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Reflexivity Report and Psychogeography Portrait
Prepared for the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography after
Church Street Walk, Toronto, ON, Canada in August 2022
 
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
  For 10.000 years
this was the location of
Lake Ontario's shoreline
  Before we start this walk I have to let you know that most of my psychogeography activities are from the stand point of participatory urbanism and influence of citizens on urban democracy. Make sure to open your mind, look left and right, up and down, in this case virtually. You will enjoy it, I hope .
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For 10.000 years this was the location of Lake Ontario's shoreline. This Brick wall stands where water and land met with a vista of horizon.

Yes this is a proper starting point for this walk. This peace of urban art, Shoreline Commemorative, was created by Paul Raff in 2014, when new condominium building replaced old structures on the corner of Church and Front Streets.

South of this point there is probably 50 more meters of the Church Street. Still there is one quite valuable spot there. Tiny original Banksy artwork is hidden [protected under plexiglas frame] worth probably several millions of dollars. Nobody, or to be precise very few people in the city, knows about it. I hope you will not reveal its location, please do not spread the word. If you want come and visit it in person.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
           
      What about those 50 m south and some 50 m north in this first stretch of the street? It is hosting little Neighbourhood Store and two, perfectly legal Cannabis stores. Red Rock and Hemisphere Cannabis, with very impressive names, and the promise: "We will light your way! There are so many of them around here, in a circle of 300 m I counted some 10 of them, crazy!      
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      The Gooderham Building [photo top left] is probably the Toronto's most photographed sight. This red-brick building was completed in 1892. Looking west down Front Street towards the building's prominent rounded corner, framed on the sides by the heritage commercial blocks along Front Street, and with the skyscrapers of the Financial District towering in the background. The CN Tower is also visible from certain angles behind Brookfield Place.

Now is time to start our way north, with flatiron building at the left and St. James Aglican Church right. But lets explore maps first.

  The Gooderham Building
is probably the Toronto's
most photographed sight
 
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
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      First two maps are among earlieast that exist. Whole area was layed out initially in 1793, but only those first ten blocks [blue dotted lines very obvious in the middle of both maps] existed.

Place for the church, to the left [west] was also marked and that is start of existance of the Church Street. Notice that lakeshore is just bellow.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography
 
             
      These two maps are showing how Toronto is quickly growing towards north, on the shoreline shipping docks started developing, but real development of that area will start little later, towards the end of the nineteen century.      
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      In 1879 railway arrived in the city and made a huge difference on the city landscape. Tracks were built along the shoreline, separating city from the lake Ontario. Few years later more tracks, more streets and than highway and heavy industry pushed lake further and further south. Today it is some 300m away from the original banks. Check this map bellow.      
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography
 
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  Church Street is today approximately
3.4 km long
  This downtown portion of the city, and we are talking about first 10 blocks and area around St. Lawrence Market extended to the Church Street to the west [dotted red line on the map above] is the only one with "genius loci" [spirit of the place] talking authentic "old Toronto" urban language.

While this was happening to the south city was intensively expanding to the north. Church Street is following this progress. Today it is approximately 3.4 km long. Central metropolitan area of Toronto is BTW approximately 20km from south to north, and 60km east to west.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Sunset image, taken from my balcony, is showing space above the lower portion of Church Street, starting with St. James Anglican Church of Canada from 1853 built in Gothic Revival style and raw of new tall condominium [apartment] buildings. To the left [east] of the church is a downtown Financial District.

Whole area is becoming very popular with young generation, fed up with waisting hours in traffic to get to the place they work. Demand for new, specially smaller one and two bedrooms apartments for families without kids, is growing enormously. It is understandable, but not urbanistically desirable, that these buildings are growing taller and taller, some reaching height above 50 floors. Highest one, visible in a distance is not in a Church Street, it is 89 stories tall.

     
             
   
             
  View this panorama
of Gooderham
Flatiron Building
in full screen 360˚
  Enjoy in 360˚ - full screen view space in front of Gooderham Flatiron Building and get ready for the very long walk. As you can notice, since Toronto has only two seasons, winter and construction, we are in the construction one. Still some people are lucky to be able to make fun with it [photo in the middle bellow].

