SPACES One Street; Many Stories: Queen




Private property;
public life

The city indoors: The Eaton Centre &
"Toronto's Downtown Walkway"


Eaton Centre 1

Eaton Centre 3

The "street" indoors: 2001
The Eaton Centre: seen from its south end at Queen, Canada geese dropping in (Michael Snow's "Flight Stop"); its open court halfway to Dundas, a third level below -- beneath "eatons" at its north end another below that.


At Yonge and Queen on a summer afternoon, I'm stopped by a cute young couple, their moves reading tourist, the accent American. They ask me: "Where's the mall?" I ask: "Which mall?"

"Any mall."

I point west to the glass arched pedestrian overpass spanning Queen. "Right there," I say, "through the doors under the north end. You'll be in the Eaton Centre."

They'll be among the 19 million tourists who flock there each year: the city's main attraction, more a "must see" than the CN Tower (which you can't avoid seeing at least). And more than 30 million locals who annually enter its doors -- counting multiple trips; I must count for a hundred or so all by myself.

Opened in 1977, expanded in 1979, the Eaton Centre covers almost the entire block from Queen north to Dundas on the west side of Yonge Street, a stretch taking in two subway stations. At the time, counting Simpson's (linked by that bridge) it was, at 2.8 million square feet, the biggest shopping centre in the world.

No more: West Edmonton Mall passed it in 1986; Mall of America's 4.2 million in Bloomington, Minnesota took the record in 1992. But it's still big: more than 250 vendors on three levels, four with "Level 0" below Eaton's own nine floors; two Gaps, two Levi's Originals, three "Oh Yes Toronto!" -- tourist trinkets, sales tax refundable to those who qualify; two food courts, two McDonald's, three Second Cups, just one Starbucks. It's still among the busiest malls anywhere.

And it's smack in the heart of downtown.

We think of "the mall" as suburban. Quintessentially. Mostly we're right. Since the 1950s they have dotted burbs everywhere: first as strips fronting streetside parking lots (in Toronto Sunnybrook Plaza, 1952); as enclosed, climate controlled complexes set amidst acres of parked cars (Thorncliffe, 1961); as vast regional centres anchored by big department stores (Yorkdale, 1964), sometimes multi-level (Fairview the first here, in 1970 -- or so some people think).

We don't think of malls as "the city." "Doing downtown" has meant doing its streets, as Torontonians long have. In carriages on King, first street to draw "the carriage trade," its Golden Lion "the finest retail clothing house in the Dominion," the Golden Griffin a "splendid emporium" (as Eric Arthur said, "shop seems so inadequate a word"). On Yonge south of Queen, where Timothy Eaton first offered "Goods Satisfactory or Money Refunded" in 1869.

And, from 1883, at Yonge and Queen: Eaton's moved to its northwest side, the Robert Simpson Company south since 1881 -- twice burned out, the current store dating from 1895 and 1912. There they stayed, Canada's biggest barons of retail facing off for a century across one not very wide downtown street.

They still do -- if not quite. In 1978 Simpson's was bought by the Hudson's Bay Company, "founded 2nd May 1670" its signs proudly say, and Pro pelle cutem: "For fleece, skins." Born of the fur trade, until 1870 owning outright half of what is now Canada (if itself now owned by the Thomson media empire) -- it is to most just a department store: "The Bay." In 1991 that name replaced Simpson's on its flagship downtown emporium.

In the late 1990s Eaton's fourth generation bankrupted Timothy's empire: the signs still say Eaton's (if trendified to "eatons"), but the store is owned by Sears.* The Eaton Centre belongs now to the Toronto Dominion Bank (25%) and Cadillac Fairview Corporation (75%), one of the world's biggest developers. Of, among much else, malls -- with nearly 10 million square feet south of the border.

Doing King, 1879

Doing Eaton's, before Simpson's

Doing downtown

Left: "Doing King Street," carriage trade caught (on foot) by H deT Glazebrook, 1879. And Doing Eaton's, along Queen -- before Simpson's: fence & gate fronted Knox Presbyterian, its land leased (not sold) to Robert Simpson for his store. Below: Same stroll, 2001. The Bay & the Eaton Centre bridged; shoppers crossing Queen here get their own traffic lights -- just yards from the crosswalk at Yonge.

