Anyone remotely interested in urban or social studies should be fairly captivated by AZURE Magazine‘s latest hulking tome, a special issue entitled “How To Build A Great City.” In it, AZURE explores the staple themes: bike lanes across the world, the value of subway lines versus a city’s (or in their case, town’s) total monetary intake, and a piece that, as always, showcases how painfully far we are behind the Danes. Make no mistake, these articles aren’t a rehash of pop journalism tripe capitalizing on fashionable themes; AZURE‘s triadic focus has always been “Design, Architecture, Art” and the content of the publication is always refreshing and informative. To wit, columns examining architecture as it relates to its surroundings give hope where we’re accustomed to being saddled with the cheapest, most convenient, and worst examples of building conceivable.
Of particular note, however, are the two-page spreads that focus directly on Toronto. Evan Solomon’s article, “The Trim Tab Effect,” examines Richard Florida’s [PDF] innovative theories on social prosperity and the people most qualified to enact change. For example, if a diversified community spawns a similarly disparate climate, then what is or was the catalyst holding back Regent Park? And once these hindrances are identified, who decides what will replace them? Florida’s musings aren’t abstract because the think- (and do-) tank that he leads, the Martin Prosperity Institute, engaged the Regent Park community to voice what it saw as the weakest elements rather than let politicos drive the change.
Through this, the Toronto Community Foundation, a group that examined the connections between poverty and social outlets or opportunities, offered a list of recommendations based on community feedback. Its findings were more useful than an impersonal federal checklist because they also focused on the intangibles that make each community unique. In fact, the foundation has attained such success through its research program that it’s being taken across the country to implement change in other destitute regions, employing Florida’s seemingly simple yet heretofore underused and undervalued theories. But is Florida’s concept of “high bohemians”—that dynamic people beget dynamic change—or even his appropriation of the trim tab effect just another take on gentrification? It might be more complex than that. A lot more.
Photograph by Jake Bauming.