Dérive, or stroll [check all >psycho<geography> terms, please!] true this street is very unique experience, rare not only for Toronto where 50% of the people are born outside of the county, but unique anywhere in the world. It is not surprising that religious institutions of all imaginable denominations are located along the street and innumerable other public institutions.

     
             
   
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      We >psycho<geographers> are considering walk to be: "a living urban experience of understanding the rich variety of the city landscape, closely connected to socio-political, as well as cultural activities. BUT. The virtual world is increasingly becoming part of the real world. This could easily be a virtual walk on GoogleMaps. Actually even this experience is virtual since you are on-line!??

Our standard practice is to open our mind. To position ourself to absorb, to focus on the place itself. Then genius loci [spirit of the place] is revealing "psychographs", small individual scenes preparing you for the powerful experiences in longer and more purposely oriented drifts. When turned to common praxis genius loci is willing to uncover things otherwise deeply hidden or with unrecognizable importance. That is when you notice that shifting focus suddenly makes thing fundamentally changed.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
  This is
Cathedral Church
of St. James
  Let me list just some of the public institutions in this multicultural street: Toronto Islamic Centre, Hillsong Church - Toronto, Toronto Church St. Christadelphians, Toronto Reference Public Library, The Salvation Army Toronto – Grace Health Centre, Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community – Church-Wellesley Village, AIDS Memorial in Barbara Hall Park, Metropolitain [ex Ryerson University], The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica, St. Michael's Hospital, Metropolitan United Church, Masjid Toronto, The Cathedral Church of St. James, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Lakehead University Toronto, Gooderham Flatiron Building and probably many more hidden in the side streets

Photos above are of The Cathedral Church of St. James. This is a forth church on this spot since 1793 when first Aglican Church priest [or minister] arrived from England, this one opened in 1853.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      I didn't even know before this walk that there is "Garden District" in Toronto, now we all know.

Sight left and right are at least to me not that interesting, huge towering condominiums on the left and one more coming to the right. After this we are ready for excitement.

Before we start just let me list some of the restaurants along a way. That is what I am talking when I talk about multiculturalism in Toronto. That is what is making this street and this city great.

Crape.to - Costa Rican Crapes, Gyu-Kaku, Japanese BBQ, Magners Irish Pub, Golden Thai, Shawarma’s King, Asis - Shisha and Hookah Bar, Kinton Ramen Japanese Restaurant, Marquise of Branby - British, Alexandros - Greek Restaurant, Naru Izakaya - Japanese, PI CO - Pizza bar - Italian, Kawa Sushi - Japanese, North of Brooklyn Pizzeria, Mexi Cados, Churchmouse - Firkin Pub British, O’Grady’s - Irish Pub, Loaded Pierogy - Polish, Si Lom Thai Bistro, Poch 1889 - Korean Eatery, Fushimi Japanese Cuisine, Tacorito - Mexican, Istanbul Kebab, A la Turque, Torch Pressed Sushi, Smith stylish French Eatery, oNoir - French Italian, Crape It Up - Vietnam, Cafe California, Piedmont Coffee Bar - Italian, Lola’s Housemade American, El Rinconcito Mexicano, Asahi Sushi - Japanese and Korean, Z-teca Mexican, Plaza Mana - Italian, Indian Roti House, Neighbor Wang - Chinese, Ali Baba Middle Eastern, Ehiopiques Restaurant, Cafe de Melbourne, Hot House - Italian, Le Papillon - French, and of course usual North American, Starbucks, McDonald's, Pizza Pizza, Pizza Nova, A&W, Domino’s Pizza, Subway, Tim Hortons.

I counted places from at least 27 countries, what do you think Impressive?

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      My favourite Henry's - Canadia's Greatest Camera Store is on the next corner with Queen Street. I am still using some of my cameras [my favourite ones are Panasonic and instaEVO360] but most of the photos here are created by iPhone, they are just more handy and if you are not planning to use them for printing much more convenient.   My favourite
Henry's Camera Store
 
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
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      To the north from intersection with Queen Street more condos are to the east. Few preserved heritage building west are hosting a row of Pawnbrokers. For those who don't know those are places where they lend money in exchange for personal property that can be sold if the loan is not repaid by a certain time. There used to be many more of them all concentrated in this area, few of them still survived.      
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Start of the Garden District, mentioned before is probably this park around Metropolitan Wesleyan Methodist Church, finished in 1872.