Doing Eaton's now

The Arcade int

The "street" indoors: 1888
The Toronto Arcade, 1883, here five years old: three levels, slylit; out of the weather if not "climate controlled."

The Arcade ext

The street outdoors: 1888
The Toronto Arcade facing Yonge, at 131-139 -- the low pediments left & right in fact false fronts.


Indoor "streets" lined with shops tucked safely out of the weather were in fact born very much "downtown." And long ago: the Passage Feydeau in Paris, 1790; London's Burlington Arcade of 1818 (I bought a sweater there in 1975; still have it); most famous the Galeria Vittorio Emmanuelle II in Milan, opened in 1867.

We got one just 16 years later, grand enough for its time and place: the Toronto Arcade. Since 1958 its modern succesor has stood on the same spot, south of the Eaton Centre if on the other side of Yonge, facing west down Temperance Street (you can see it in "Mad for 'the show'") -- barely noticed but by locals once glad for its Loblaw's groceteria, now gone.

In its day no one could miss the Arcade. As Bill Dendy wrote, "such an impressive interior space had previously been found only in a few of the city's churches and public buildings." Its "rich detail and play of natural light" were a big draw. Much as the Eaton Centre is today, and for much the same reasons.

But Yonge Street declined as a shopping mecca. By the early '50s the Arcade was vacant, in 1955 torn down.

Civic fretting over that decline in fact gave birth to the Eaton Centre. Or the idea of it, first proposed in 1953. It wasn't seriously planned until 1964, many upset by those plans: set to level Holy Trinity Church (1847), Old City Hall (1889) and the Salvation Army headquarters (1956; Toronto's first, if modest, Modernist office block) -- a price too high for a shopping mall.

In 1967 Eaton's backed off, cancelling the project. For a while: in 1970 they came back with new plans, saving grand history if replacing its more tawdry stand on the west side of Yonge with a classic mall exterior -- a wall windowless and blank.

Cries that it would turn city street to suburban desert won the concession of a few small stores facing Yonge. But what we mostly got on Yonge was, as John Bentley Mays put it, "the styling called, with attractive frankness, Brutalism... Toronto Eaton Centre an unforgettably forceful expression of its final, faded popularity."

Faded (if never much popular) but lasting into the late '90s, when the Eaton Centre marked its 20th birthday with a facelift. Brutal got a mask of New Urbanist PoMo, its exposed bits hidden by a late 20th century imitation of a late 19th century street.

It's nearly all façade, perfect for huge backlit billboards. Out back, Modernism finally fell, the Salvation Army HQ gone for a grand new west entrance to the Eaton Centre, up James Street beside Old City Hall.

Eaton Centre 1978 Eaton Centre 2001 The street outdoors: 1978 & 2001
Yonge Street face of the Eaton Centre

Far left: '70s Brutalist. "In its twilight during the decade of the Centre's design (by Bregman & Hamann / Zeidler Roberts Partnership)," J B Mays writes, "this thuggish Anglo American architectural manner marshalled exposed ductwork and elevator machinery, obvious structural steel and showoffishly prefab surface coverings and massive poured concrete. ... the stylish embrace of godless materialistic consumerism."

Left: masked PoMo New Urbanist in the '90s -- the facelift nearly all false fronts. The mirrored tower went up in the interim at the Centre's centre, making a trio with Toronto Dominion's at its north, Cadillac Fairview's south: owners bracketing their turf.

PATH Eaton Centre


You are...
In the Eaton Centre, headed for the subway or The Bay -- or maybe headed back. No wait: let's cruise housewares! There's a sale on!

PATH Bay sales

PATH under Richmond

You are...
Under Richmond Street, then Bay: but for signs (few well lit) you'd never guess.

PATH under Bay

PATH Food sign

You are...
Shopping! Or eating: here a snack stop beneath the Sheraton Centre, & a food court daylit from Adelaide for lunch. There's no need for light at night: after 5:00 the place is deserted.

PATH RA grub

Scotia Invest

You are...
Making a killing (or maybe getting killed): manage your money on the spot, under Scotia Plaza or the Bank of Montreal.

