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Poster Puts Toronto on Neighbourhood Watch

A total of 178 Toronto neighbourhoods are mapped out in Jenny Beorkrem’s city poster.

With ridiculous East v. West turf wars promoting regional competition, Toronto could use a little urban unity. That’s just what Chicago-based artist Jenny Beorkrem delivers with her city posters, which map out the entirety of a city’s neighbourhoods while squeezing their names into their respective spatial boundaries. While most Torontonians can rattle off the titles of locales like the Annex or Leslieville, our beloved Big Smoke, as depicted by Beorkrem’s Toronto design—which goes on sale today—actually boasts a whopping 178 different ‘hoods.

Freelance designer Beorkrem founded Ork posters back in 2007 when she created the first print of her hometown. “I made the first Chicago poster for myself, because I wanted one and I couldn’t find one that already existed,” she says. “It’s intriguing to me to reduce a city down to nothing but those neighbourhoods—we’re not used to seeing it that way.”
Through the visual presentation of the amalgamation of different parts of a city, Beorkrem’s designs reflect both individual stomping-ground identity and connections to the broader urban community. “We use neighbourhoods to locate things, we attribute personalities to them, and we make generalizations about the people and businesses there. They’re part of our daily communication and we assume the ‘personality’ of the neighbourhoods where we live or spend our time,” Beorkrem says about her designs. “A person can easily see their part within the whole of a city, and I’m very particular to include the entire city—nothing more and nothing less—in the maps.”
When it comes to the range of different districts, Toronto’s sheer number made it a significant challenge for Beorkrem. While she’s mapped out twelve American cities and areas from Manhattan to L.A., Toronto was her first project outside the U.S. and the city with the highest number of different neighbourhoods. “I think I first announced the Toronto poster eighteen months ago, so I’ve been working on it on and off for that long. Generally it’s a six-month process or less,” she says. Beorkrem partially chose Toronto based on its proximity to her hometown of Chicago and its design culture, but also because it was in high demand. “I received a lot of requests for [Toronto], and what the people want, the people get!”
Beorkrem claims that the success of her design was simply a “fluke” fostered by word of mouth and blog buzz, resulting in Ork garnering a significant following without having spent any money on advertising or publicity. (The enthusiasm in other cities is evident on the site’s I Spy Ork! page.) While offers have rolled in from mega-companies like Urban Outfitters, Beorkrem has declined in favour of keeping her business local and selling the posters through the Ork website. While she maintains that running a small business has been a challenge, she credits “the internet and the popularity of the DIY culture” as keeping the company sustainable. “You don’t have to convince a big executive or financier to take a chance on you, or rely on someone else to sell your product,” she says about her business philosophy. “You just have to take a chance on yourself and be willing to do the leg work.”
Beorkrem plans to map out more cities in the future, as well as working on other prints that are also available on the Ork site (anatomical drawings of a heart and brain are particularly popular). For the time being, she’s glad that her art can promote education about the streets and sidewalks we call home. “Sometimes that means realizing just how small your immediate world, or neighbourhood, is in comparison to the entire city,” she says in reference to the cheeky ward rivalries in Toronto. “No matter how many places you’ve lived or visited, they leave an impression on you and become part of your story.”

CORRECTION: APRIL 20, 2010 This article originally said that Beorkrem’s poster included a total of 140 neighbourhoods—the same count as the City’s; in fact, the poster actually includes 178 neighbourhoods. Additionally, this article also misspelled Jenny Beorkrem’s last name as “Boerkrem” throughout. Torontoist regrets the errors.


  • http://undefined visualpurple

    Excellent! I’ve been checking the Ork site on and off for the past year waiting for this to be ready!

  • http://undefined EricSmith

    The poster is lovely, and immediately compelling. The other great neighbourhood project that I’m familiar with is the Toronto Star’s, well, Neighbourhood Project, which is one of their “Map of the Week” Google Maps things. It’s gone through several versions and there’s been haggling over neighbourhood names and boundaries in the comments, so I’m sure that some people will find fault with specific aspects of this poster, too. Nonetheless, it’s great-looking and seems, from what I’ve been able to see in the sample images, to have been approached with a great degree of seriousness.

  • http://undefined ryhowitt


  • David Topping

    Just a small but notable correction above: the map actually depicts 178 neighbourhoods, not—as we originally suggested—140.

  • http://undefined DJ

    Got my email alert this morning! Trying to decide which print to get, however. Options, options.
    Was hoping it would be a well-kept secret. Thanks for nothing, Torontoist!

  • David Topping

    And another bigger correction, also fixed above and appended—we misspelled Jenny Beorkrem’s last name as “Boerkrem” throughout. Our apologies!

  • http://undefined torontothegreat

    Very cool! Def going to order one.

  • http://undefined rek

    Apparently I live in Dovercourt Park. I was just getting used to thinking of it as Bloorcourt, which all the signage uses.

  • Andrea

    I’ve also been checking back for many months to see when the Toronto map would be available!
    I was hoping you’d ask the artist how she researches the neighbourhoods since even those of us who live here and take an interest get confused. As noted, she has expanded on the City’s map.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    And apparently Seaton Village no longer exists – it has been annexed by the Annex.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    That immediately came to mind when I saw the photo. It was a relief to read it’s a parallel effort, which is much better than unattributed reuse.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    By total coincidence I am right in the middle of the chapter “The uses of city neighbourhoods” in The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
    Jane Jacobs describes three kinds of neighbourhoods: the city as a whole, the street neighbourhood, and the sub-city district.
    For the last she bounds population at roughly 30,000 and 200,000, and says:

    This point on geographic size does not mean a city can be mapped out in segments of about a square mile, the segments defined with boundaries, and districts thereby brought to life. It is not boundaries that make a district, but the cross-use and life. [...] The fact of a district lies in what it is internally, and in the internal continuity and overlapping with which it is used, not in the way it ends or in how it looks in air view. Indeed, in many cases very popular city districts spontaneously extend their edges, unless prevented from doing so by physical boundaries

    This poster has 2.5 million / 178 ~= 14,000 on average, so the neighbourhoods don’t really fit into one of Jacobs’ categories. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to make a map of those.

  • rek

    How did she arrive at those numbers?

  • Paul Kishimoto

    She says a district needs to hold enough votes to make a credible, if implied, threat against the city government; often on behalf of the street neighbourhoods within it, which can’t do that themselves. The upper number is from lack of a counterexample.
    The definitions are functional and not defined on a continuum of population; ie. slightly less than 30,000 people are not suddenly a “street neighbourhood”. Obviously 250,000 (>200,000) people do not compose “the city as a whole”.
    Looking at votes, Toronto has 44 councillors, so these neighbourhoods represent on average 44 / 178 = 25% of the constituency of one councillor. That wouldn’t be enough to change the actions of Council.

  • http://undefined jem

    Had a chuckle seeing that she’s tried to keep everyone happy by using (es) on the end of “The Beach(es)”. And on the end of the “Upper Beach(es)”.

  • http://undefined mark.

    Got mine today!

  • http://undefined TorontoGirl71

    I got my poster at SoHo Framing on 77 Roncesvalles Ave