Street view from Jane-Finch (Photo: Tuna Tasan-Kok)

“What went wrong with Bijlmer?” A student asked from the back of the class during the lecture on planning history in the Introduction to Urban Planning course that I’m coordinating at our Bachelor programme in UvA. We were discussing “city scientific”, a period of planning defined by Peter Marcuse (2016) referring to the products of modernity. Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer project was one of those ‘scientific outputs’ of the era. This made me think of my own experience during a field trip for DIVERCITIES research in Toronto. While driving for the first time through the streets of Jane-Finch neighbourhood, another experimental product of modernist planning, I could immediately understand ‘what went wrong’. Forgotten human scale, disconnected spaces through high-way like infrastructure and borderless/meaningless empty “green” spaces, no shops or places to meet….feeling of loneliness and emptiness, feeling lost and out of place…kind of a feeling that makes you think something terribly wrong has happened. As elaborated elsewhere obsession with creating the ‘perfectly functioning space’ constricted modernist architects’ (like Le Corbusier) view of the people for whom they designed the city in the first place. This was the era where architects were envisioning and designing cities for people. This was before “planning” emerged as a discipline with its roots in diverse social sciences fields. Jane-Finch neighborhood in Toronto was developed as a modernist suburb during the 1960s, based on principles of large green space, wide avenues and high-rise apartment buildings. Today it is one of the most stigmatised neighbourhoods in the city with the largest concentrations of criminal gangs of any area in Canada. Jane-Finch is also one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Toronto, although this does not get as much media coverage as the crime rates. Jane- Finch, houses a large immigrant population and diverse groups, but thanks to its community-planning tradition, some social transformations are taking place there and turning a stigmatised rundown area into a community hub. People of Jane-Finch find their own ways to make connections and create a very strong
feeling of “community”. Read more