BMO Investore

Standing on the Eaton Centre's Level 1 (two floors below the street at Dundas, just one at Queen, downtown's gentle slope south to the lake otherwise not much noticed), you stand amidst a complex more vast. It runs from the bus station on Dundas north of Bay to the Air Canada Centre on Lake Shore Boulevard, far south; from One Queen East, at Yonge, west to the CBC Broadcast Centre way over on John Street, at Front.

Its pathways stretch some 10 kilometres, past more that 1,100 shops, stores and restaurants (counting those around you near eatons), connecting to more than 60 buildings, five hotels, 20 parking garages, and (via one of them) City Hall. It is called PATH: Toronto's Downtown Walkway -- that name not suggesting its most distinctive feature: it's underground.

Not all of it feels subterranean. Even from parts of the Eaton Centre's lower level you can still look up and see sky -- or at least that vast galeria skylight. Coming from the bus station through the Atrium on Bay, you walk bright spaces 14 storeys high; at First Canadian Place the walls around you rise (in endless white marble veneer) up through its sunlit lobbies.

But along the whole route you walk level, more or less, with the ticket booths of downtown's subway stations -- five of which you can walk to on PATH.

Signs show the way (or, as you'll see, sometimes don't). The one here, top left, leads us south from the Eaton Centre to the Queen subway station -- or past it, to The Bay's basement housewares (one of my regular routes: I love Lagostina; Le Creuset -- if the last pot I actually bought cost all of $12).

That leads west, under Bay Street to the Thomson Concourse, to the Sheraton Centre's shopping and food courts, then south under Richmond (not that you'd know but for a small dim sign) to the Richmond Adelaide Centre. We could stop for lunch. Or maybe pick up something fast (if not cheap) at the "Market Place" under First Canadian Place.

We can check our stocks on the way at that convenient "Investore" tucked beneath the Bank of Montreal's 72 dazzling white storeys. Or maybe over in Scotia Plaza, back under Bay through a tunnel of elegant puce granite. And hey: need a shoe shine? Airline tickets? Right here....

I could go on -- or you can follow the maps below. Or try to.

PATH South up

PATH West up

Virtual reality

High concept; low comprehension

What is now PATH, Bob Fulford wrote in Accidental City, was long "a trackess wasteland" with nothing to help you find your way. Signs & maps at last appeared in late 1993, done by the firm of Gottschalk & Ash. A US graphics society gave them an award: designers do love clever concepts.

Among them here: directions colour coded: north is cool blue; south hot red; east sunrise yellow; west orange. So intuitive. Less so are wall maps where up is... red (see left, on a Sheraton south wall). Or orange (below, looking west at Scotia Plaza). Whichever way you happen to be facing is up.

Clever eh? To most it just turns the world on its side. Or its head. Maps (detail below left: just the part within the subway's south loop) also simplify reality (right). Winding ways look straight; most buildings, real shapes aside, are square. Distance is squeezed; streets are barely there.

The real city is above. Below it becomes virtual reality.

Actual reality

But let's go back: to how PATH came to wend its way beneath this city's towers. It began with those towers -- at least the way it is now. Eaton's had linked its earlier vast complex (main store, catalogue store, bargain annex and stable) with tunnels under streets, five by 1917. But that was nothing like this.

To John Bentley Mays, PATH seems "a rather straightforward result of the desire of postwar developers of tall buildings to maximize the commercial value of their deep foundation structures." True. But nothing about it was straightforward.

Bob Fulford points to city planner Matthew Lawson, seeing in the early '60s that "much of the future of downtown was below grade." Montreal already had its big concourse under Place Ville Marie (now spread to more than 30 kilometres, with 1,600 stores). Pierre Berton wrote in 1962 that it had put the town decades ahead of Toronto -- and of course we couldn't have that.

Lawson convinced the Toronto Dominion Bank, finishing its new centre in 1964, that basement retail would work. It did, more or less, if long all on its own. Then he coaxed the new Richmond Adelaide Centre, the Sheraton Centre going up across Queen from City Hall. To all he hinted that their lower depths might in time be linked, the city picking up the tab for tunnels. Or half the tab, anyway.

