One of the reasons I like to walk great distances through new cities is to experience the zoning and density. (You thought I was going to say I do this for snacking opportunities, didn’t you?)
We weren’t in Toronto long, but we got around, and I was continually impressed by how well Toronto does density.
Toronto’s population is similar to Chicago’s, but density looks different here. In Chicago, we have high-rises downtown and in neighborhoods near the lake, and then denser areas along the train lines that mostly have courtyard style buildings, two flats, or houses on smaller lots. In denser areas we also have what I call Secret Alley Houses, which are things like coach houses and garage apartments that cram extra living spaces in nooks and crannies.
So much of Toronto’s density is cheery and lovely—like these gabled row houses, zoned close to the sidewalk.
And then the mixed-use row houses with store fronts.
Row houses everywhere….and duplexes…and triplexes…even a few Secret Alley Houses.
Lots of people, living close together, riding on Toronto’s reliable and clean buses, trains and trams.
Density, but gentle.
Ah, but look closer. See that well preserved building? That, my friend, is the building version of a dicky.
Walk around and marvel: old buildings, hollowed out, with high-rises plopped inside.
Let’s say you have an old church in Toronto—don’t tear that bad boy down: keep the tower and build an apartment block around it.
Stately department building? Calls for a space-age tube.
I mean, you could just put a whole new building on stilts, over a historical structure.
And for a façadism finale: I give you a levitating stairway swirl over rather boring old Georgian.
I am not sniffing at Toronto’s façadism—-I totally dig it. While I’m a preservationist, I know this isn’t preservation at all. This is the palimpsest of the old city. See the outline of the original scale and materials, a memory of the old city. Watch it grow ever taller and fill with more people: a weird and gentle density.