Participatory Urban Democracy, Dennison Square, Toronto
Lets start with the day when this photo was taken. It was on Sunday, May 24, around 2 p.m. On May 23 and 24 City of Toronto Cultural Services organized the annual Doors Open Toronto when 175 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and social significance open their doors to the public for a city-wide celebration.The inspiration for Doors Open Toronto came from Europe. France was the first country to launch its Doors Open program in 1984, followed by Glasgow in 1990.



Photo was taken in the Dennison Square [other name is Bellevue Square and park] in the Kensington Market area in Toronto just opposite the Kiever Synagogue [The First Russian Congregation of Rodfei Sholem Anshei Kiev] one of the buildings that “Opened Doors” on this day. It was completed in 1927 and it is declared Toronto Heritage Site. {Participating issue; Heritage issue; Democracy in Urban Environment} 01 and 13.

This man, painter of the decorations in the above mentioned synagogue with traditional Jewish cap – yarmulka is resting under the fabulous maple tree. {Religious tolerance issue} 02.

Special "Urban Dog" species of animals are tied together in one corner of the park in respect of the public space. They are behaving friendly to each other and passers by. At some point there were 6 dogs here! {urban animals; respect and appreciation for public urban space; urban participation}03.

All the paths are paved with broken stones, not covered with asphalt, like in many other parks. Obviously influence of some neighbourhood initiative. {Neighboorhud; Street furniture} 04.

Streets are surrounding this square – park from all four sides. They are all very narrow, mostly one way streets with parallel parking aloud [as a protection for pedestrians on the sidewalks and in the park]. As we heard from the locals occasionally there were “Car Free” days organized and they liked them a lot. {Traffic; Neighbouhood Initiatives; urban participation} – 05.

Spontaneous public performances, music, dancing, observing. They are in tune with the need for emotional expression and empathy toward fellow citizens. {need for expression, well being} – 06.

Public urban art is represented by this statue of the “King of Kensington”, actor Al Waxman. He become famous as local store owner helping friends and neighbours to solve problems. It is also expression of the “neighbourhood spirit. {Genius Loci, Public urban art planned and spontaneous} – 06 [Art builds Community! Experience of urban spaces from another point of view. Not visible in this photo but present in the south side of the park is small structure covered by very well planned graffiti] – 07 and 17.

Someone just brought greenery to be planted, obviously local “gardening” initiative or maybe even some individual. Greenery is over all very well maintained and cared for. [Municipality is probably planting these maple trees].{Gardening and greening initiatives; urban participation} – 08 and 16.

Above mentioned “neighbourhood spirt” is visible in multiple contacts, spontaneous conversations, picnic like atmosphere where neighbours are engaged in interaction. Even, oh so rare in Toronto, public washroom is located on the east side of the park. {Citizens interaction and social needs issue} – 09.

Whole park and connected streets are lined with relatively well preserved residential buildings and numerous heritage buildings. Strong influence of local community. {Heritage buildings} – 10 and 15.

Kids are everywhere. Noticeable is presence from small kids in strollers to teenagers engaged in various social activities. Activities are supported by content like wading pool, children playground etc. {children issue} – 11.

Very successful and existing on this spot for a very long time is Smart Wear shop [localy called sasmart] with strange, dated variety of goods on display. Over-flowery watering cans, baby carriages next to Jesus on the cross, kitchen items with bizarre German names, bedpans, etc. Almost antic shop with the “old time” flavour. {retail issue} – 12.

Amadeus Restaurant is keeping Portuguese tradition in the community live since 1950-60. It is declared “Best spot in the Kensington Market” by visitors. The patio is open from 11 A.M. Lots of locals and regulars keep this place lively. {food and social interaction issue} – 14.

Bicycles are preferable mode of transportation and it is unmistakably visible. Pleasant site. Not very far behind is walkability aspect. Eye contacts between drivers of small number of cars on the streets, even on Sunday busiest day in Kensington Market, pedestrians and bicyclists is evident. It is making whole area quite close to the “naked street – woonerf” concept. {shared streets issue, well-being of the city} – 18.

What do you think, isn't this good exhample of what public urban space shoud be? {info@urbansqares.com}


urban squares initiative by aleksandar janicijevic is licensed under a creative commons attribution-share alike 2.5 canada license.

Last time updated on Thursday, July 9, 2015, 4:26 PM