The reform council of the early '70s, fearing the new underground would sap life from city streets above, cut the tunnel subsidy to 20 percent. Then to nothing. But, as Fulford wrote: "By then the system was beyond halting. The owners of each new building wanted to be connected, whether they had the city's blessing or not. Tenants had come to expect it."

The legacy of that mixed civic blessing lies beneath the city's public streets: tunnels whose status as public space is far from clear. The handful of big banks and corporations who own most of Toronto's downtown towers also own their "deep foundation structures"; however "public" in use and appearance, they remain private property.

If you doubt it, try hoisting a picket sign there, or handing out info on the right to collective bargaining. A big retail union tried that in the Eaton Centre in 1984 -- just leaflets, no signs, no blocking the "public way." Cadillac Fairview called the cops; the undesirables were busted for "trespassing on private property."

Some tunnels may be public, some partly, some not; which ones it's hard to say without a title search. Street people have tested their status in action. Or inaction: trying to sleep there, out of the cold. They get booted out -- usually by private, not public, police. As Bob Fulford said: "Owners maintain rights by exercising them, and they may decide that too much cooperation with the city will endanger their independence."

Panhandlers seem to sense the tunnels' ambiguity, often there holding doors open for busy business types who, in another context, might offer a tip. I asked a young women why she chose that spot, wondering if legal vagaries were in mind. They were, if not the letter of law, vague as it is: "The security guards don't hassle you as much here."

Private security firms offer great play to petty tyrants, free "to enforce rules of their own design," Jeffrey Hopkins writes, "with little, if any, accountability." I had a run-in with one, trying to take pictures of PATH signs in the TD Centre (they're backlit on black backgrounds like all TD's signage, dictated by Mies van der Rohe's unbreakable Modernist aesthetic -- making them nearly invisible).

"You can't take pictures in here," he barked. Nothing says so. Nothing says much of anything, but for hours of operation and "No soliciting." But he'd proven my point: the place is privately owned; privately policed. It is ersatz public space.

I was too flustered to say what I now wish I had: "Oh really? Why not?" I'd love to have heard his answer, perhaps exposing the power behind his neat blazered mien, dressed as a friendly "greeter" in some slightly upscale Wal-Mart.

Okay, so you can't take pictures (I had no choice, in the moment, but to take the guy at his word). But, be assured: they're taking pictures of you. If you're ever down there, look up -- to all those dark bubbles set in the ceiling, smaller ones on poles in some stores. Behind each is a security camera.

We are under surveillance nearly everywhere now, "security" a private property right claimed, as ever, by its exercise. Toronto's police chief wants more spycams on public streets; he may get them if he scares enough of us with inflated crime statistics. London, England, with widespread police video surveillance, has in fact seen a rise in crime. Some 40% of people are tracked "for no obvious reason" -- but for being young, or black.

The legal status of video spying is in doubt, possibly violating federal privacy law: one court has ruled it does. Federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski has warned we risk becoming rats in a laboratory maze, saying: "People have a right to go about their business without feeling that their actions are being systematically observed and monitored."

Try telling it to your bank. If they don't agree, take them to court. You've got the time, right? And the money. And lots of lawyers.

Conflicting rights often end up in court. That union did win against Cadillac Fairview: the Supreme Court of Ontario ruled that "the right of workers to meet union organizers is more important than a company's right to protect its private property from trespassers." That was in 1989, the case then five years old.


Your are...
Being watched: one of many ceiling surveillance cameras (catching me catching it). Spying not by legal "right" -- but by private corporate might.

And real power

The liberal discourse of rights, shaping most modern politics, tends to see social conflict as a squabble among equal players, all of us on free trade's famed "level playing field." But "rights" (despite their value) can serve as cover for inequalites of social power.

Michel Foucault, in his essay "Panopticism," noted that "the process by which the bourgeosie became the dominant class" in the 18th century "was masked by the establishment of an explicit, coded, and formally egalitarian judicial framework." Its dark side: "tiny, everyday physical mechanisms" -- surveillance among them -- to assure "the submission of forces and bodies."

