This post is part of the LRC’s 25 year anniversary project. We are asking our readers for the most influential Canadian books published in the last quarter century. For more information, click here.
Robert Fulford’s account of the emergence of modern Toronto, published in 1995, was the first popular recognition that something remarkable had happened to a city previously famed only for being reliably dull. Indeed he opens with the wonderful quote from Northrop Frye, that Toronto was a good place to mind your own business, and then documents how that old city got left behind. Did mayors, city council or grand patrons plan the transformation to a global, extrovert city? Yes and no, said Fulford, but mostly no. Toronto had eschewed grand plans all its life yet from the sixties on seemed suddenly open to happy accidents, giving his book its name.
Accidental City charts the city’s dramatic character change, starting with the unique boldness of New City Hall, an initiative that was itself a close run thing. Fulford details the strange origins of the CN Tower and our ever ambiguous relationship to it, catches the psycho-geography of the emerging city from the Annex to Scarberia, and sketches the characters from Jane Jacobs to Henry Moore who made us modern. His book is a love letter to that new city, an accidental romance that surprises us still.
Joe Berridge is a partner at Urban Strategies Inc. and the Bousfield Distinguished Visitor in the Program in Planning at the University of Toronto.