School of Cities / Event

Where We Gather: A lecture series in partnership with the Toronto Public Library

Nathan Phillips Square with Old City Hall and skyscrapers in the background

How do public spaces shape city life? As Toronto’s population continues to grow and the number of residents living in multistorey buildings rises, the ways in which we encourage and support the city’s public spaces increasingly matters. Parks, playgrounds, and city streets are where we gather.
In a four-part lecture series presented by the School of Cities in partnership with the Toronto Public Library at branches across the city, urban experts examined some of the challenges and questions that we should be asking to make sure that we get the most out of our public spaces. 

This free program concluded in Fall 2019.

  1. Where We Gather: Public Life in Toronto 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Toronto Reference Library Atrium

The series began with an introduction to public spaces in the city and key debates and challenges that Toronto faces in designing, supporting, maintaining and improving public spaces that promote public life. 

Speakers for this session:

  • Alex Josephson, Co-Founder, PARTISANS
  • Ann-Marie Nasr, Director, Parks Development and Capital Projects, City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation
  • Alissa North, Associate Professor, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto
  • Moderated by Shauna Brail, Associate Professor and Associate Director, School of Cities, University of Toronto

2. Where We Gather: Streets of Toronto

Monday, October 7, 2019
Bloor/Gladstone Public Library

Nearly one third of our city land is comprised of public streets. The second session examined the many ways our streets can and should be used – for vehicles, cycling and active transportation, patios, seating areas, pedestrians, plazas and more. What are the opportunities to use streets differently to support public life in the city?

Speakers for this session: 

  • Marianne Hatzopoulou, Associate Professor Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Air Quality, University of Toronto
  • Jon Johnson, Assistant Professor, Woodsworth College, University of Toronto
  • Elyse Parker, Director, Policy and Innovation, Transportation Services, City of Toronto
  • Moderated by Matti Siemiatycki, Associate Professor and Interim Director, School of Cities, University of Toronto

3. Where We Gather: Public Life vs. Digital Life in Toronto 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Runnymede Public Library

The third session addressed the use of technology in public spaces – including ethics, best practices, and upcoming challenges. 

Speakers for this session:

  • Lisa Austin, Professor and Chair in Law and Technology, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
  • Beth Coleman, Director, City as Platform lab, Associate Professor, Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (UTM) and Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
  • Jesse Shapins, Director, Public Realm, Sidewalk Labs
  • Moderated by Mark Fox, Distinguished Professor and Associate Director, Research, School of Cities University of Toronto

4. Where We Gather: Public vs. Private Space

Wednesday, November 6, 2019
North York Central Library

The final session examined the distinction between public space and private space. The types of activities currently permitted in Toronto’s public spaces, as well as future-focused suggestions for change will be discussed. This session also highlighted situations where private spaces mimic public ones such as bookstores, coffee shops and the opportunities and obstacles of each.

Speakers for this session:

  • Christopher Essert, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
  • Dave Harvey, Founder and Executive Director, Park People
  • Paul Hess, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto
  • Yvonne Yeung, Manager, Urban Design, City of Brampton
  • Moderated by Marieme Lo, Associate Professor and Associate Director, Education, School of Cities, University of Toronto