Rights, he said, "seem to fix limits on the exercise of power." But "panopticism" -- letting some of us see the rest of us all the time -- is a "counterlaw," a system of discipline that "multiplies the asymmetry of power and undermines the limits that are traced around law." Claiming rights, usually in court, takes time, money, and a sense of entitlement. Some of us have much more than others.

In States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity, Wendy Brown reminds us that "the emancipatory function of rights cannot be adjudicated in abstraction." She asks: "Who, today, defends their rights without an army of lawyers and reams of complex legal documents? Rights ... may subject us to intense forms of bureaucratic domination and regulatory power even in the moment that we assert them in our own defense."

The courts are a rocky road to rights for people with limited social power -- and one the more powerful hope to avoid. Big companies are not eager to test their legal rights in court: they might lose (and have), limiting their power. They claim an effective "right" to spy on the public or evict the undesirable in a much more direct way: They just do it. Because they can.


Few of us, strolling malls, ponder questions of social power. Who benefits, who does not, how things really work -- all that hides with much more stealth than the Wizard behind his curtain in Oz. We are meant to play dazzled Dorothy -- not alert and inquisitive Toto.

"Within the selectively seductive frame of the commercial image," Stuart Ewen wrote in All Comsuming Images, "the dominant power relations of contemporary society are transmitted not as a set of arbitrary rules by which the exploitation of labor and resources is enforced, but as a natural, even beautiful rendering of things. The secrets of power remain protected."

Or mostly: social analysts do ponder problems of power. Jeffrey Hopkins, in a chapter of City Lives & City Forms, says that in these private "public" spaces both "proprietors and users share a common problem: spatial control."

"The proprietors must maintain an atmosphere conducive to business, which necessitates prohibiting those members of the public and activities they perceive as detracting from this objective. Given the high intensity of public use in these corridors, maintaining the desired level of spatial control may be problematic ... [and] may be perceived by some members of the public as itself problematic if access is discriminatory and rules of conduct unduly restrictive."

A footnote to those final words, "unduly restrictive," offers a less abstract take on the polite "problematics" of perceived rights in conflict:

"One youth service agency estimated that 90 percent of its clients [in 1987] had been charged with trespassing by mall owners. ... security agents labelled them gang members by virtue of their numbers, youth, clothing and / or race...."

Many of us, in talk of rights, take refuge from thoughts of power. Bob Fulford does remind us that "you can't picket [in PATH], or promote religious causes, or beg, or sleep, as you can in real streets upstairs." But he pays most attention to PATH's poor, obscure, and confusing signage -- also rooted in corporate power. Of a woman once lost in its maze he writes:

"It was as if the builders had conspired to keep her from finding her way. In fact, that was more or less the case. Each building owner wanted her to spend her time and money where she was rather than walk to another owner's property."

He quotes Stuart Ash, who designed those signs: "They're as big as we can make them. Each sign involves much negotiation. Big illuminated signs might be a good idea, but the building owners wouldn't allow them." Fulford frets this conflict of civic and corporate interests as "a glaring case of municipal inadvertence": tourists are apt to get lost. John Bentley Mays has a more subtle take, encouraging (even requiring) a certain cosmopolitan sophistication.

"Toronto's underground, like some other places in the world -- Venice comes to mind -- may require living in, or at least a thousand walk- throughs, to understand thoroughly. Anyway, if you're like most urban wanderers, you enjoy getting lost, just to see what happens, and where it takes you."

You'll see it takes you... shopping -- in, as Mays cites critics saying, "similarly disagreeable territories of homogeneity, where people only see mirror images of themselves, and are spared the sight of the unlike."

I'm hot, you're not. Tough luck sweetie: that's life.





The economics of the erotic

Down in what Mays characterized as the "continuous spectacle of shopping and regular movement, of sparking glass and light travertine wall facing, of broad leafed tropical trees and upmarket fast food," we lose the old, even radical, connotations of "underground," as he says: "its ancient cloacal darkness, its space of the sinister, perverse, untamed."

One certainly gets little there of the human body. Cruising pristine halls beneath pristine towers of commerce, one sees equally pristine people.

