TCLF: Leading with Landscape Conference Presentation – Setting the Stage I: Jane Wolff

Compelling and visionary designers and others examine Toronto’s international leadership in landscape architecture-based development. Provocative, headline-making speakers at this May 2015 conference in Toronto highlighted exceptional design and sustainability in world-class waterfront projects, the city’s extensive ravine system and it legacy of parks. To learn more about the conference:

This opening session will introduce the story of the place that is Toronto: through revealing Toronto as what journalist Robert Fulford termed the “accidental city” (in his 1995 book Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto) and its layered landscape, we will explore how the city’s landscape evolved, its inextricably intertwined cultural and natural contexts, and how we have come into “the second wave of modernism” that is the conference focus. Importantly, we will explore significant historic moments in the city’s landscape chronology such that we reveal the nuances of context (both physical and historical), difference, and identity, and from this, illustrating with examples of place and features, we will emphasize the importance of legibility as a precursor to identifying values and engaging meaningful stewardship — in policy making, in design intervention, and in civic engagement (e.g. advocacy and education).

Jane Wolff will conclude by offering a framework for looking at and thinking holistically about Toronto’s cultural landscapes. These landscapes have taken shape because of different forces and at different moments in the history of the city. Most of them were created in part by designers and in part by forces beyond design. They all demonstrate complex relationships between the human and non-human processes that have shaped Toronto, and they all need to be understood in relation to multiple contexts, including infrastructure, cultural production, policy, politics, economics, ecology and public education. Learning to recognize the invisible dynamics behind these places begins with careful
observation and continues with the drawing and documentation of tangible examples. The ambition of this presentation—and of the morning’s panel—is to examine ways in which particular cases and places offer useful stories about the relationships between cultural intention and ecological processes in the built fabric of the city. It is through these stories that we learn to recognize and ultimately value the landscapes that define our city, and from these, create informed strategies for stewardship of these special places.



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