Using his wealth of knowledge of the city of Toronto and new information gathered from municipal archives, Sewell describes the major movements and forces that allowed for rapid development of the suburbs, while considering the options that were available to planners at the time. Discussing proposals to curb suburban sprawl from the 1960s to the recently adopted plan for the Greater Toronto area, Sewell combines insightful and accessible commentary with rigorous research on the debate between urban and suburban. Concerned not only with sprawl, The Shape of the Suburbs also demonstrates the ways in which suburban political, economic, and cultural influences have impacted the older, central city, culminating in the forced Megacity amalgamation of 1998.
Rich in detail and full of useful visual illustrations, The Shape of the Suburbs is a lively look at the construction of the suburban era.
All this "progress" had a price. Heritage buildings were disappearing. Whole neighbourhoods were being destroyed -- by city hall itself -- in the name of urban renewal and high-rise developers.
Many idealistic, young Torontonians didn't like what they saw. At a time when political activism was in the air, they engaged in local politics. Recently graduated lawyer John Sewell was one of many. He joined his friends working for local residents in areas targeted for demolition by city hall. Others were fighting the Spadina expressway, planned to push its way through the city to the lakeshore. Still others were saving Toronto's Old City Hall from demolition.
This was the modest start of a twelve-year transformation of Toronto, chronicled in John Sewell's new book. Bringing together a fascinating cast of characters -- from cigar-chomping developers to Jane Jacobs and David Crombie, from a host of ordinary citizens to some of the world's most innovative architects and planners -- Sewell describes the conflict-filled period when Toronto developed a whole new approach to city government, civic engagement, and planning policies.
Sewell went from activist organizer, to high-profile opposition politician, to leading light of a bare reform majority at city hall, to become Toronto's mayor. Along the way he sparked the rethinking of an amazing array of old ideas -- not just about how cities should grow, but about race relations, attitudes toward the LGBT community, and the role of police. His defeat in the city's 1980 election marked the end of a decade of dramatic transformation, but the changes this reform era produced are now entrenched -- in Toronto, but in other Canadian cities, too.
How We Changed Toronto is the inside story of activist idealists who set out to change the world -- and did, right in their own backyard.
In this far-ranging review, Sewell recounts the arrival of modern city planning with its emphasis on lower densities, limited access streets, segregated uses, and considerable green space. He makes Toronto a case history, with its pioneering suburban development in Don Mills and its other planned communities, including Regent Park, St Jamestown, Thorncrest Village, and Bramalea.
The heyday of the modern planning movement was in the 1940s to the 1960s, and the Don Mills concept was repeated in spirit and in style across Canada. Eventually, strong public reaction brought modern planning almost to a halt within the city of Toronto. The battles centred on saving the Old City Hall and stopping the Spadina Expressway. Sewell concludes that although the modernist approach remains ascendant in the suburbs, the City of Toronto has begun to replace it with alternatives that work.
This is a reflective but vigorous statement by a committed urban reformer. Few Canadians are better suited to point the way towards city planning for the future.