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Kensington Market

CDL.TO

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Comment response to that article:

Charlotte Creamer from Halifax, Nova Scotia writes: Well, make sure you find a hat big enought to fit around those gigantic rose-colored glasses you must have been wearing during your Toronto trip (not that I'm insinuating you were on mood-enhancing drugs, or anything...). I suffered through that smog-choked, wanna-be Centre-of-the-Universe for almost 20 years, just barely managing to escape alive last fall. And unless things have changed dramatically since I left, you and I can't possibly be talking about the same place.

The way I remember it is this: Bay Street (indeed, the whole financial district) is littered every ten feet or so with live human bodies who actually reside right there on the street. The $1,000-suited, BMW-buffing stockbrokers and everyone else who works downtown just walk around these people as if they don't exist. Chinatown is a feotid, filthy, third-world slum that you don't dare pass through after dark for fear of getting caught in the midst of Vietnamese gang violence, including gunfire. Ditto for Kensington Market, only its stench, filth and gunfire have a more Caribbean tinge. I lived two blocks away from both of these districts for almost ten years, so I know what I'm talking about (what can I say -- I was younger then -- filth and danger seemed exotic ...).

As for people-watching -- I remember sitting in a cafe on Bloor a few years ago with a visiting professor from Italy. I was teaching him conversational English, and we were on a field-trip . He stared out the window, transfixed by the multi-national parade of people passing by. It's like-a the Star Trek, he whispered to me, looking around to see if anyone had overheard him. You like Star Trek? I asked him, thinking he'd gotten bored with our weather-talk and had opened up a new thread of conversation. No, no! , he whispered more urgently. The people, the people, he gestured towards the cafe window. They are like-a the STAR TREK! I understood then that he meant the passersby looked like they were out of a Star Trek episode. And judging by the look of horror on his face, I don't think he meant it as a compliment.

The one thing I will unhesitatingly agree with you on is how wonderful it is to skate outdoors on a groomed surface. The Harbourfront outdoor rink as well as the rink at Nathan Phillips Sqaure (the Centre of the Universe's centre of the universe) were two of the few pleasures this progressively-more-and-more-jaded Maritimer was able to enjoy in her final years in Trawma. Too bad they're only open a few months every year.
Posted 02/02/2008 at 1:07 PM
 

Alley Kat

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Poor Charlotte Creamer from Halifax, twenty years wasted in Toronto. Her thinly veiled racism shan't be missed. Being a "feotid (sic), filthy, third-world slum", it's sure grand to be upwind of her though.

Ah Kensington... there's nothing like the "stench" of "filth and gunfire" in the morning.
 

junctionist

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Poor Charlotte Creamer from Halifax, twenty years wasted in Toronto. Her thinly veiled racism shan't be missed. Being a "feotid (sic), filthy, third-world slum", it's sure grand to be upwind of her though.

Ah Kensington... there's nothing like the "stench" of "filth and gunfire" in the morning.

How often do you hear of a shootings in Kensington anyway? That whole comment has such a provincial tone to it, but it's more disturbing than funny.
 

ganjavih

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Hey, there are some people who just don't like large, diverse, cities that have a bit of character and grit. There are plenty of Americans who hate NYC and no shortage of Quebecers who hate Montreal. So what? Live and let live.
 

theman23

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I understood then that he meant the passersby looked like they were out of a Star Trek episode. And judging by the look of horror on his face, I don't think he meant it as a compliment.

Maybe not, but I'll take it as one.
 

charlottecreamer

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You Torontonians sure can dish it out, but you can't take it -- not that I'd know anything anyway, being "provincial" as I am..... and so sorry for that "feotid" typo and for disagreement of verb and subject matter; not all of us can be word perfect like you... and I must say -- if Kensington Market and Chinatown are no longer filthy and don't stink, then a lot has changed since I moved out of there two years ago.... but all things being relative, perhaps you can't tell that the area is filthy or that it stinks, you've become so used to it... Spend some time outside the city, and then you'll know what a cesspool the place really is....
 

adma

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Yeah. Go to Cairo, gripe about the bazaar being a fetid mess, revere each and every moment you retreat to your hotel with all Western conveniences...
 

JasonParis

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You Torontonians sure can dish it out, but you can't take it....
Torontonions are quite critical of their city, especially compared to other major Canadian cities. In fact, I'd say we take it regularly and usually with a shrug.

However, your post was pretty hysterical. What Chinatown/Market doesn't stink? What major city doesn't have a homeless problem? Do you know how safe Toronto is compared to almost every other major city in the country?
 

junctionist

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If you didn't like those two neighbourhoods, than you could have chosen a different part of the city to live in. These are marketplaces, offering exotic goods, foods, and meals. So many people pass through daily, that it's not going to be chain store clean, but filthy it's not, either. I've taken friends from Europe there. I wouldn't do that if the place was repulsive. The typical smell is isolated, usually from a seafood market, or from a dumpster in the summer heat, if you're walking through an alley. I find that you misrepresented the neighbourhoods and failed to acknowledge any of their merits in an attempt to sensationalize.
 

charlottecreamer

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If you want to read something "hysterical", read the article in the Halifax newspaper that my commentary was a response to. Here it is in its stupendous entirety; if you don't make it all the way to the end, you have my sympathies. I had trouble reading it, too.

