Monday, February 27, 2006

Public space

There's a lot of ongoing handwringing in Toronto about public spaces (usually in NOW but sometimes in Eye and the Star).

I agree with some of it - the current newspaper boxes are a disgrace to the city and a hindrance to the partially/non-sighted citizenry. PATH is indeed confusing and I have yet to find some of the passageways the PATH map claims exist despite looking many times. I sympathise with guerrila gardeners and it emphasises how poorly the city looks after the bits of green they are supposed to tend. The campaign to remove road-facing fencing does add to the open culture I found when arriving in Toronto as opposed to the almost mandatory front walls in Irish housing estates.

However, the same people that oppose corporate advertising (which has, it's fair, completely colonised places like Yonge and Dundas) also oppose bylaws to restrict every scobe with an inkjet and a pot of glue to plaster posters for every lame band or service in the city all over the nearest flat surface - post boxes, hydro poles, bus shelters, you name it. Sauce for the goose - if it's free speech for one it's free for the other, and at least the corporates pay for the privilege which keeps a shelter or two open I guess.

Some say "the TTC loses its brand image when you plaster iPod wraparounds on it" but want free ads for all sorts of crap and to turn TTC vehicles into psychedelic nightmares - forgetting that the last major transport company to try this reversed the process when the public backlash was personified by Maggie Thatcher and her handkerchief. Their objection to the TTC's 7 cent per journey revenue from advertising is a question of pricing not whether we should have it at a time when fares are, er, "rocketing".

I do think the TTC has one major plus - their buskers have to go through auditions. But why should this be limited to the ears? Those pushing for a major refurbishment of TTC stations on the University line should start by pushing for "easel space" at TTC stations like King, Dundas and the Danforth line where there are great expanses of unbroken tile, and in the case of Dundas in a rather dodgy shade. Naturally I'm a "I don't know much about art but I know what I like" chap so inspiring stuff like portraits of the recent Olympic medalists on a stirring Alpine backdrop would be very nice :) However, no fingerpainters or other muppets - our public space is valuable just as the TTC values our ears.

Not only could the artistic talents feed some starving artists of which I'm sure we have many, but the work could literally expand our subway stations...
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