Community and City-building at Ryerson – Part 1

by julia.hanigsberg | October 19th, 2011

On October 7, 2011, I stood on our Gould Street pedestrian zone to speak about Ryerson University’s vision and activities related to enhancing our shared urban experience. My presentation was part of the TEDx RyersonUSalon focusing on The Urban Landscape.

In this blog post I include some of the thoughts I shared that day on communities and seamless communities in the context of Ryerson’s building projects. Part 2 of my blog post will delve further into Ryerson’s Master Plan and the direction it gives us when dealing with space both as a theoretical concept and a real-world set of physical constraints.


For me, a community is individuals and groups who share both physical (or virtual) environments and meaningful experiences within those environments. In other words, a community facilitates experiences that enhance individuals’ and groups’ participation in civic, academic, leisure, commercial, or other activities that contribute to giving their lives structure, purpose, and identity.

In its latest Vital Signs report on the state of Toronto, the Toronto Community Foundation noted that major international publications and organizations have recently ranked Toronto as one of the most economically competitive and liveable cities on the planet. The Foundation cautions, however, that in order to maintain and improve the quality of life for all Toronto’s citizens, “we must construct a vision for our city and commit to the long term. We need to build the city we all want – smarter, healthier, more inclusive, more creative, more prosperous.”

I raise these points because they fit so well with Ryerson’s role as a community-focused city-builder. At Ryerson, we believe in the importance – as we undertake new building projects – of understanding and incorporating the needs of the University’s neighbours: both the residential and business communities that surround our precinct and, more broadly, the City of Toronto as a whole.

Seamless communities

In a speech to the Canadian Club a few years ago, Ryerson’s President Levy drew inspiration from the way the University of California Berkeley was working with its city on improving such “campus perimeter” features as landscaping, lighting, pedestrian safety, and transit. Sheldon especially liked the way the UC Berkeley planners described the streets at the edges of their campus, as “’seams’ linking campus and community, and not borders dividing them.”

Ryerson is committed to realizing our institutional ambitions and those of our city. We are, therefore, working closely with the City of Toronto, the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Association, and neighbourhood associations. Through open dialogue and information-sharing, we’re confident all of Ryerson’s new buildings will foster seamless communities that have a positive impact on the vitality of Toronto’s urban landscape and the people who live, work, learn, and play in it.

Part 2 will be posted on October 25, 2011

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