The condos preen like a protective ring of superheroes around the majestic CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the world in Toronto. At their feet squats the SkyDome (I know, I know - it's the Rogers Centre. But until Roger starts paying me to advertise for him, I'm sticking with SkyDome).

Nearby is the raw power of Bay Street. Skyscrapers leap off the cold, dark pavement, disappearing into clouds. Blocking out the sun, they create a perpetual twilight in the canyons below, where a man in a $1,000 suit tiptoes through three inches of slush to buff the front of his BMW with a small cloth.

He's not wearing a coat. Rich people in Toronto don't wear coats. Are they immune to the cold? Do they line their shirts with hot investment tips?

An East Coaster wandering at the feet of the Bay Street giants, amid the power suits, power walks and power cars of a city painted with money, has to grudgingly admit that T.O. is indeed the centre of the universe. The thing Torontonians tend to forget is that there are other planets in the universe of Canada.

Neck aching, I give up on the heights of Ontario's capital and head lower - to Kensington Market. Even in the dead of winter, it's a bustling place where you can buy everything you want, if what you want is a pink wig or a tomato. Pretty two-storey houses as skinny as Posh Spice squeeze in to create a more human scale of life, and few cars intrude on the walking tranquility.

Strolling around Toronto is a handy way to backpack on the cheap. Little Italy is a little dead in January, Greektown was too far out, and Cabbagetown disturbed me. I had visions of my favourite childhood doll (don't laugh), all grown up and living in the Big Smoke - giant Cabbage Patch Men and Cabbage Patch Women catching the bus and selling shirts. I didn't go to Cabbagetown.

I did go to Chinatown though, where, unexpectedly, the Made In China items are very pricey.

It's also one of many great places to people watch. I later plunked myself down at a cafe on Yonge Street and tuned in. People from all over the planet, wearing everything imaginable, walked in to order a coffee. I half expected to see a discrete Klingon ask for a rakatajino to go.

Along the harbourfront, I made an astonishing discovery that has ramifications for Halifax: open-air skating rinks, free for the public to gather on and socialize on. I managed to secure the secret recipe for making ice, should City Hall ever get serious about creating an outdoor rink here.

The night was spent at the Air Canada Centre (did you know that Maple Leaf Gardens is now a grocery store? How tragic. But, really, is that a sadder fate than hosting the ever-Cupless Leafs?). For a mere $25, I was permitted to stand in the rafters and watch the Raptors dismantle the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here's a great thing about Toronto: the hat is triumphant. In Halifax, me and my Adventure Cap are holding the fort alone against an unfashionable surge of tuques and baseball caps. When I put on my glorious Tilly Winter Hat, people stare. I feel so alone. But in the Big Smoke, heads are topped with the most delightful array of gear. Flat caps, leather caps, beanies, bowlers, vintage 1920s pilot's caps with woolly ear flaps: if a milliner dreamt it, it patrols the streets of Toronto.

Inspired, I went in search of a new lid. Nothing in the Eaton Centre (disappointingly, just the Halifax Shopping Centre on HGH), nor in Kensington, nor the trendy St Lawrence Market. I was tempted to snatch a chapeau off a passing head, but resisted. Maybe Roger will buy me one.


See? Pretty hysterical, huh? My online commentary in the local Halifax paper was intended to counter this rose-hued balderdash. I meant what I wrote to be as over-the-top negative as hers was over-the-top positive, from the perspective of someone who'd lived there as opposed to someone who'd just spent the weekend there. Obviously, most of you who've been posting in this thread haven't taken the time to read the article my commentary was a response to. And to stoop so low as to "(sic)" typos in my commentary -- well, words fail me.

Again, I wasn't writing an article, I was just contributing to the online comment section that the local Halifax newspaper provides. But I must say -- your wholesale trashing of me, a total stranger, calling me "provincial" and saying Toronto is better off without people like me, makes me feel that my decision to leave Toronto after 20 years is that much more justified. You have no idea who I am, and yet you attack me online like rabid pitbulls, just because I said your neighbourhood stinks (it does) and it's filthy (it is). Until I moved out of the Kensington/Chinatown area, I thought cockroaches, mice and rats were normal household pests. They aren't. But they are in Kensington & Chinatown.

I assume you'll find some typos to "(sic)" in this posting, too, or you'll continue to insist that the stench of rotting animal flesh makes a neighbourhood an inviting place for tourists to visit. And you're entitled to your opinions, as I am to mine. In the end, I'm glad I left Toronto; in the end, you're glad I left Toronto.

At least we agree on something.
 

ganjavih

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You have no idea who I am, and yet you attack me online like rabid pitbulls, just because I said your neighbourhood stinks (it does) and it's filthy (it is).

