A Thousand Cities with the Same Faces

Nature and the City bookcoverNature And The City

Beauty Is Taking On New Form

Proceedings of the Bologna Conference for the International Association for Aesthetics (June, 2012)

Edited by: Jale Erzen and Raffaele Milani

Published by: Parol, Sassari, Italy, 2013

It’s quite a coincidence that as we launch Living Toronto, a number of old friends have been involved with the publication of a book that tackles issues facing cities everywhere. Can a city have a soul? In her introduction, co-editor Jale Erzen, artist, art historian and founder of the Turkish Association of Aesthetics, advises us to look to the east for alternative aesthetic models.

Right from the start there’s a warning from Gao Jianping, research fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Describing the economic boom in the cities of Eastern China, in his paper The Origin of Particular Characters of a City, he says rapid growth can put a city at risk of losing its character. He refers to a Chinese way to put it: “a thousand cities with the same faces.”

Rifat Șahiner, from Istanbul, writes about the pitfalls of global city dynamics – transforming a city into an international investment centre – and he uses the example of the changing face of Istanbul where the city’s lively old neighbourhoods are at risk of gentrification.

As I read the papers I can’t help but worry about Toronto’s growth and change. Will Kensington Market lose its character, as Yorkville has, and become just another part of Toronto that looks like just another one of the thousand faces? For years, French anthropologist Marc Augé has focused on the dangers of non-places, places of consumption, devoid of identity, soulless urban landscapes that crop up in cities around the world.

Toronto filmmaker and professor at Ryerson University, Bruce Elder, examines the function of garden and its power of silence and contemplation. It’s there that we have a chance to reconnect with the spiritual self.

What does all this mean for Toronto, one of the fastest growing cities in the world? In his preface, co-editor, Raffaele Milani, professor of aesthetics at the University of Bologna and Director of the Laboratory of Research on Cities, tells us that every architectural structure is a landscape. What would happen if we thought about every building this way?

 – Elizabeth Cinello