Men armoured to puff pecs & shoulders & guard the vulnerable bits, ungraced even by the European touch of "dressing" left or right (for baskets, see Fashion TV). Women tightly tailored, "power dressed," even manicured for clawing their way to the top. Like the boys.

It is a world tamed, denatured, devoid of sex -- until you cruise the ads. Cruising you. There you will find, as Mark Kingwell wrote, "capitalism made flesh": the erotic in service of global economics, bodies marketing (& made) commodities.

Turned on? Try the cans. Sex is not absent from this antiseptic world; it's just hiding. If sometimes, to "shock & scandal," exposed.

But do watch out for security cameras.

Mum and kids

Eaton Cntr lollers

Eaton Cntr loll2

Eaton Centre Saturday
When the rest of PATH is dead. Mums & kids, strollers, lollers; boredom, maybe. Or wonder.

Patricia Williams, a black American social critic, has written of "the life- crushing disenfranchisement of an entirely owned world," where "permission must be sought to walk upon the face of the earth." Much of downtown's swank decor, J B Mays tells us, "says keep out to the homeless, the jobless, the penniless urban wanderer."

But Mays doesn't have much time for liberal angst hung on "wishful thinking, not the girders of urban fact. ... Until a way to alter this tendency of people to seek the company of others like themselves is found," he says, places like PATH will draw those "who seem destined never to be as idealistic as the urban visionaries among us would like."

He doesn't suggest how we might find (or make) our way to "idealistic" visions; few do, beyond urging us to be nice. But a careful eye to these private spaces -- and the many people making them effectively public -- may offer clues.

Our take on a space (even our taking of space) is suggested by how we move within it. Jan Morris once said Torontonians march like troopers, grimly intent on business. Many are: in PATH -- particularly its parts under those towers of finance -- one risks being run over by suits rapacious for the next big market kill. Or for lunch. But even they (and the lighthearted too) move with some finesse.

The negotiation of busy urban space is quite a delicate dance: of anticipation, subtle signals, altered paces; a skill often unconscious but very much learned, as complex as driving a car. (If less regulated, though I long ago gave up the grumpy thought that people should have to a pass a test for a "walker's licence" before they're let out downtown.) That skill is a mark of civility, in the most literal sense of the term.

Seasoned urbanites do rush, and often. But passing a park, a sign, a window, even on the way to some more pressing destination, we're apt to slow down, stop; maybe even sit (if we can). We briefly claim bits of turf not as a route to someplace else but as a place in itself. And ourselves in it: a moment of simply being there -- what Jeffrey Hopkins called "the freedom just to be, to have a place in public," the liberty "associated with public life itself."

Strolling the Eaton Centre (one can stroll there; even must) I see people claiming their "place in public," even in legally private space. Few are "power dressed" -- if some kids dressed for erotic power, unabashed. Grown ups and tots may be in shorts, or parkas; unlike PATH the place is seasonal: people can't leave coats "upstairs." Most got there on foot or by transit; there are big "parkades" but not big enough to park all the cars it would take to move this crowd.

They wander, they dawdle, they gaze; kids linger, lean over railings like people in that 1888 shot above (likely a formal one) of the Arcade. They sit: in the few spots on offer beyond the ambit of commerce; at food court tables while they can; maybe they buy a Coke. They check out the scene; they cruise (if in my experience, even with boys I knew, most often the opposite sex). They dream, daydream; they even get bored. "Mall daze" maybe, consciously engineered: muzak, lighting, even the air meant to lull us into the ideal shopper's half sleep.

But at times I see something more: the life you might see on any busy urban street. Random, serendipitous; life claiming space. Making it public. Even at risk of not asking permission. Private owners may not like it, or not all of it (some guards in the Eaton Centre do look like cops, not without point). But they need it. And it's not entirely in their control.

Urban life never is: they may build for commerce; people do come to shop. But they also come, as they do all over cities, simply to be. And they may demand to be: if not by claim of abstract rights, then in everyday acts of being.

One definition of "public place" is: "any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, expressed or implied." That's from the Criminal Code of Canada -- used to bust people who think they've found a spot sufficiently "private" to allow a bit of fun away from prying eyes (if, alas, not spy cameras). They often end up charged with having sex in a "public place."

That definition is used to limit life, pleasure, sheer human being. Maybe we could turn it to more humane use: to expand life and its claim on public space, no matter who claims it as private property. Life has ways of taking root in spaces between, in the cracks and margins of official intent. That's its genius.

We honour that genius when we push it, take risks -- best calculated: some are not small. But taking risks is more respectful of life, and of ourselves, than is pleading for permission to walk upon the face of the earth.

Eaton Cntr boy

In The Arcades Project -- a massive work occupying him for more than a decade, unfinished in 1940 as he fled the Nazis, suicide his final escape -- Walter Benjamin paid rapt attention to the life of the street. To signs, shops, the things they sold; the odd detritus of urban life. And to people there: how they moved, what they seemed to make of it all, and their place within it.

He was most taken, as his title tells, with the street indoors. In his case it was the arcades of Paris. But he might have enjoyed the Eaton Centre, even as he (and we) might offer critiques of its consumer aesthetic and massive materialist excess. I do think he'd recognize the look of some kids there. He once wrote:

"We are bored when we don't know what we are waiting for. That we do know, or think we know, is nearly always the expression or our superificiality or inattention. Boredom is the threshold to great deeds."

Given the unexpected, even explosive, creativity born of some boring suburbs, he may well have been right. Let's hope so.

* Postscript: In February 2002, Sears said it would lose the "eatons" name; most signs were replaced on the night of July 22, 2002. The Eaton Centre retains its tag, so far, but Timothy Eaton's empire is no more. I caught one sign, facing south from the roof, in late transition, a shadow of the former incarnation still there, only the new one's tail yet up: EAT  RS.

See more on:
Temperance Street, in Mad for "the show"; Eaton's failed grab at history, in Halls of law & governance; Michel Foucault on the panopticon's first incarnation, in prisons, in Not at liberty; & creative spawn of suburbs, in Diva Diaries, a look at memoirs by playwright Sky Gilbert & pop goddess Carole Pope, pioneering perverts both once of Don Mills.

For a creative response to "high concept / low comprehension" signage by "a group of magazine professionals who were tired of getting lost in the maze of Toronto's PATH underground" & "decided to do something about it," see:

Sources (& images) for this page: Eric Arthur: Toronto: No Mean City, University of Toronto Press, 1964 (Eatons pre-1895). G P deT Glazebrook: The Story of Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1971 (Doing King St, 1879). J M S Careless: Toronto to 1918, James Lorimer & Co, 1984. Michel Foucault: "Panopticism," from Discipline & Punish, in The Foucault Reader, Paul Rabinow (ed), Pantheon, 1984. Bureau of Architecture & Urbanism: Toronto Modern Architecture 1945-1965, Coach House Press, 1987. Stuart Ewen: All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture, Basic Books, 1988. William Dendy: Lost Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1993 (first published by Oxford University Press, 1978; the Arcade). Patricia Williams: The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Harvard University Press, 1991; quoted in Wendy Brown: States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity, Princeton University Press, 1995. Jeffrey Hopkins: "Excavating Toronto's Underground Streets: In Search of Equitable Rights, Rules, & Revenue" in City Lives & City Forms: Critical Research & Canadian Urbanism, Jon Caulfield & Linda Peakes (eds), University of Toronto Press, 1996. Michael Doucet & Kenneth Jones: Shopping Centre Dynamics in the Greater Toronto Area, Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity, Ryerson Polytechnic University, 1997. Mark Kingwell: The World We Want: Virtue, Vice, & the Good Citizen, Viking, 2000. "Bank Cameras Ruled Illegal," in Toronto Street News, July 18-24, 2001. Hudson's Bay Company, History Department (by phone), 2001. Erin Anderssen: "Smile, you're on government camera," The Globe & Mail, Mar 30, 2002. Toronto Reference Library (Eaton Centre 1978, from Architectural Record). City of Toronto, Economic Development, Culture & Tourism, PATH Project (for graphics).

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Class acts
Seeing lives through the lens of "fashionable eyewear
we don't even know we're wearing"

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This page:
June 2001 / Last revised: October 18, 2003
Rick Bébout © 2002-2003 /