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The unfinished city

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Earlier this week I attended a talk at the University of Toronto called Data Innovation and City Governance. It was by Mark Kleinman who is from London, but is now a Visiting Scholar at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

The topics covered would have been familiar to anyone who is a regular reader of this blog (the power of open data, the knowledge economy, etc…), so I’m not going to repeat it all here. But I did want to touch on one of his impressions of Toronto, which is that this is a city that is “never finished.”

What does that mean?

The opposite of a city that is never finished would be a city like Paris that feels a bit like a monument that is now done and shouldn’t be touched anymore. It’s a city that almost feels too precious to intervene in. This is obviously not the case for all of Paris, but I think you get the point.

Toronto, on the other hand, is a city that is constantly building, changing, and renewing itself. There are often layers upon layers of new interventions being applied, which gives you the impression that the city will never be done. It’s constantly in flux.

Some of you may not appreciate this kind of “messy” urbanism, but I think it gives cities a kind of entrepreneurial resiliency (resiliency is a hot topic right now in urbanist circles). Cities are an ecological system. And the most resilient ecological systems in the world are the ones that are able to adapt to constant change.

So in my view I look at this as a feature, not a bug. The only constant is change.

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