Postmodern Urbanism and Gentrification
in Toronto

Provider: Kate Liu / B

From Caulfield, Jon. "Postmodern Urbanism and the Canadian Corporate City" (97-123) and the other chapters in City Form and Everyday Life: Toronto's Gentrification and Critical Social Practice.  Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1994. .

  Major Argument:  This chapter explores the emergence of postmodernist urbanism and of the residential geography of the corporate city, broader processes in which middle-class resettlement of older inner-city neighborhoods in any given setting must be placed. 

  Issues for Discussion: 1.  In what ways is Taipei also a postmodern city?   
       2. Of the different views on the possibilities of social movements in postmodern city, which do you agree with?



  postmodern urbanism

  de-industrialization and corporate-service economy

Growth of corporate-service economy: 
1. Massive and continuing consturction of office space in the inner core, 
2. The growth of Toronto' s corporate gentry meant a proliferation through downtown of these kinds of restaurants and of high-priced shops and specialty boutiques whose exclusive merchandise and impeccably furnished interiors affirmed K the taste and discrimination of their customers and clients. 
3. The impact of incipient 'world-class'  metropolitan status on local property markets (84-86). 
In general, postmodern urbanism --
has rejected modernism' s perception of the historical city as a problem to be solved by comprehensive restructuring according to Ka 'universal architecture'  committed to a 'unified organization of life' . In contrast, among postmodernist planning' s central principles has been a celebration of traditional urban form and social and cultural heterogeneity. (97)

[e.g. the re-introduction of the old form of ballfield (instead of the massive, multipurpose stadium)]
  
In Toronto, postmodernist urbanism has been evident in the preservation and often renovation of older residential housing and neighbourhoods, commercial strips, and downtown office and institutional buildings. Kin the construction of new housing and retail facilities compatible with, rather than dissonant from, the city' s historical fabric. (99) 

Anti-Modernist City Form  [intellectual influences of J. Jacobs, Mumford, and Venturi] 
  • J. Jacobs -- argued that modernist design eviscerated the spatial logic of historical urban fabric and stripped cities of an organic capacity for social vitality and economic regeneration.   
  • Mumford -- condemned modernism's treatment of the city according to the analogue of the machine, an outlook that he believed engendered a ruthless disregard for communcal and humanizing qualities of traditional urban culture and landscape. 
  • Venturi -- attacked modernism's compulsion for orderly and heroic cityscapes that erased old urban quartiers whose diverse architectural forms expressed distinct local patterns of everyday life. (underline added; pp. 102-103) 
  • For Mumford and Venturi, modernist form severed city-dwellers' everyday connections from who they had been, by destroying continuity with urban landscapes of the past, by replacing local vernacular architecutres with a monolothic 'internationalist' architecture imposed from outside. .  ."
[vernacularism and nostalgia as a popular commercial trend, e.g. in restaurants, in malls, supermarket] 
     This kind of fetishization of postmodernist styles yields landscapes and interiors that have a kind of Disneyesque quality, K (105)
  different vision: 109 
Modernist urbanism' s utopia is a 'voiceless object of ... deduction' , an uncovered metaphysical truth to which metropolitan life shall henceforth conform. In contrast, post-modernist urbanism conceives of a multiciplicty of diverse and reverberating lifeworlds, 'a plurality of full valid voices'  (Bakhtin 1984: 34), whose combination moves toward an unknown city. 


  Postmodernism and Urban Social Movements

The book argues that the process of middle-class resettlement has constituted, in part, a critical social movement: a collective social action undertaken in 'resistance to tendencies [of dominant groupings and institutions] to colonize the lifeworld' or in opposition to 'existing forms of closure and repression'" (110)

Theorists: 

  •   Castells cites a series of historical and contemporary instances of apparent 'multi-class' movements.  
    -- "he finds such movements essentially 'reactive' because they are 'not agents of structural change' but only 'symptoms of resistance to social domination.' [1983: 326, 329]"
    -- directed at the worng 'targets' precisely because they are oriented toward specific, more parochail circumstances rather than general, more strategic objectives - say, processes of 'economic production' or the working of technocratic central state.  (112)
    -- "he sees their ultimate value mainly in terms of their capacity for 'nurturing the embryos' of later movements that may be more effectively directed."  (113)
  •   Harvey ". . . views urban forms in the context of a determining economic structuralism.. . .Harvey  conceives suburbs as simply 'the creation of the capitalist mode of  production.'  . . . postmodern urbanism . . . as 'nothing more than the cultural clothing' of the new economic order visible in cities like Toronto - deindustrializing metropolitan areas functioning in the framework of an emerging global economy of flexible accumulation [Harvey 1987: 279]" (111)  
  •   Warren Magnusson and Rob Walker  -- "it is the very strength of many contemporary critical social formations that they are rooted in particular local circumstances; they arise as concrete practices in relation to specific dilemmas in a complex world where there are 'many realities, many truths, many revolutions' (1988:59).  

  Gentrification and The Residential Landscape -- the widespread transformation, by middle-class resettlement, of older inner-city neighborhoods formerly occupied by working-class and underclass communities. K 

C argues that the seeds of gentrification have included patterns of critical social practice and that the 'gentrified' landscape is highly paradoxical, embodying both the emerging dominance of a deindustrialized urban economy and an immanent critique of contemporary city-building.

  the context of Toronto' s 'gentrification' -- These include the emergence of a popular movement of municipal 'reformism,' arising to contest the city-building practices of modernism and boosterism; heightening patterns of deindustrialzation and the parallel growth of the city's corporate economy and culture; and three key facets of inner-city demographic and neighborhood change. (Par I, 3 61-92) 
  
Four sets of attitudes were at the roots of reformism. They arose in the contexts of: traditional popular outlooks toward city-building in Toronto; changing values in planning and related professions; the growth of the city' s young adult population affiliated with marginal political and cultural groupings; and the increasing number of middle-class households settling in the inner city. (67)
  
  Inner-City Demographic Shifts -- 3 groups: 1. Chinese community, 2. Gay community, 3. Marginal young people assoicated with the arts and bohemian communities. [They are relatively smaller communities, but they have strong impact on the forms, functions and meanings of particular inner-city neighborhoods.]  
  
"One argument of this book is that middle-class resettlement of older inner-city neighbourhoods in Toronto is at least partly rooted in the critical and sometimes utopian subtext of postmodernist urbanismXthat among the seeds of 'gentrification'  have been, first, resistance among a specific segment of city-dwellers to certain key aspects of the contruction of contemporary urban space (particularly modernism and suburbanism as theswe have been refracted through the interest of capital and the state), and, second, an impulse toward a more human and more urbane city."  (p. 109)