Revitalization

Hume: Integrate University into City

By Ben Bull
Published February 27, 2008

In his latest column, the Toronto Star's Christopher Hume highlights the importance of integrating our University institutions into the fabric of our towns.

Commenting on Ryerson University's plans to re-design its downtown campus, Hume notes:

RU today is a mess; despite a student population of more than 24,000, it remains bleak and hostile to pedestrians, not to mention students. It exists within the city, but also despite the city. Now the time has come for the two to make up.

I recently took a course at Ryerson - I know where Hume is coming from. The campus is a mess.

Take a walk along Victoria Street or across Gould and ask yourself how integrated you feel.

The campus reminds me a bit of McMaster, shielded from the city by the University buildings. Where it is not fully enclosed it is spread out at random - odds and sods of old buildings dotted around like an afterthought.

For a true campus feel and a healthy integration, take a stroll through the University of Toronto: majestic old buildings, a sense of history and place, and a seamless transition from the campus to the street.

The Ryerson re-design, set to be published this March, would do well to emulate this design. As would McMaster.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

2 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By statius (registered) | Posted February 27, 2008 at 17:00:44

"For a true campus feel and a healthy integration, take a stroll through the University of Toronto: majestic old buildings, a sense of history and place, and a seamless transition from the campus to the street. The Ryerson re-design, set to be published this March, would do well to emulate this design. As would McMaster."

The truth of the matter is that U of T is not integrated by design. In fact, when most of its central institutions were founded (e.g. UC, Vic, St. Mikes, etc.) the school was relatively sequestered from the city, and its setting was best described as "semi-rural" (per Marty Friedland's history). That being said, the existence (and expansion) of the university attracted a great deal of residential development in the early part of the 20th century, which itself eventually drew a great deal of commercial development, so much so that the university vicinity eventually became the commercial core of the city (i.e. Bloor Street and Yorkville). This was all in spite of the university's best efforts, which, being a somewhat elitist institution, has often made attempts to sequester itself from the city at large (note the university's erection over the last half-decade of numerous imposing "gateways" to the campus, a classic delineater of private-public boundary). That being said, non-university residents frequently use the college grounds as though they were public parks, and homeless people can often be found surreptitiously sleeping in its libraries. The university can't do much about this (although it would if it could) because of the institution's very central location.

Mac's situation vis-a-vis the city is very different and I doubt if there's the potential for its campus to be swallowed up by the city in the way U of T's has been. Mac's campus is virtually suburban in comparison.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By transitory (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2008 at 05:50:29

McMaster is insulated from Westdale, as Westdale is insulated from the rest of the city. Seeing as how they're running out of room for new buildings, I doubt the school is interested in selling off its green space to developers, and I'm pretty sure that local residents would be up in arms over the rise of traffic (not to mention buildings taller than three storeys). New initiatives hold more promise, but not much more. Innovation Park and the proposed Burlington campus look to be isolated enough as to be effectively walled off from broad civic interaction. Just don't call the "strategically located" Burlington site (nine acres on South Service Road) inaccessible: "With its high level of visibility, ease of access and close proximity to needed hotels and other businesses, this site uniquely meets the University's needs."(dailynews.mcmaster.ca/story.cfm?id=5243).

To be fair, Mohawk College (a campus sandwiched between a private school and a former psychiatric hospital) is probably no better.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds