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Life below zero and underground

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A few years ago, I was touring a friend from the US around Toronto’s Financial District and the first thing he said to me was: “You have no retail.” And that’s certainly what it might look like at first glance.

But there’s actually lots of retail. It’s just all underground in an over 30 kilometer long network of walkways called the PATH.

Initially conceived of as the antidote to Canadian winters, “underground cities” are a kind of uniquely Canadian form of urbanism. Toronto and Montreal have the largest ones in the world and they continue to grow. As new towers are built, new connections are added.

But the downside to all of this is that it pulls street life down underground. And it can conceal a lot of the urban vibrancy that is actually take place. So maybe we need to come up with design solutions to better connect these subterranean cities back to street level and also not forget about the street.

I’m thinking about this today because of a CBC documentary I watched this morning called Life Below Zero. It basically argues that – unlike other cold climate cities and countries – the vast majority of Canadians actually hate winter. And underground cities are our way of trying to ignore it.

Well, I don’t hate winter. In fact, I love it because it signals snowboarding season for me. But I may be in the minority. What’s your position on winter?

Image: Flickr

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