This is what they think about themselves: "We're at the heart of Toronto, serving our community and a diverse congregation drawn from across the city. The richness of our 200-year history is complemented by our progressive vision of the future. We welcome everyone, inclusive of age, ethnicity, gender identity, ability and sexual orientation."

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Same as many other places in this area this church have two very different faces. South one, monumental entrance is getting ready for the crew of some movie filmed around it. The other one on the west, closer to the Church Street is providing shelter to the couple of homeless people.      
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
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      St Michael Church, is at the intersection with Shutter Street. Opposite of it is Fleur 29 stories tall luxury condo. Further north west side is under intensive renovations, I am quite sure huge condos are under way.

Toronto with almost 10 million people in the metropolitan area is of course an excellent example of Postmetropolis, dramatically restructured megacities that have emerged world wide. Megacities tend to concentrate the best and the worst—globally connected and locally disconnected, physically and socially.

What we need is noticing and pointing a finger to the extreme or just powerful instances of deterioration or good sides of the cities affected by climate change and contribution of postmetropolis to the pollution and excessive energy consumption.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
  Rayerson University is
taking two full blocks
  Rayerson University is taking two full blocks between Dundas, Gould and Gerrard Streets, along Church and some surrounding streets west and east.

University recently changed its name to Metropolitan University [due to the concerns over Egerton Ryerson, who is considered one of the primary architects of the residential school system since 1880s, that forcibly separated children from their families and forbade them to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages]. It is still possible to see both RU [for Rayerson] and TMU [for Metropolitan University] along the street.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Today Metropolitan University has over 45,000 students and more then 100 undergraduate and graduate programs.

The Ryerson Institute of Technology was established in 1948 in response to the need for skilled tradespeople following the Second World War. Approximately 250 students enrolled in the first year. In 2002, Ryerson Polytechnic University shortened its title to Ryerson University, reflecting the school’s rising profile as a full-fledged university with strong academic programming.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Maple Leaf Gardens is a historic building located at the northwest corner of Carlton and Church Streets. The building was initially constructed in 1931 as an arena to host ice hockey games.

This corner was until 1999 the most popular sport event place in the whole city. It was arena for the Maple Leafs, very popular Toronto hockey team, and as we all know hockey is most popular sport in Canada. I am BTW football fun [called soccer here] so I am attending TFC games. Even being extremely popular Maple Leafs are still after 55 years still waiting for the title in the NHL competition.

Today this building is huge shopping center with multiple stores and it is still keeping small hockey arena for usage of nearby Metropolitan University.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
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      I had opportunity back in 2009 to make "from above" image of Church Street, here it is. Almost whole street is visible.

Area north from Alexander Street is start of Wellesley - Church Village home of Toronto LBGTQ community. Image above right is from June 2022 Pride Parade along this street.

As Marcel Proust states, “The real voyage of discovery consists of not seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      When you mention Church Street to anyone in Toronto, first association will be "Oh I know, you mean Gay Village [or more correctly LBGTQ+ Village].

This is how they describe themselves: " The Village is a comfortable and supportive community that offers the connectedness of a small town, in the heart of the City. The Village is an urban destination, connected to transit with businesses and events that are on the forefront of City building and urban life. Art and culture is central to our lifestyle including galleries, art installations and theatre. Our nightlife is diverse and offers music, dancing and shows that entertain and attract visitors".

As I mentioned before one aspect, extremely important to me, is participatory urbanism and influence of citizens on urban democracy. Participatory urbanism builds upon a large body of related projects where citizens act as agents of change. This is one of fine examples of successful citizens participations, they strongly influenced whole neighbourhood.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Fellow psychogeographer, Shawn Micallef in his book "Stroll – Psychogeographic walking tours of Toronto, published back in 2010, is decribing this area: "As Toronto's gay scene moved from Yonge to Church in the 1980s, that old sensibility of queer bars behind darkened windows evolved into a much more conspicuous street presence. This was always a gay area, from the early 1800s, in the legendary days of possibly gay magistrate Alexander Wood (that's his statue with the conspicuously bulging crotch at Alexander and Church), when the City Park Co-Op and Village Green apartment complexes were built (the latter includes a round building endearingly nicknamed 'Vaseline Tower'), residential structures where a single man or (less frequently) woman could live alone and in relative privacy." 12 years later proud Torontonians are considering Guy Village one of the main toursit attractions.      
             
