Wednesday, March 01, 2006

invaders from public space

Headed on the first of several trips downtown this week last night, to catch Spacing magazine's evening of urban planning/transit-related short films. Since I suspected I wouldn't know anyone there, and to re-jig my memory while writing this post, I brought along a notebook. It came in handy before the switch on the video player was flipped on.

First time ever in the Drake. Not much light down here in the basement, so I suspect I'll be lucky to read anything afterwards. The room is filling fast - I'm four rows from he front in a folding chair, surrounded by lawn chairs and padded benches.

It's been awhile since I've gone to an evening like this. Used to go to readings a lot during my "hermit" year, not so much since. Busy life. I flip through the weeklies, browse websites, see events that look interesting but never follow up.

My timing was good. It was standing-room only when the films began.

Starting with a sped-up trip down the University-Spadina line (which should be an amusement park ride), the local films covered topics like the Toronto's longest escalator ("Crisanne", located at York Mills station), Critical Mass cyclists, a young subway rider crushed when she discovers there's no rhubarb crumble to be had, a tragic life in Parkdale and videoblog walks. Also included were an art project from Berlin where images were projected onto walls (which would help the Dupont-St. Clair West stretch) and a the City Repair project in Portland, which fosters a greater sense of community by allowing neighbours to paint and remodel local intersections.

Most of the evening's laughs came from two vintage films. The first was a late 50s episode of CBC's Explorations on the competition to design Toronto City Hall. The host was architect Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, an English urban planner who taught at U of T and Harvard. She scared most of the audience - was it her strange eye rolls as the camera swung in her direction? Her ethinicity-based commentary? Weird quips? Scholarly tone? Vague insults towards Toronto?

At one point, commentator Eric Arthur noted that one designer wanted to know how much dirt fell on TO in a year. Turned out to be 40 tons. Tyrwhitt: "I'm not surprised".

As for the rejected models, they ranged from an "exotic" Australian entry that looked like a 50s resort changing room or exterior of a cheesy polynesian restaurant to a Danish design than looked like a generic office block, the type that would have been demolished for condos in the past decade. The pipe-smoking panel chose Viljo Revell's design, our beloved flying saucer.

The second vintage flick was a mid-50s progess report on Toronto's subway. Let's just say there was a Mystery Science Theatre 3000-style commentary running in my head. Test passengers were overdressed, but then the subway was "a big red limousine". Endless shot of people picking up tokens. Some ticket counters have changed little in 50 years. Our subway was "the sign of transit progress, of civic progress".

Lesson: nobody gets hurt when cars are coupled mechanically. - JB

No comments: