Permanence and Circulation: Toronto’s Maleable History

The Yonge Dundas area is constantly in motion.  The hustle and bustle of shoppers, the influx and outflow of traffic, pedestrians coming to and fro.  Sometimes it’s difficult to image the area as anything but a perpetual state of activity.  But hasn’t Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas intersection always been synonymous with change and innovation?

This part of the city is one of change, of flux and permanence, old versus new.  As time passes, physical structures obtain new uses, or are eradicated, signifying the zeitgeist of the time.  What has existed in the past, however, is not forgotten.  This is no more evident than within the Ryerson campus itself.

Read more about: Ryerson’s History, Sameness within Change

While dominant electric companies such as General Electric were occupied with major public infrastructure projects around turn-of-the-century Toronto, small businesses such as those located at 355 and 357 Yonge Street commodified electricity for the private realm.

Read more about: Urban-Techno-Commodity-Displays: Electrification

Yonge & Dundas could be interpreted as a chameleon, changing its colour to suit current social trends, but there is also a sense of permanence to the area. Structures such as roads and subways and monumental buildings lend stability and continuity to the area.  Yet is it is important to consider the nature of the permanence of the Yonge & Dundas area, which seems to rest within the hands of the Eaton Center and the Yonge Subway Line.  As we saw with the slow decay of the Edison/Empress Hotel that structures are only as permanent so long as someone chooses for them to be so. Without financial backing to maintain the permanence of structures, they can easily fall into disrepair, and therefore challenge the nature of continuity. However roads (link to my vignette about roads!)  and buildings can be moved, renamed or repurposed and subway stations can be created and demolishes. Structural changes have the ability to create the latest hangout  or dethrone the city’s current hotspot.

Read more about: Dundas Street, the Long and Winding Road

The City functions as an instrument of rule, imbued in ideology. Infrastructure projects, technology and institutions figure largely in the urban fabric by dictating membership, commodities, lifestyles and normative behaviors. Citizens, however, respond actively by means of spatialization, reflecting sociocultural subjectivity and interdependence  on built form.  The heart of the city represents the centre of this struggle, where individuals and initiatives contribute to the negotiated shape, form, and function of our surroundings.


About Ryerson On Yonge

A course in the Faculty of Arts, we have been studying the history of the neighbourhood around Yonge and Dundas, and Ryerson campus, in order to consider the social context and cultural importance of the new Student Learning Centre, which will occupy 341 through 355 Yonge Street. This blog is not an official Ryerson publication, and is a student-composed analysis of campus and its neighbourhood.
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2 Responses to Permanence and Circulation: Toronto’s Maleable History

  1. Pingback: Making Ryerson Yonge | Ryerson On Yonge

  2. Pingback: Making Ryerson Yonge | Ryerson On Yonge

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