Sidewalk Toronto at Quayside | ?m | ?s | Sidewalk | Snøhetta

AlvinofDiaspar

Moderator
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 22, 2007
Messages
30,827
Reaction score
22,809
Location
Toronto
I didn't quite realize the depth of concern until speaking with some architects on it, one of them furious that WT, the City and Province would spread their legs so readily for the 'smooth talking tech-guy' when they've spurned many offers by developers for the models built and proven in Europe and some US cities.

It is always some architects you have talked to though, isn’t it?

The UK press had been talking about "privacy issues" with the Googlizations for a few days before the announcement in the Cdn press, but not one Cdn story that I could find talked of what the Financial Times highlighted:

Alphabet to build futuristic city in Toronto
[...]
In its proposal, Sidewalk also said that Toronto would need to waive or exempt many existing regulations in areas like building codes, transportation, and energy in order to build the city it envisioned. The project may need “substantial forbearances from existing laws and regulations,” the group said.
[...]

From the submitted proposal, p. 27

Specifically, Sidewalk proposes to outfit buildings in Quayside with the sensors necessary to measure the data needed to craft the outcome-based code system before implementing it in the Eastern Waterfront. To ensure safety, Sidewalk will work with municipal and provincial agencies to design informative pilots within existing regulatory frameworks.

https://sidewalktoronto.ca/wp-conte...lk-Labs-Vision-Sections-of-RFP-Submission

I'm reminded of Goebbels..."Tell them a little lie, and they won't believe you, but tell them a big one...."

It all came down to Goebbels, of course.

AoD
 
Last edited:

steveintoronto

Superstar
Member Bio
Joined
Mar 14, 2016
Messages
10,167
Reaction score
4,339
It is always some architects you have talked to though, isn’t it?
lol...not always, sometimes engineers, I'm working with both on a project, sometimes God, but here's what one wrote, since you ask:
[...]
What are they talking about?. What kind of sensors are they going to add to the buildings to collect what kind of data? How can you anticipate demand for things yet unknown (because that’s what it’s about) with real time sensors. You can only determine after the fact whether what you done is a failure or not. Are they going to measure the number of people walking by, humidity, noise, facial expressions, hair colour…? What data and why would it be relevant? I want to know! This sounds like another case of give them the data collection will solve anything BS.
[...]

Now you can accuse me of making it up, I'm sure....
Since he's a prof although not teaching this year, but one of the other associates is, I presume it's a subject of angst among more than just this particular firm. I'll ask him when we meet today.
 

steveintoronto

Superstar
Member Bio
Joined
Mar 14, 2016
Messages
10,167
Reaction score
4,339
Well ostensibly they've talked to "architects" amongst others.

Just up at The UK Guardian:
Google wants to run your city. That's not a world we should live in
Jathan Sadowski
A new initiative will see Alphabet – the parent company of Google – take charge of redeveloping a waterfront district in Toronto. Here’s why that’s troubling

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/24/google-alphabet-sidewalk-labs-toronto

Those damn European, always asking questions...why can't they just do as they're told?
 

mcornett

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jun 20, 2007
Messages
390
Reaction score
1,383
Well ostensibly they've talked to "architects" amongst others.

Just up at The UK Guardian:


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/24/google-alphabet-sidewalk-labs-toronto

Those damn European, always asking questions...why can't they just do as they're told?

The assertion that this is privatizing municipal governance or handing over accountability is ridiculous.

Google can't pass laws, it hasn't been given a 99-year lease, the City hasn't devolved responsibility or given them carte-blanche to do anything. Heck, Waterfront Toronto put out the RFP itself! This is something the City wants to try. Not to mention that nobody lives in the area now, so if they don't want to move in, nobody can force them.

Yes, this involves technology (ooooh, scary) and is a large-scale project, but is it truly different than accepting the recommendations of a big-box consultant on an infrastructure / design project? Is it substantially different than architects being given leeway to try radical built forms? See Alexandra Park, Don Mills, streetcar suburbs, etc.

With respect to privacy, there has long been legislation governing the collection and use of information by all corporations and municipalities--PIPEDA and MFIPPA.

I really think people need to calm down and give this an open-minded chance.
 

mcornett

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jun 20, 2007
Messages
390
Reaction score
1,383
Yes...no reason to ask questions. Just get with the programme. Have we ever been misled before?

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/edi...nal-privacy-in-futuristic-city-editorial.html

Of course we should ask questions and be vigilant, but we also shouldn't suggest this is more than it is.
No one said anything about not asking questions - there is a big gap between proactive involvement and questioning the privacy issues to knee-jerk naysaying with a healthy dose of Goebbels-baiting, old man yelling at the sky type of behaviour.

