2008 06 16
Reading Toronto To Rebuild
Reading Toronto launched on March 30th, 2005. Its objective—to give the city's exceptional creative producers an online forum, one they could use to describe Toronto in new, revealing ways. On the "about" page we wrote:
Reading Toronto looks at the city through the eyes of many of its most creative artists and arts institutions. The growing ubiquity of high-speed Internet connections allows visitors from around the globe to experience the city in ways never before possible. More than that, they can contribute their own stories, experiences, and ideas about Toronto. As descriptions of the city accumulate, we expect that new ways of reading Toronto will emerge.

The effort was worth it. RT offered Toronto-related stories from brilliant contributors like Gary Michael Dault, Amy Lavender Harris, Piers Handling, Margaret Atwood, Anne Michaels, Cory Doctorow, Alexander Pilis, Bernie Miller, Jeanne Randolph, Ian Chodikoff, Jeremy Keehn, Johnson Chou, Lloyd Alter, Mark Kingwell, Matthew Teitelbaum, Michael Anton Dila, Paul Raff, Steve Mann, Vera Frenkel, and many, many more. Their contributions alone make this site a worthy project.

But Reading Toronto is a more than an online compilation of stories about Toronto, it's an experiment too. Why? 21st Century cities are by extension if not by full practice digital cities. The people whose job it is to shape those cities are in subtle, ongoing collaboration with the people who use them. That collaboration can be improved by increasing the information feedback between city users and city designers. If we look under the hood, that's the relationship we were experimenting with here. Ultimately, the technology—or our mastery of it—never reached as far as we hoped. We did, however, have some notable successes. The spirit of collaboration and information feedback reached impressive levels when RT brought together hundreds of people who wanted to make the T.T.C.'s website better. We were the catalyst, but the city's user groups, if I can appropriate that term from the software world, were the engine behind the change. The episode in RT's history is a case study on how user-generated content can improve a city's infrastructure.

Over the past three years other online blogging voices have made themselves heard as well. Spacing.ca, blogto.com, and torontoist.com are among the preferred sources of information on Toronto's events, culture, design, and politics. We've promoted them on our home page almost from the start because their work is so good, representing the best blogging content around.

With the city's online reporting in such good hands, Reading Toronto is taking some time off to work on a new experiment. We think it will be a next-generation social amenity for city dwellers. Stay tuned.

If you want to get in touch with us, please continue to use the contact link above.

Robert Ouellette

Editor, Reading Toronto
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 06/16
2008 06 12
Toronto’s Smog-Related Deaths

The head of Ontario's opposition, Bob Runciman, released a report this week making some startling claims. When Premier Dalton McGuinty took office he promised that Ontario's reliance on coal generated power would end by 2007. One year later and it turns out not only are we still using coal, but as many as 9,500 Ontarians die each year from smog-related illnesses. If that figure were going down rather than up, we'd think that changes were being made for the better. In fact, smog-related deaths have gone up from 1,900 per year in 2003. "There are now more smog days per year in Ontario than in the entire eight years before the 2003," claims a report released by the Ontario Conservative Party (you know you've gone into some perverse alternate universe when the Ontario Torys are trying to lead the fight against pollution here).

To add insult to injury, Torontonians now have their very own power plant on the waterfront—something considered unimaginable ten years ago but now an almost belching fact. What is going on? Has anyone vetted these figures? Is there truth in what the Conservatives are claiming?

With a more positive spin to the story, http://www.modeshift.org writes:
Though Premier McGuinty succeeded in 2005 in closing the Lakeview coal-fired plant in Mississauga – and demolishing it with explosives on June 28, 2007 — he missed the 2007 deadline for the other four. Last month, as another electrion approached, he announced in Toronto that wouldn’t happen again. His government just approved a regulation that requires all of the province’s coal-powered generating stations to close by 2014. ”There is only one place in the world that is phasing out coal-fired generation and we’re doing that right here in Ontario,” he said.

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 06/12
2008 06 10
Absurd Green Architecture In Dubai


Building in Dubai will always challenge the idea of sustainability because of the extreme temperatures and lack of water in the region. In spite of that reality, capital generated by $139 a barrel oil is making it possible for architects to try radically new, untested technologies in designs that attempt to generate more energy than they consume and in doing so achieve something that could be called sustainability.

So it is with Italian architect David Fisher’s design for the green environmental tower in Dubai. Named the “Dynamic Architecture” building, the sixty storey tower is also a power source. Forty-eight 0.3 megawatt turbines are contained within its rotating floors. Fisher writes, “Considering that Dubai gets 4,000 wind hours annually, the turbines incorporated into the building can generate 1,200,000 kilowatt-hour of energy.”

The architect describes three technologies that the project relies on for its success. First is the ability for architecture to be dynamic, to constantly change its form. Second, is the integration of power-generating technologies that let the building generate more power than its inhabitants consume. Third, is the factory-based construction that will reduce the number of site workers, speed construction time, and improve the final finish quality.

Take a look at this rather pretentious video for an explanation of the tower. What’s my take on it? Before I was an architect I followed a Buckminster Fuller inspired career path working in aircraft manufacturing for the de Havilland Aircraft Company. I’ve seen the technologies required to make this work from both sides of the technology spectrum, and odds are that this building will fail to meet its objectives. That does not mean it is an unworthy experiment. Inventing new ways of sustainable living will not be easy or cheap; however, we have little choice but to try and if it takes $139 oil to get us there so be it.

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 06/10
2008 06 05
Can We Have A Drum Roll Please: The TTC’s Website Preview

We've waited a year and a half. Patiently. Today, however, Toronto's much under-serviced population will get a glimpse of how the T.T.C. will provide a better transit website. The T.T.C. (in the guise of councillor Adam Giambrone) is calling the press down to City Hall to unveil the Beta version of ttc.ca. Will the people-powered movement kicked off on Readingtoronto.com January 1, 2007 and voraciously taken up by readers of http://www.BlogTO.com, http://www.Spacing.ca, and the http://www.Torontoist.com make a difference?

Will the contributions of everyone who attended TransitCamp be wasted? Will the T.T.C. and its web developer have taken the easy way rather than the better way? I can't make the event—one days notice—so I'll be anxious to read the reports from bloggers and the media who can.

What would a great site look like? There is no one model, but there are good references. A great site would have clear, easy to understand information on routes, timetables, delays, special events, and a whole host of other information in real time. It would be mobile friendly. Waiting for those often late streetcars on Broadview would no longer require calls to the 1-800-clairvoyant line for hints on when to expect the next one.

Can we have a drum roll please?

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 06/05
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