Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Destroying the good

A photo of Simcoe Street between Sargent and Wellington, circa 1946, featuring familiar elements of traditional Winnipeg urbanism: the three-storey (plus raised basement) walk-up apartment block; the vaguely Edwardian, vaguely American Foursquare house with an enclosed verandah and front garden; the small grocery store. Note the shop-keeper keeping a watchful eye on the street.

This photograph of what is considered good and desirable about city neighborhoods. It's the kind of things you hear your parents or grandparents describe when talking about the good old days, or see on a painting. To planners in the immediate postwar period, however, this scene is a disaster. When I found this photo among official documents at the City Archives, the accompanying caption demonstrates the perversity of Modern city planning succinctly: "LACK OF ZONING ILLUSTRATED BY MIXED USES, NEED FOR RELATED SET BACKS, NO SIDE YARD ALLOWANCE, APARTMENT SHADES HOUSE."

The reasons we don't build neighborhoods like this anymore is because we're not allowed to.


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