Editor's Note / Summer 2008
City Builders

Two grads who have helped shaped today’s Toronto


As much as city planners like to guide urban development, a lot of growth happens organically. The late, great urban theorist Jane Jacobs believed this was how cities should evolve and criticized mid-20th century planning policies that sought to divide city land among industrial, commercial and residential uses. The great advantage of cities, she reasoned, was the mixing that took place – homes next to (or on top of ) shops, and offices next to industries – to create interesting and innovative communities. As the journalist Robert Fulford once noted, Jacobs advocated for the “spontaneous inventiveness of individuals” rather than abstract plans imposed by governments.

In this issue, in separate stories, we profile two graduates of U of T’s Faculty of Architecture who embody this idea of “spontaneous inventiveness.” Both graduated in the 1950s, but their careers took very different paths. John Daniels became a developer and worked on many large-scale projects – including the Eaton Centre and TD Centre – that helped turn a sleepy provincial capital into a modern metropolis. Joan Burt, one of the first two dozen women to graduate from the faculty since its inception in the 1920s, worked on a much smaller scale. She renovated old and decaying homes (or rows of homes), rejuvenating them and their neighbourhoods and thereby preserving some of the city’s history while also making Toronto a better place to live.

Although Daniels may be best known for the city-changing projects he helped build with Cadillac Fairview, since 1983 his own company – The Daniels Corporation – has also specialized in home construction. The company is currently working on projects ranging from high-end condominiums at Festival Tower to the more affordable housing being created as part of the Regent Park redevelopment. Of all the developers working in Toronto, Daniels has been the most actively involved in the construction of affordable housing – a reflection, he says, of his own immigrant roots and desire to help the people who most need it. “Shelter is a basic human need and it’s very rewarding to be able to provide shelter in its many forms,” he says.

While Jacobs touted individual inventiveness, nothing celebrates individual drive and determination quite like the Olympic Games. This year, at least five U of T athletes will compete in Beijing (four are profiled here, beginning on page 20; a fifth, swimmer Martyn Forde, qualified in late May as we were going to press). Some of the athletes were present at an event in April at Varsity Centre to celebrate U of T’s history of extraordinary athletic achievement. It was an overwhelming display of sporting talent that included more than 50 athletes, coaches and medical staff from ages 24 to 94 who together had participated in every Olympics since 1936. The event also served to highlight the university’s commitment to maintaining its strong record in athletics. As David Naylor notes in his president’s message, U of T wants to do its part to ensure that Canadian athletes reach the medal podiums at the Olympics.

Finally, check out the three winners of The Great University of Toronto Photo Contest on page 32. The rest of the top 10 are included here on the website.


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