Laneway Futures

This isn’t the first time we have written about laneways (see our previous stories on le Parc Oxygène in Montréal and the Laneway Summit in Toronto); they are the sites of an emerging kind of urbanism – one in which communities work together to implement on-the-ground projects that bring to light possibilities for underused or underappreciated sites. This “brainstorm, implement, share, test, and refine” model could fit under the “Lighter-Quicker-Cheaper” approach to placemaking developed and popularized by New York’s Project for Public Spaces.
Last month, the Toronto-based The Laneway Project opened up one such project to the wider community by inviting residents to the Danforth East Laneway Crawl: a prototype showcasing myriad possibilities for laneway activation in the Danforth-Woodbine neighbourhood in Toronto.
The Laneway Project and local partners the Danforth East Community Association invited passersby to “Help imagine a future for your laneway and similar laneways across Toronto!” by experiencing a range of multi-media installations and interactive activities that demonstrated a different vision of the types of compatible uses in laneways – spaces which are often relegated to afterthoughts. This forgetting of or lack of care about spaces has resulted in a situation in which communities are not deriving benefit from laneway, which could act as secondary transportation corridors, meeting spots, places to access services, to play, to experiment with gardening, to create…
(Imagine this laneway as a destination for…)
During the Danforth East Laneway Crawl, residents, businesses, and community groups of all stripes were invited to contribute to animating the laneway, from simple actions – like opening their garage doors – to more involved participation, like setting up a food or drink stall, sharing a project they were working on, or painting a mural.
On August 28th, the laneway was full of colours, sounds, kids playing ball hockey, locals strumming guitars, artists working together to paint murals – all of which contributed to a feeling of liveliness and of care.
A highlight of Laneway Futures was the incredible (and quick!) injection of art into what was a fairly typical Toronto laneway, dominated by the greys and beiges of ashphalt, fences, and faceless backs of buildings fronting busy Danforth Ave.
This laneway animation also brought up questions about how laneways could better serve the communities surrounded them by offering alternative sites to fulfill daily needs. What if you could speak to a doctor outside of what could be perceived as an imposing institution of a medical office or hospital? Or perhaps just leave your bike casually leaning against a fence while you caught up with neighbours in a quiet space?
Want more laneway love? This Sunday is the last of a series of The Laneway Project’s 2016 Laneway Crawls Series in Toronto`s Christie Pits Park! Find out more about Christie Crawlfest, happening Sunday, September 25 from 1-6pm.