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2007 02 07
Angle of Incident #41: Seminar 3 “Elemental Thunder” Part D
Georgia Ydreos’s graduate thesis is concerned with water and the city. Here “F” was for the novel Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1996), a consideration of which led off her presentation:

Jakob Beer encounters Toronto by way of escape from German-occupied Poland via a Greece he came to know mostly as described to him while hiding. He is introduced to the slow time of the city's vertical layers by his adopted father, and geologist Athos Roussos.

"Like Athens, Toronto is an active port. It's a city of derelict warehouses and docks, of waterfront silos and freight yards, coal yards and a sugar refinery; of distilleries, the cloying smell of malt rising form the lake on humid summer nights.

It is a city where almost everyone has come from elsewhere - a market, a caravansary - bringing with them their different ways of dying and marrying, their kitchens and songs. A city of forsaken world; language a kind of farewell.

It's a city of ravines. Remnants of wilderness have been left behind. Through these great sunken gardens you can traverse the city beneath the streets, look up to the floating neighbourhoods, houses build in the treetops."

This led her to a look at Toronto’s Garrison Creek buried-river system:
Image: Sewer Construction c. 1880s: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2170, Series 376, File 1, Item 15

Garrison Creek, the largest of Toronto's "lost" watercourses, was channelized and buried within brick sewers over three decades ending in 1914. The river once threaded a meandering path from its source above post-glacial Lake Iroquois' bluffs (near today's Bathurst and St. Clair), to its mouth at the now-migrated Lake Ontario waterfront east of Fort York. Visual traces of the Garrison ravine system can still be seen in Toronto's park system and curving streets. Auditory impressions may be caught by ears grazing storm-sewer grates.

The watershed-turned-engineered infrastructure has been the focus of local interest over the years. Toronto architects James Brown and Kim Storey published two public studies in 1996 and 1997 investigating a proposal for a connected series of filtration ponds and a rethinking the "hard-engineering" of the sewer system. Community member Helen Mills leads Lost Rivers, mapping Toronto lost urban watersheds and maintaining awareness through a web site and ongoing walking tours. http://www.lostrivers.ca

Where do we as architects place ourselves in relation water in our cities? Do we merely plug into existing infrastructure systems, or do we rethink this relationship by creating buildings-as-filters? Perhaps architecture could assist a slowing down of the problematic "flushing" of storm-water and waste precipitated by the hard surfaces of urban built form; facilitating a more permeable cityscape?

[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 02/07 at 03:00 PM

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