The construction of Canada in Toronto Following the Saint Lawrence River.
The best way to become aware of the great country that is Canada is to approach it from the St. Lawrence River, where its origin and future progress lie. Proud of its size and of sparse population, Canada houses a handful of remarkable cities, located in the historically most accessible places. The West Coast and the St. Lawrence River host the most important cities, where the vast majority of the population live.
If the river appears to us as an engineering territory, with its canals, dams, bridges and hydroelectric stations, the city of Toronto is the site of new and interesting transport policies and urban approaches to guide and control its growth. In Chapter 1, the introduction to this book, we analyze the strategic location of Toronto regarding resources, communications, and its political neighbors; how it has designed a transitable urban fabric where the car coexists with public transport to bring the periphery and the center closer together; how it improves and conditions its site on the shore to coexist with the lake in a sustainable manner; and why it aims for the center of these advantages to grow in a habitable way and enjoy full vitality, enhancing its attraction. These four adjectives are dealt with in the chapters following this introduction.
Chapter 2 reflects the importance of the St. Lawrence River in the origin and growth of both the country and the city of Toronto. The river and the Great Lakes, where it widens, constitute the largest freshwater reserve in the world, storing one third of its total, and are the primary source of natural resources for the entire territory east of the Continental Divide, the watershed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The communication between the most important Canadian cities by sea, by means of the Seaway made possible by the river, became something to be preserved at all costs. With the Anglo-American war the border sections of the river became dangerous and it was necessary to build an important system of channels to avoid them.
In addition, hydroelectric power stations were built to take advantage of the enormous flows that run along the steps and rapids of the Saint Lawrence river Toronto was able to take advantage of its central location on the river to become the largest and best connected city in Canada, first with the canals, then with the railways, and later on with the airports, which operate more connections to other cities in the world than those in any other Canadian city.
Chapter 3 looks at the changes that occurred when trains replaced ships to move around the country, inducing a strong push for city growth and major technological innovations in mobility.
The emergence of the railroad reduced the influence of the St. Lawrence River on Toronto's life, as it was no longer essential as a communication route and could be crossed, mostly close to the main cities, thanks to the new suspension bridge technology. Soon after, the automobile became the protagonist of transport, both in the city and in the territory. Its rapid acceptance required better and larger roads, which for reasons of safety and capacity became highways.
In Toronto the highways emerged late and people knew how to oppose them, managing to preserve the original grid. As a result, two policies were adopted to balance mobility without the highways. On the one hand, public transport was promoted with the Metro, in close coordination with trams and buses in some stations transformed into interchanges. On the other hand, it was decided to channel growth by increasing the density in the center and certain selected areas: growth was only allowed where there was sufficient public transport. The implementation of these policies led to the abandonment of segregated housing and office zoning in favor of hybrid or mixed use.
Chapter 4 discusses Toronto's relationship with water, but now in environmental terms. With its way of growing, the city managed to maintain mobility in acceptable terms, but neglected the environmental effects of the logical increase in population. In particular, the discharge of wastewater into the lake, both because of the persistence of old direct discharge sewers, and because of the scarcity of facilities to collect rainwater runoff.
Heavy rainfall floods the streets, washing non-degradable toxic products into the world's largest natural water reserve and forces permanent dredging at the port, extracting hazardous waste that must be deposited in controlled landfills.
For many decades, an industrial and railway barrier prevented the city from seeing the lake. The city ended up on the tracks, and between them and the port there were only a few industries. In the 1970s the container revolution made the port obsolete in a few years, and the city started to recover its relationship with the lake, rebuilding its battered Waterfront in a lengthy operation that radically transformed its neighborhoods and priorities.
Toronto also regained its relationship with the St. Lawrence River, privileged because of its central position on its Canadian shore, between Niagara Falls, visited by 30 million visitors every year, and Kingston's Thousand Islands, which are on the way. Finally, Chapter 5 looks at the city's way of life, networks, space and built forms. It tries to understand the enormous effort of planning, policies and programs carried out by the city in order to become more habitable, becoming a pioneer of a series of urban development practices of great interest. Practices that insist, above all, on the influence of the form of environments built according to the behavior of citizens. By intensifying the density in the Downtown and concentrating growth near transport in the suburbs, it is essential to improve the experience of the user of the resulting fabric. And Toronto is implementing this with new types of buildings and layouts, based on hybrid or mixed use of indoor and outdoor spaces. The tower remains the essential element, but it houses a variety of functions at its base or podium to enhance the vitality of the urban experience.
The design of the streets is oriented to pedestrian use because, although it assumes the inevitability of cars, it reduces their priority or preeminence over other modes of transport so common elsewhere. The cold and wind of the long Nordic winter are countered by an underground network of passages and atriums that connect the main buildings of the city, while the design of large open spaces that are uninhabitable with strong winds is avoided, and sunny spaces are promoted.
Apart from the well-known CN Tower, there are no icons or visual references with which to identify or recognize the attributes of this city, but there is no need for them because the people, the trams, the shops and restaurants, and even the cars – everything that fills its streets, is friendly. Toronto is lived in and used by a heterogeneous population where races, cultures and languages coexist in perfect harmony, and it has demonstrated an enviable capacity for welcoming people.
Toronto is a city full of attractions, although not very well known and not easy to understand. But you don't have to understand it to enjoy your visit and let yourself be carried away by its vitality: it just requires a little more time to be able to walk around it without being in a hurry. If you decide to spend a few days there, you'll certainly do so again as soon as you can.Book Reviews
La construción de Canadá en Toronto desde los extremos del rio San Lorenzo. Revista LEER, n 295, Otoño-Invierno 2019 p.37
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