Planned Housing Spaces
What the hell went wrong in Regent Park? And how can we be sure that similar mistakes aren’t made in our rush to redevelop it?
These are the questions on the table this Thursday when the Toronto Public Space Committee screens a series of National Film Board documentaries on the history of the city’s oldest and most infamous public housing development. The night will begin with A Report on Redevelopment: Regent Park South, a hopeful and hilariously dated 1961 piece outlining how Cabbagetown’s derelict slums were bulldozed in the early 1950s to make room for a utopian experiment in urban renewal. Later that night, the TPSC will show Bay Weyman’s Return to Regent Park, a 1994 film showing what became of all that optimism. Weyman casts light onto the shadow-consumed parks around which Regent Park’s units were built, examining how drugs, prostitution and crime made once proud inhabitants increasingly afraid and ashamed. Other films on the slate are Tina Viljoen’s No Fitting Habitat, an anthropological look at the history of the city from Uruk to Le Corbusier, and Bonnie Sherr Klein and Maurice Bulbulian’s Little Burgundy, a portrait of how residents can organize to protect their interests in the face of urban reconstruction.
The films are of interest as much for the cursory history of the NFB they provide as for how they speak to the current revitalization program in the area. It’ll be a night of films that should get the conversational juices flowing around whether we’ve properly learned our lesson.
The Toronto Public Space Committee’s film night, Planned Housing Spaces, takes place at the Toronto Free Gallery, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. PWYC.