22 October 2018

Toronto: Venice on the Lake or One Big Hothouse?

A brief addendum to last week's post on Leonard Bertin's Target 2067: Canada's Second Century.

The image above serves to remind that in the 'sixties Montreal led the way into Canada's future. It still does. Montreal was also the country's largest city, so why is the focus of Leonard Bertin's Target 2067 (1968) on Toronto?

"Venice on the Lake," the title of the book's opening chapter, is a reference to Toronto; not Toronto as it was at time of publication, but the Toronto Bertin imaged it would become. This would be a city of skyscrapers measuring up to a mile in height, many built on artificial islands formed by dumping landfill into Lake Ontario. Each of these buildings would be self-contained communities, serviced by tunnels and tubes carrying water, gas, steam heat, electricity, drains, telephone cables, pneumatic delivery tubes, electronically controlled roads, and "robot passenger trains."

Not everyone would be a member of the mile-high club. For example, Bertin's future hero, space prospector John Green, lives in a building that is a mere half-mile high. Still others would live in sloped buildings, like those once proposed for Humber Bay.

A half-century on, Humber Bay doesn't appear nearly so fantastic:

The Pilkington Glass Age Development Committee incorporated similar sloping buildings in its designs for Sea City. A thirty-thousand soul community to be built off the shores of Toronto, it was seen as a "solution to the growing shortage of land for urban development."

Looks damp and chilly.

Those shunning Waterworld for the mainland would find a more temperate climate within the covered city advanced by Toronto engineer T.H. McLorg.

The executive vice-president of the Canadian Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Association, McLorg called for covering 145-square miles of Toronto with 2300 transparent fibreglass and plastic cupolas. These would be held aloft by internal air pressure, and tethered to the ground by hollow cables that would drain off rainwater and melted snow:
What advantages and economies would such a scheme bring? Mr. McLorg believes we can look forward to the day when Canadians will be able to grow oranges in their back gardens, watch roses bloom in December and cherry trees blossom in February; when they can play golf and tennis all winter, count on the same fifteen minutes to get to the office in January that it takes in July, buy a topless convertible for their wives, laugh when the heating bill arrives, and hang up their snow shovels for ever.
This uncommon reference to environmental impact is typical. In many ways, Target 2067 reads like a Victorian work. The environment doesn't much factor into anything, except as something that must be overcome. Bertin identifies only two "obvious snags" associated with T.H. McLorg's plastic covered city: airplanes and lightening strikes. If an airplane were to strike the city's cover, he acknowledges that the loss of air pressure might bring the whole thing down on the city. What then would happen to the orange trees, roses, and cherry blossoms? What he doesn't acknowledge is the environmental impact of such a structure on indigenous plants and wildlife. Migratory birds? He doesn't give them a thought.

And here we are in 2018 wringing our hands over wind turbines.

My wife is still hoping for a convertible.

Bonus: Three glimpses of a future past. Calgary's emigration to Oregon might best be explained by cheap glue.

Related post:

No comments:

Post a Comment