out in Bus Stations nor theme parks on the waterfront).
Next of all, hire Alex Marshall - to help create a sustainable economy in Toronto. Marshall's research shows that not one Public/Private Partnership has ever produced a positive economic outcome for any city in North America! (We all know that well - The Skydome Scam) Marshall's research reveals that appropriate intensification of the inner core of a city (notice appropriate) - while at the same time employing an Urban Growth Boundary - is the only way to avoid driving any city, into a financial morass . More information?: