This odyssey began in the beginning of December, 2010 when I stumbled upon the demolition of Regent Park South. Regent Park south was developed in the end of the 50’s under the National Housing Act. It was initiated as a classic slum clearance project with the removal of all the previous residents and the demolition of all the buildings on the site prior to construction. Now 50 years later we are demolishing again.
A few days later I return to find the trees gone and going. The bulldozing begins. I ponder on the articles and books read Albert Rose, (1958) Regent Park: A Study in Slum Clearance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, the longtime Dean of Social Work at the University of Toronto who played a significant role in the planning of Regent Park. Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book, Life and Death of Great American Cities, in which she argues that urban design elements themselves can enable healthy and safe social interaction by providing spaces that encourage natural meetings and other friendly interactions. She believed that modernist planning, especially public housing projects, had destroyed this ‘natural’ urban fabric (Jacobs, 1964: Introduction).
Now just meeting places for machinery and workers.
I find myself spending more and more time at the site. As the demolition continues the streets become encased in more blue wire fencing. Streets and paths lead to nowhere, dead ends. The original design plan aimed at creating a self-contained community, bathed in greenery with buildings away from the surrounding city, reverberate in my head as I try to find my way. One of the key aspects of the redevelopment was for the reintroduction of streets, as there was only one thoroughfare throughout the entire neighbourhood. But now even the streets, Sutton Street, St. David Walk, St. Bartholomew Street, Sackville Green, Pashler Ave., the roundabouts, give way to more blue fencing.
The streets become obscure as more bulldozers claw at the exterior walls of the buildings.
One night I had to search Google maps to get my barrings, the landmarks on the ground were quickly disappearing. I use St George’s Church, St. Bartholomew’s Church, Regent Park Community Center and Nelson Mandella Park School as my compass.
January brings the cold and my fingers start to feel frozen to the camera. The
physical isolation of Regent Park from the surrounding community, as has been stated by many urban planners, allows for contemplation on the desolate environment. Me and the sounds of the demolition wander the streets.
The windows become my obsession for a few days. I had documented the windows the weeks before, perfect in their dimensions but bringing forth the former tenants. Drapery in various colours and patterns, chachkes left behind on the window sills.