Dear friends,I have agreed to serve one final year at the head of the City Institute while the Office of the Vice President Research and Innovation conducts a process to seek a new Director.These last few months at CITY have been particularly busy as we have continued research in a variety of areas, have been involved in major outreach activities and have continued to support teaching in a variety of contexts.
Our chief research activities remain clustered around the MCRI on Global Suburbanisms. We have now started research in all but a few of our seventeen conceptual, thematic and geographic research areas. A book on the governance of suburbanization is in preparation with University of Toronto Press. A second foundational area, the benchmarking group, has published its remarkable Atlas of Suburbanisms online, and a large number of individual articles have already been published. The Suburbancity blog offers a flexible yet consistent mode of communication for some of the central themes the MCRI concerns itself with.
A central feature of our project is graduate and undergraduate teaching. Ute Lehrer taught a graduate planning workshop with 11 students from the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in October 2012 in Montpellier, France. The course was tied in with an international conference on the concept of suburban land which brought leading experts on the question to Southern France under the leadership of Lehrer and her colleagues Richard Harris (McMaster) and Robin Bloch (ICF-GHK Consulting). Last summer, Ute Lehrer and I taught a Bachelor’s of Environmental Studies third year undergraduate course on urban and regional infrastructure in Toronto and Montreal. We are planning a similar course to be offered in Vancouver with UBC colleagues next spring.
There are several more research projects ongoing or just completed. CITY participated in a knowledge synthesis project sponsored by SSHRC and (in collaboration with Kris Olds, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Jean-Paul Addie from York University) we studied mobilizing new urban structures to increase the performance and effect of R&D in universities and beyond. Lisa Drummond and Douglas Young continued working on their SSHRC-funded project “Socialist Cities in the 21st Century: Modernist Legacies and Contemporary Urban-Policy Making”. This project took them to Vietnam, Sweden and Germany during the past year. More recently, CITY became the home of Ian Macdonald’s “Placing Labour in the Urban Economy” project, which also involves Steven Tufts and Simon Black from York University.
As CITY has become more established on the Toronto (sub)urban scene, outreach
Party. Co-organized with MP Matthew Kellway (Beaches-East York), the event held at the Toronto Reference Library drew urban experts from all sectors and areas to discuss developments and policies pertinent to Canadian cities.
In September, CITY (in co-operation with Toronto City Councillor Adam Vaughan
Our regular outreach activities continued with our City Seminar series bringing Toronto’s new Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat to York in October for a standing room only event. Our November seminar was held by Markham Museum’s Cathy Molloy. In December, we are looking forward to welcome internationally renowned urban scholar Margit Mayer from Berlin in an event cosponsored by the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES).
CITY has also become the hub (and has successfully allied itself with CCGES and FES in both cases) of two graduate exchange programs. We have been exchanging students from York University with the Geography Department at Goethe University in Frankfurt. We have also started a five year program of PhD level exchange with Berlin and New York Universities. Ute Lehrer and Roger Keil joined the University of Toronto’s Kanishka Goonewardena, and York PhD students Darren Patrick and Thorben Wieditz to present at the consortium’s first annual meeting in Berlin in early November. Berlin student Sabine Barthold has been at York for the fall 2012 term as part of the consortium exchange.
As the Director of CITY, I remain concerned with and committed to making Toronto a better place. Important questions around growing socio-economic inequalities, transit and housing have pushed to the foreground as the urban region mulls new pathways for development, even casinos to deal with the huge financial issues accompanying continued neoliberalization of the urban economy. We continue to forge connections around the city and region. Our MCRI’s Greater Toronto Suburban Working Group is a testament to it as are many other examples for involvement in urban debates and struggles around the region. We have given advice to community groups and foundations, labour organizations and planners. As we are preparing for a new year of activities, my last one as Director, stay tuned for more news from the City Institute along these lines. In particular, Global Suburbanisms’ halftime conference in the fall of 2013 will take much of our energy over the next few months. Stay tuned.