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wyliepoon

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Am I pushing the limits of Toronto "City Photos" with a London photo thread?

I was in London on Friday to attend a UWO convocation. Having never seen the downtown area in depth, I took an early morning walk and took some photos between 7 and 9:30 am.

I find London to have more than its fair share of Art Deco buildings for a Canadian city of its size. Lovely old buildings make up a lot of the street wall in the city (many in better shape than what we find on Yonge Street). Plenty of buses and pedestrians during the Friday rush hour. London looks like a very mature city.

However one criticism is that many of the recent residential buildings don't follow the architectural tradition of the city- they look very, very cheap! Another criticism, but more like a sign of concern, is the number of boarded-up buildings popping up all over the inner city.

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I'd never been to London, Ontario in my life until about five years ago when I started visiting my inlaws there several times a year. While there are a few decent spots, on the whole I find downtown London rather depressing. It strikes me as a place that has passed its prime and my wife agrees, remembering when she was a student there in the 80s and the downtown core seemed more lively. Now there is a certain eerie emptiness that dominates, on both weekends and weekdays.

I wonder if downtown London is a city suffering from the US-style urban flight, albeit on a lesser scale. Everyone seems to own big houses in the sprawling subdivisions that surround the downtown, and shop in the ubiquitous grocery and box stores sprouting up in the former farm fields near those homes. There seems to be little incentive for most Londoners to visit the downtown core unless they happen work there. The core itself seems to be home to a disproportionate number of shelters, half-shuttered stores and scary looking drinking holes surround by wild-eyed lurkers that make me simply want to walk from point A to B as quickly as possible and get back to my rental car.

Downtown London's one bright spot for me is the Covent Garden Market. In some ways I really like that place; it has an attractive-yet-functional design and some great vendors. It compares favourably to the St. Lawrence Market, though it seems more tourist oriented and doesn't have many of the more hard-core butchers and fishmongers. But on further inspection this one landmark is not well integrated into the surrounding neighbourhood. Almost everyone, myself included, seems to arrive by car, park in one of the lots beside or beneath the market, shop, then immediately get back in their car and leave the downtown again. Whereas the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto is an anchor for a vibrant surrounding neighbourhood of shops and restaurants, the Covent Garden Market seems to function as little more than a funky-looking suburban shopping mall; it could be dropped into any field at the side of any nearby highway and would work just as well, probably better.

Just some rambling observations from an outsider... maybe I'm wrong?
 
I liken Covent Garden Market to being London's version of Pacific Mall, even though each caters to a different ethnic culture (and one specializing in food and the other in pirated DVDs). Not only do they look similar on the outside, but they look pretty similar on the inside (I haven't been inside). Both try to provide an alternative to indoor shopping with independent retailers rather than chain stores like at the other malls.
 
The high rises don't offer much architectural inspiration. I just hope these towers look better in person:

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I remember it being said that even the banal condos built today are better than those slab towers from the 1960s with all the extra glass used today. Presumably, they'll age better. These, however, don't even offer that redeeming feature. Fortunately, they're not towers in the park.
 
I never liked the new market, built by and for yuppie types. The old market was ugly and dingy but it was alive and had real vendors with low prices. The new market betrayed its old vendors and customers in an attempt to attract soccer moms downtown by selling fancy jams and little packets of spices wrapped in doilies.
 
Richmond Row is quite impressive, but I agree that the core of downtown is seeing some problems. I remember when the Galleria mall was doing well, but apparently it's now really gone down hill.
 
The Galleria used to be anchored by Eaton's and the Bay. Now it is anchored by Rainbow Cinemas and the London Public Library.

The Galleria is impressive with its size and the way it spans King Street. But it's pretty dead.
 
Hmmm, how can I summarise this thread? Nice old buildings... ugly new buildings...

In Ontario, outside of Toronto and Ottawa, "city building" - the act of constructing new buildings that add to the urban vibrancy and delight of a neighbourhood - seems to have stopped around 1954.
 
yeah, I think it's just Toronto that builds nice buildings and tries to create a proper urban environment in Ontario.

London really seems to love the cement slab highrise, they continue to build more and more every year, adding to an already large collection. London's highrises are spread all over the city too, it's only recently that they started building them downtown again. It's part of a concerted effort to have more people living downtown--which is obviously a good thing--but they could make downtown living more attractive with some better and more functional architecture.
 
ganja,

I may be optimistic, but there were some decent Byward Mkt condos last time I visited. Anyway, the point remains essentially the same: the most endearing building in a North American downtown was almost always built before the war.
 
Looks like an interesting city to tour, I never have stopped on any drive-by or went into town beyond a few stores barely off 401.

The city doesn't have anything particularly bad except this.

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What is the deal with there being no windows on that structure? What IS the structure anyway? If there are offices inside the concrete column I wouldn't be able to understand.
 

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