   
     
      This walk turned out to be much larger bite that I anticipated. Walk itself should take maybe two hours, there and back, still a very long time for this type of observational visit, but in this case with such magnitude of substance, it requires much, much more time. After many organized walks that I performed my experience is that more than an hour is not practical at all.

Just this Village itself [ six blocks, ~ 1 km long] with all its rich content requires more than an hour, so let's make a break.

     
     
   
     
      After a break we are in Barbara Hall Park, small park on the Church Street north of Wellesley Street East featuring a fenced-in splash pad, a fenced Dogs Off-Leash Area and an AIDS Memorial. The park is next to the Community Centre, which hosts events in the park during Pride Week and throughout the year. There is currently a bike sharing station on the northwest side of the park, very helpful in this huge city.

This is definition of my >psycho<geography< practice: "The subjective analysis, mental reaction, to the neighbourhood behaviours related to the geographic location. A chronological process based on the order of appearance of observed topics, with the time delayed inclusion of other relevant instances.

     
     
   
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  View in full screen
360˚ Barbara Hall Park
  But first enjoy tranquility of Barbara Hall Park.

Further to the north above Isabells and Charles Streets Village is fading away to end up on Bloor Street. It is quite understandable, Bloor is one of two main streets in Toronto [25 km long], traversing the whole west side of the city. It has life of its own, not letting anything take it away.

     
             
   
             
      The other main street in Toronto, parallel to Church Street, is Yonge Street intersecting Bloor just few hundred meters to the west, claiming to be 1896 km long, the longest street in the world, yes this is not spelling mistake 1896 km long???!!!      
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      I was envisioning this walk as a group of enthusiasts walking for an hour or so with a not predetermined plan through the part of the community with eyes wide open and full of curiosity and speciall attention to the visual symbols and language of this urban space.

For now you will just have this few photos, thay are mostly self explanatory but of course you can ask for more info at any point.

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Activity, included along the way, was observation of urban art, street art or sometimes called graffiti art and it is very present along this street. City officials are encouraging urban artists, numerous organizations are promoting and financing this type of art, quite important for the vibrancy of Toronto.

Enjoy just few photos here or come back in person to get full experience, I am considering this just as a teaser.

Today,on August 17, new census data was revealed and it is showing true diversity of this city including this street too. 42.2 % of people of Toronto speak regularly at home some other language then official English or French!

     
             
  Church Street, Toronto, psychogeography  
             
      Instead of conclusion let me send this message to everyone. Over time
>psycho<geography> become one of the cornerstones of modern geography and major post-modern way of writing on the city.

Active search for and celebration of, chance and coincidence” by Wilfried Hou Je Bek, is one of the best descriptions of psychogeography existing today.

Or we can use this opinion about >psycho<geography> from the paper Competing on Creativity: Placing Ontario’s Cities in a North American Context, from November 2002, by Meric Gertler and Richard Florida, both prominent urban theorists: “The ability to attract creative people in arts and culture fields and to be open to diverse groups of people of different ethnic, racial and lifestyle groups provides distinct advantages to regions in generating innovations, growing and attracting high-technology industries, and spurring economic growth.”

For much more information about my standpoint read my paper “Psychogeography Now – Window to the urban future”.

Enjoy rest of the conference, Aleksandar

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Unfortunately nobody from the community joined me for this walk, it was maybe too long or to complicated for them. Even me actually did this in three time slots during last week of July 2022. It took all together more that three hours just for physical presence. This reflexivity report was extra.

My 1 year old granddaughter was only one making me company for one segment of the visits – in the stroller of course, stroll in a stroller, how appropriate!

     
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Prepared for the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography

Selected >psycho<geography> portraits on our website
~ 06 ❖ Placa de Lesseps, Barcelona, 2009 ~ 11 Buenos Aires Street Art, 2012 ~
17
Place aux Herbes, Uzes, 2015 ~ 18 Pedestrian Area, Beograd, Srbija, 2015 ~
21 Praça des Flores, Lisbon, Portugal, 2017~ 24 Bascarsija, Sarajevo, BiH, 2018 ~

 
 

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  Last time updated on September 12, 2022  
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