Public Spaces, Private Investment

CBC’s Metro Morning is running a series this week on the transformation of public space in Chicago by privately funded improvements.  Some flavour of the series is on their website here.

Why can’t we do this sort of thing in Toronto?  There is much hand wringing and bemoaning the lack of civic pride and good works that would make a truly Beautiful City.  Council rejects proposals of private funding for the renovation of Nathan Philips Square.  What are we thinking?

Well, take a good look at the Chicago photos on the CBC site.  You will notice, or rather not notice, something that is far too common here in Toronto:  advertising.

You can’t move in public spaces these days for advertising, and nothing gets built without a whacking great corporate logo on it.  What is the point of art and architecture when the dominant visual is whatever piece of dreck XYZ corporation is trying to sell this week?

If the private sector is really interested in making Toronto a better place, it will give us good, friendly spaces, impressive where that is appropriate, subtle, amusing and just refreshing where that’s what is needed.  A little plaque somewhere will tell us something about XYZ.

Nathan Phillips Square looks good without 10-storey-high neon advertising, thank you.

2 thoughts on “Public Spaces, Private Investment

  1. Hey Steve,

    I’d also like to add to the whole advertising issue. I was wondering if you’ve seen the drawings for the new METROPOLIS building that is being constructed right now at the corner of Dundas and Yonge? The way it is being conceptualized by the render is just horrific. the whole front facade is plastered with ads. Here is a rendering of it, .

    This is sad to see because architecture is supposed to be creative and is supposed to bring something special to the area. But if you’re standing in the center of Dundas square, what do you actually see? Eaton Center with its ads; this new Metropolis with its ads; to the south is the Hard Rock cafe which also has a huge TV and other ads.

    Thanks to this, there are barely any buildings to be seen from the spot where they want everyone to gather.


  2. There’s a place for overwhelming advertising, and Dundas square is it. If you want architecture try the ROM.

    Steve replies:

    Maybe we should put all of the ads at Dundas Square and leave the rest of the city alone.  As for the ROM, that carbuncle on Bloor Street is architectural vandalism.

    My basic issue is that we should not have corporate logos on every “public” site in town.  The case of Nathan Phillips Square is really galling — naming it for a sponsor would say that “the city is for sale to the highest bidder”.  Maybe that’s true, but we should be discreet about it.


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