Gee, you said someone's neighbourhood stinks, you got a reaction, and you're complaining about being judged? Wow.

There is a negative side to big city life, everyone knows that. There are things about other cultures that are difficult to swallow at times, sure. Old buildings have cockroaches and mice, we know. But ya gotta take the bad with the good when you live in a diverse mosaic. If it wasn't your cup o' tea, fine. You could have stated it in a more respectful way. Don't complain now because you chose the low road.
 

nfitz

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Shock, horrors - a meat market smells like meat! :) ROTFLMAO

And I thought the work that the City of Toronto has been doing on dealing with the homelessness problem downtown in the last 2-3 years had made a significant dent in the problem - just from my own observations. That progress is completely ignored.
 

adma

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What next, comparing the architectural egotism of OCAD unfavourably to colonial Lunenburg?

Heck, this is the biggest kerfuffle over rotting flesh since the protest over this...
 

Alley Kat

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Hard architecture and urban grit will be missed

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080301.ROCHON01/TPStory/Entertainment/columnists is the full article. I've pruned the parts which don't pertain to Kensington, but it's definitely worth reading the unabridged version which includes a longer tribute to Adrian Di Castri.

LISA ROCHON

March 1, 2008

The first laneway house in Toronto. The first sculptural gateway to a Toronto ravine. The work of Jeff Stinson and Adrian DiCastri, two architects who defined architecture in very different ways, stands as a testament to their imagination, their urban grit and their tenacity. Both men recently died of cancer, surrounded by their respective families, on the very same day. Yet their architecture - their belief in the making of a triumphant city - lives on.

A writer leaves behind books. A musician the sound of a recording. An architect gives us permanent placemakers: Signposts. Cultural guides. Buildings to frame human experience. But, whereas a painting by an artist typically hangs behind walls in a contained space, there's an extra responsibility that accompanies the profession of architecture. Stinson (an Australian-born professor who taught with remarkable energy) and DiCastri (an Italian-Canadian whose large commissions often provoked his wry sense of humour) understood the heaviness of setting down acts of permanence. Still, they operated with lightness and grace.

5 Leonard Place, the laneway house which Stinson built with his sons in 1989, sits within the tight urban grid between Kensington Market and Toronto Western Hospital. A curved white concrete wall defines a discrete plot of privacy at the front of the house, an area graced with a fish pond and enough room for Stinson to enjoy a beer. The building itself is a rugged construction with cement block walls topped by a vaulted metal roof. There are beguiling flourishes - metal grates cut into the floors to allow air to flow, stairs arranged like a jigsaw sculpture that lead to the third floor, a banister made of metal cables that Stinson liked to play like an instrument when he passed by.

In front of the efficient wood stove, there's a table with a large disc of glass for its top impossibly supported by a large coil of chicken wire. It has sat there, explains Stinson's wife, Carol Branning, for about 20 years.

Somehow, before the City of Toronto rushed headlong into amalgamation, the idea of inserting a house in an otherwise vacant back lane of the downtown seemed quite reasonable. That was before the bureaucracy of the new city started down the road of inflexibility, resisting the back-lane or laneway house in favour of 'stable' residential neighbourhoods and throwing up the excuse of the difficulty of providing municipal services to the hidden lots. (Meanwhile, Vancouver is now encouraging back-lane housing as part of its plan for an eco city.) Ever optimistic, believing it was the right thing to do, Stinson arranged to have a seven-metre trench dug from the laneway site to the edge of the street, making it easy for the city to come along and hook up his water supply.

Stinson, who died at the age of 75, believed that by exposing structural, mechanical, even historical systems, there was much that architecture could teach. In fact, beginning in the late 1960s, Stinson and his first design partner, Carmen Corneil, laboured in the name of an animated, sensitively designed harbourfront with hopes of the conversion of industrial buildings into markets and arcades, the whole stitched together by a walkway at the edge of the water. He was interested in preserving the industrial archaeology of Toronto's harbourfront and allowing its reinvention through incremental change, not wildfire strategies of slash and burn.

The studio grew to include David Sisam and Terry Montgomery, before Stinson decided to commit to full-time teaching at the University of Toronto's School of Architecture. "His faith was in citizen intelligence and power," wrote Corneil in his tribute letter penned from Norway for Stinson's memorial. In those early days, Corneil and Stinson designed Carleton University's School of Architecture, a cement block building that provides many layers to "the section" to heighten its horizontal experience.

When I got there, I hated that building and when I left I loved that building," says Terence van Elslander, who studied at Carleton before collaborating much later with Stinson on a study of laneway housing commissioned by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. "I think that was his best building. It was a tough building. Very didactic. It taught you everything about architecture. The idea was there's nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide."...

Perhaps the hard freeze of this winter makes it particularly difficult to bear the simultaneous loss of DiCastri and Stinson. Both men died because of the curse of cancer, their wives and children at their sides. Both died on Jan. 29, 2008. They were architects who gave with passion and determination. And that is why they will be remembered.
 

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