For those who didn’t catch The Toronto Star’s piece on Don Mills, it’s an interesting and refreshingly neutral take on why suburbia was so popular in the first place. It is common these days to associate this type of suburban development with social and economic isolation as well as crippling dependence on the automobile. But once upon a time, some very intelligent people would not have disagreed more.
Even if some of our contemporary criticism is undeniably true, it’s useful to remind ourselves that we are products of our times; and that our decisions and judgements are not divorced from the contexts in which we make them. These developments were originally sold on and commonly perceived as the embodiment of personal and economic freedom. We couldn’t possibly be this wrong again, right?
Today we’re supposedly more enlightened. But considering the absolute, unquestioning enthusiasm with which city planners once promoted suburbia is an opportunity to ask ourselves if the trends we currently hold to will stand up to future scrutiny.
Whether it’s protected cycle lanes, automated vehicles, underground parks, or bioswales, what will we look back on forty years from now and ask, “Just what in the Hotel-Echo-Lima-Lima were we thinking?”

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The Donway, facing West, circa 1960

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And Today

Comments

  1. Interesting article. I get the feeling that It was a sound vision that was widely and poorly imitated. For example, “cul-de-sac hell” occurred in so many developments because it seems that most of those imitations omitted the connecting footpaths – and didn’t even provide sidewalks to replace them.

  2. For some people this totally works for their lives. They’re able to make it work and don’t see it as limiting. For many it doesn’t work. I think we need multiple choices. I’m glad now that it’s starting to happen.

  3. There are a lot of nice things about suburbs. Some people like to live in the city, some don’t. I grew up in a master-planned suburb from the 1950s. It had almost everything (except art galleries and such), very pleasant to walk and bike able. Walking connections everywhere, all types of housing and several malls. The only thing missing was a train into the city.

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