City Planning Projects
A Stan Jones initiative
Here is my idea for a roundabout at the busy intersection of Queen Street and Kingston Road, in east end Toronto. This is not an ideal location for a roundabout I do admit. The most obvious problem is the present streetcar line that runs right through this intersection. This project would need to be built along with my "Beach-Bus' project which would replace streetcars on this part of Queen Street. I like this location because the roundabout would create a natural gateway for a specific neighbourhood, in this case "The Beaches". The old Woodbine horse race track once served this purpose very well.
As a designer I have long been interested in urban design such as what you see here. I have more but first here is a bit of background. I remember at about ten years of age hung over the dining room table drawing up plans and being quite engrossed in town planning after a family holiday in Bala, the tiny tourist town in Muskoka. The small manageable size of the town and the proximity to the Muskoka lakes and the Moon River inspired me to dream of turning this little town into something more ambitious.
My older brother Ron, in his late teens at the time spent most of the holiday in Bala at the big dance hall chasing teenaged girls and listening to Chuck Berry and Little Richard. These dance halls were typically the center of activity for most teens during those days in many Ontario towns like Bala. I know of one of these dance halls that still exists at Musselman's Lake near Toronto but I'd be surprised if teenagers do any dancing there today. I suspect that most of these places have been turned into road joints frequented by aging classic rock types. Or as a community meeting place.
Click on map to enlarge.
What I seemed to be doing back then over the dining room table was a kind of 'central planning' — asserting my vision of how a small, livable town should look and feel. At the time this seemed like a feasible idea compared to taking on the redesign of a big metropolitan city such as Toronto — a city that's crying out for better planning.
This all leads to the question of if and should one person's 'vision' be the controlling impetus in town planning or urban design in general? Or do we go along with the Jane Jacobs' view that most planning is best left to individual property owners as it is for the most part in Toronto which has resulted in a chaotic hodge-podge, a real architectural mess in my opinion. Jacobs points to plenty of well intentioned civic planning the has not worked out very well in Toronto, and in her native New York. If city planners had their way we would have the Spadina expressway today or the continuation of the elevated Gardiner expressway that was destined to run across the Beach community in east Toronto. However, I think good 'planning' can make or break a city. Paris, France is a great example of how proper planning can make a city wonderful. Often these things are brought on by the driving ambition of one single person. Perhaps a mayor can be that driving force but I doubt that will happen in a city like Toronto because the job of mayor has devolved into a crisis management position where a 'grand vision' is highly incompatible with job security. Before we can contemplate the prospect of city planning we need to first come to a better understanding of the philosophy involved. If we are not comfortable with a single person directing a plan for a town or city is it better to design by committee? I do accept that a committee structure is necessary in a representative democracy. The function of the committee is to determine what best serves the interests of the public. The committee should not be composed of designers, architects or artists who may be inclined to impose their own creativity on projects. I'm not suggesting that a designer aught to work in isolation but they should have their own group or committee to analyse and critique projects which would then be presented to the city management committee prior to be presented to the public.
As a private citizen interested in city planning I pursue this subject as a personal initiative to order to develop my own understanding on these issues because I find that writing ideas down does raise understanding as opposed to simply reading and study. I have no idea of where this will go or do I have any intention of promoting these ideas to civic management.
Currently under study is my almost obsessive interest in traffic roundabouts. I love these things and Toronto, showing our lagging progressivity does not have even a single roundabout. Mississauga does, so does Kitchener and so does Hamilton.
Stan Jones © 2019