Introducing Project Due

Introducing Project DUE

A closer look at creating more diverse urban environments.



If you live in a city, chances are you love a good stroll down a bustling street. Encountering places with a diversity of uses helps to facilitate connections with our fellow city-dwellers and exemplifies why so many of us enjoy living in cities. That’s why it's no wonder people feel less enthused when they come across entire blocks devoted to banks and large grocery and drugstores.

Don't get us wrong — we buy food from large grocery stores and we bank at banks. We know that being able to easily access these kinds of institutions is important. But we also can't help but feel that recent urban development in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is creating a uniform,  'ho-hum' version of street life with, very little diversity in use, experience or form. For a city that prides itself on plurality, complexity, and diversity, this monoculture offers none of the above, and inhibits connections with our fellow city-dwellers.

It doesn’t have to be like this. In the past, Toronto has created new dense, diverse urban areas such as Kensington Market and Chinatown's Dundas Strip, or even Yorkville. Around the world, places such as the alleyways of Golden Gai in Tokyo, or the multi-level, multi-use structure of Sewoon Sangga in Seoul offer a glimpse of the incredibly varied possibilities of inhabiting a city. These much-loved urban environments have managed to create and sustain a rich diversity of commercial and cultural experiences for residents. They offer visibility for innovative, alternative activities, which are usually forced out of the densest parts of our cities. These places aren't just a magnet for visitors; they breathe life into their cities; they are dynamic, chaotic and messy, and that's why we love them.

The GTHA is the fastest growing urban region in the North America and also the most ethnically diverse. We are at a crucial moment in our city’s development, yet it feels as if every new development is doomed to foster homogenous building typologies and singular uses of space before pen is even put to paper. So the question is, what can be done about it? How can we foster diversity in future urban developments to match the diversity of our city? Can we design of our city to encourage plurality, complexity, and diversity?

Enter Project DUE (Diverse Urban Environments)

Through a series of short essays, interviews and case studies (and hey, maybe even some proposals), we hope to uncover under which regulatory frameworks and development processes foster diverse urban environments, both locally and globally. We’ll ask: what are the necessary changes to make something similar possible in the GTHA today? And, finally, (because we are architects and designers) what could these urban environments look and feel like?

We want to approach this project with a sense of naive curiosity and excitement. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we’re genuinely interested in finding out. We'd love to have you along for the ride. Share your thoughts, get involved, help us out, and follow along... #DUEwithOfficeOu

(image of Shinjuku Golden Gai by Vivienne Gucwa, NY Through The Lens)

Posted by Office Ou