Project Overview & Study Area

To borrow from William J. Mitchell, I need to make myself into an urbanist, a geographer, and begin “to understand how the objects, narratives, memories and spaces [of the city] are interwoven into a complex, expanding web – each fragment of which gives meaning to all of the others” (2005: 211). I have undertaken this task with this project; through gaining a sense of how people perceive and experience a particular neighbourhood through walking. To relate it to the phenomenological writings of Gaston Bachelard, Max van Manen, and Tony Hiss, this project begins to explore the relationships between place, space, and a sense of individuality; about how our experiences with the environment, natural and built, shape who we are and how we experience different spaces and spaces differently, which is portrayed in individual maps and photographs of the neighbourhood.

While walking tends to be purposeful, and the role of aesthetics is not usually foremost on a walker’s mind, it inevitably plays a role in the chosen route and frequency of walks. Each of us inherently has some degree of aesthetic value, which is the “perception that something is beautiful because of its associations for the observer” (Lang 2003; 276). A visual study of the pedestrian realm and the experience of walking through the eyes of others was undertaken to encourage both a critique of Toronto streetscapes and a dialogue about the importance of walking, as a social activity and a means of locomotion. Methods included the collection of mental maps and photographs, and interviews about perceptions of the neighbourhood and walking habits/practices.

This project will highlight an investigation that brought together separate experiences of walking in the city, in the context of everyday life and routine, and what works and does not work for pedestrians in urban settings. The central point of the research was Clafouti Pâtisserie et Café at 915 Queen Street West. As a neighbourhood focal point, this location offers many amenities central to urban living.

For the purpose of this project, the boundaries of the study area encompass the core of the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood which is bordered by Queen Street West to the south, Dundas Street West to the north, Bathurst Street to the east, and Shaw Street to the west. Although the official neighbourhood maps for the City of Toronto indicate the official boundaries extend north to College Street, bordering Palmerston-Little Italy, and west to Dovercourt Road, bordering Little Portugal; the purpose of this project was to survey a community focussed around a neighbourhood park and café (City of Toronto 2007a).