Last week, on the night of what would be the Toronto Blue Jays second final playoff game, a group of urban enthusiasts eschewed the big screen for a book, to gather at Urbanspace gallery for the first Urban Reader Book Club hosted by Ryerson City Building Institute and Civic Action.
This is an exciting time for city building in Toronto. Among ongoing transit debates, competing proposals for old city hall and a new federal urban agenda, city building issues are as public as ever. The book club – open to everyone and anyone – creates an accessible forum to discuss some of the biggest urban challenges facing us today.
The Urban Reader Book Club kicked off with the award-winning Happy City, by Vancouverite Charles Montgomery. At our October 21st event, 80 city builders, urban enthusiasts and residents participated in an interactive conversation on how we can dream, design, develop and live in happier, healthier cities.
In his book, Charles features experiments he conducted with Universtiy of Waterloo’s Dr. Colin Ellard at the BMW Guggenheim Lab, where they strapped electrode units onto participants heads and toured around parts of the city to measure how your brain and body respond to different kinds of urban settings.
We we lucky to have Colin Ellard speak to our book club and tell us more details: for example busy traffic can up our stress levels, but so can urban monotony – think large storefronts that stretch on for a long block without a window or door and create sidewalk deserts. Colin noted: “your city can literally bore you to death.”
Neluka Leanage, principal of groundSHIFT and CivicAction DiverCity Fellow, also shared some compelling visuals on how urban design affects health. She showed two scenarios of a mother walking her children to school in vastly different built environments.
Then our own Ryerson CBI’s Ken Greenberg led the book club through an interactive discussion where ,participants drew on their personal experiences and discussed how we can make our public spaces more vibrant and engaging, and…happy.
Coincidently, the title for our next Urban Reader book club is Walking Home by Ken Greenberg taking place on November 30 at Urban Space gallery. Sign up here and join us for an intimate exchange with Ken about his book about the life and lessons of a city builder. And this time, no Jays Game to compete for our full urban nerd attention.