a U of T project on media, Infastructure, Architecture & Public Space
This working group and research project seeks to explore, document
and broadcast six different conditions where media and infrastructure intersect
with urban and post-urban space in Toronto.
It investigates the layered and latent existence of public space in the
city –as medium, practice, network, artifact and material space– and with this
the possibility of reclaiming it.
operates on three premises:
First: that today no city can be built ex nihilo, but always on deep material,
cultural, technological strata. These
strata contain the fragments of civic form, rifts, traces of historical and
catastrophic events, networks of urban transformation, infrastructural
interventions and foundational acts of violence embedded as information. They form vectors in the urban landscape,
tolerances in urban networks and tendencies in public space, influencing how a
city changes and how it communicates with itself and externally. Such information may be accessed, visualized,
Second: that this way the city is deeply intelligent and broadly intelligible in its ecologies,
ground, urban form and atmosphere, while appearing to be inert, broken down and
resisting change; and that such
urban intelligence and media exist before and beyond the short frame and multiple optimizations of the smart city.
Third: that access, visualization and analysis of
these attributes and data –in buildings, infrastructure, networks, communications
and public space– are acts of mediation
and urbanism engaged by architecture, art and media studies.
6 Place Toronto brings together a multidisciplinary team of
scholars working in related fields in order to develop a dialogue between media
studies, infrastructure studies and urban studies, to explore a series of field
research locations and operations, and to follow an interdisciplinary
methodology for media and urbanism.
It focuses on 6 ‘loaded,’ significant spaces in Toronto –between the infrastructural
and the civic, landscape and object, pathway and node, common and public– all either existing or potential public spaces.
The first Stage of the
project is a common survey of these 6 spaces. They provide points of entry to discussions
about media, communications and the city.
The networks among them –routes, tracks, land formations– are explored. The intention is to locate and
describe spaces of intensity, power and transfer, urban eco-tones or points of
discontinuity, where intense cross-talking between systems, demographics and
ecologies has occurred and/or may occur again.
These spaces often include evidence of catastrophic –violent,
irreversible– change. They are iconic and/or invisible. After multiple investigations, the working group narrowed its sites down to the Hearn Power Generating Station and its surrounding Portlands areas, the R.C.Harris Water Treatment Plant, the industrial area SE
of Kipling & Bloor Avenues in Etobicoke, Garrison Creek, Ontario Place,
and the Tommy Thompson Park/Landfill.
In the above sites public space may be defined through zones of conflict, exclusion,
exchange and negotiation including trade networks, civic forms, legal
frameworks and infrastructural layers. Cities are founded on
irreversible transformations: the
leveling of a hill, the diversion of a river’s course or coastline, historic
battles, demolitions, hydro dams, radio stations, displacements and
redistributions. The correlation between such acts and transformations and the six sites will be focal points for this research project.
Each of the collaborating scholars in the working group is responsible for ‘curating’ the access, visualization and
analysis of one of the 6 places, as well as inviting guests to
join in their investigation. Documentation
will be assisted and consolidated by collaborating graduate students
and the lead convener.
The second Stage of the
project consists in 6 “walkshops” to each of the selected sites. Each walk/workshop is complemented by a public talk or discussion organized by a scholar and including invited guests. These
sessions offer multiple and interdisciplinary perspectives on the city. The walks and lectures are open to the public.
The third Stage of the
project consists in the documentation of the 6 spaces and the production
of a series of drawings, aerial photography & video, and also the collection of documentary media, archive material and the
editing of a series of texts by the participants and guests. These documents will respond to some of the
core issues of the project (public space, deep layering, communications, embedded media,
urban intelligence, mediation, catastrophe, etc). Graduate and undergraduate students from the Architecture,
Landscape and Visual Studies Programs at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture,
Landscape, and Design, the Faculty of Information and other Departments, will
actively participate in the documentation process, after joining in the
The fourth Stage of the
project consists in editing a publication and curating an exhibition of the above materials and project documents, supported by collaborating University of Toronto
faculties and institutions. The continuation of this project
beyond the scope of this Working Group, as will be the redeployment of this
investigation and its methodologies in other global cities.
6 Place Toronto defines public space and media as a layered and
latent conditions, and explores urban transformation and city making in a
collaborative effort between architecture, art, media studies and
urbanism. It studies urban history, form
and networks inductively and through their information fluxes, by focusing on
six significant spaces. In so doing it
considers hybrid methods of documentation and broadcast of urban and post-urban
space. In considering public space as
medium, practice, network, infrastructure, artifact, physical and material
space and in investigating its potential reclamations, it wishes to provide
alternatives to current smart city discourse and extend and engage the currently fragmented nature of urban