AoD

75c46a776a0fd9a1e73dcb66e862b2a9.jpg
 

steveintoronto

Superstar
Member Bio
Joined
Mar 14, 2016
Messages
10,167
Reaction score
4,339
Of course we should ask questions and be vigilant, but we also shouldn't suggest this is more than it is.
Interesting you should phrase it that way. It's telling that Lorinc should be the only voice of question (so far) on it in the Toronto press, other than TorStar's editorial flagging privacy concerns, while articles are appearing in the international press on it (UK Independent is the latest, albeit it's just a cover of others reports, mostly the Grauniad, as the Indy is wont to do)

From the NYTimes:
[...]
The prospect of a city designed by technologists, at least as a thought experiment until now, has made some nervous, urbanists especially. The tech industry is better known in its Silicon Valley backyard for contributing to rather than solving urban problems like unaffordable housing and traffic. And its corporate campuses are mostly models of hownotto build cities, with mega office parks (and spaceship designs) dependent on cars and detached from their neighboring communities.

There’s no small contradiction in having tech founders muse about how to build better cities from places that bear little resemblance to lively cities at all.

The tech industry also thrives by working in ways that can be incompatible with public-sector city building. It’s hard to “movefast and breakthings” in government, and public funds don’t allow for the failure rates that venture capital does. New tech products are often targeted to early adopters, and they spread to the rest of us later. But you can’t do that with innovations in public service; if the tech savvy get the nicer bus routes or the new Wi-Fi kiosks first, that raises equity issues for the rest of the city.

There’s also the hitch that cities are inherently organic and unpredictable. They resist omniscient engineering. And past efforts at doing that — whether through the urban renewal of individual neighborhoods or the wholesale development of utopias— have invariably failed for that reason.

Many intractable urban problems are in fact not engineering problems at all, including the ones that most look like it. Housing is very expensive in a place like San Francisco not because we haven’t developed the right engineering methods to build it more cheaply. Unaffordable housing is largely a political problem — we haven’t developed the societal consensus to build enough of it.

Sidewalk Labs, to its credit, has internalized many of these criticisms. The company, formed by Google two years ago, has pointedly been based in New York City and not Silicon Valley. It’s staffed by both technologists and government alums. Its leader, the former New York City deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, openly acknowledges the gulf between technologists and city government types. And Sidewalk Labs says it wants to bridge the two. [...]
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/...a-glimpse-at-an-internet-city-in-toronto.html

I know that Lorinc is at a function with planning and architect types later today. Should be some interesting discussions...

Here's from Wired magazine, a distinctly pro-tech publication, also asking questions:
[...]
Sidewalk Labs promises to embed all sorts of sensors everywhere possible, sucking up a constant stream of information about traffic flow, noise levels, air quality, energy usage, travel patterns, and waste output. Cameras will help the company nail down the more intangible: Are people enjoying this public furniture arrangement in that green space? Are residents using the popup clinic when flu season strikes? Is that corner the optimal spot for a grocery store? Are its shopper locals or people coming in from outside the neighborhood?

In this distinctly "data is deity" Silicon Valley way, Alphabet joins the grand tradition of master-planned cities, places built from near-nothing with big social goals in mind. Historically, these have not worked out. Walt Disney’s Experimental Planned Community of Tomorrow—Epcot—died with its creator, transformed into a play park rather than viable community. South Korea's Songdo won't be finished until 2020, but the "smart city" has already fallen well short of its business and residential goals. The Brazilian capital of Brasilia is largely the work of one architect, Oscar Niemeyer, and though it’s praised for its beauty and scale it doesn’t quite function as a place. These efforts flop because they never feel quite human. They can't shake the sense that they've been engineered, not grown. “The problem is that it's not a city. It's that simple,” the urban scholar Richard Burdett, an urban planning expert and sociologist, told the BBC about Brasilia. “The issue is not whether it's a good city or a bad city. It's just not a city. It doesn't have the ingredients of a city: messy streets, people living above shops, and offices nearby.”

Sidewalk Labs seems well aware of the foibles of technologists building cities, the arrogant optimism that comes with seeing a place and deciding you can do it much better by razing and remaking. The company insists: This redevelopment will be extremely thoughtful. “This is not some random activity from our perspective,” Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt said Tuesday. “This is the culmination, from our side, of almost 10 years of thinking about how technology can improve people’s lives.”

That long gestating vision verges on the fantastical, with an tinge of Minority Report dystopia. The waterfront redevelopment proposal outlines a community where everybody has their own account, “a highly secure, personalized portal through which each resident accesses public services and the public sector.” Use your account to tell everyone in the building to quiet down, to get into your gym, or to give the plumber access to your apartment while you're at work.

A mapping application will “record the location of all parts of the public realm in real time”—we’re talking roads, buildings, lawn furniture, and drones. Construction will prioritize walkers and bikers, not cars, though shared “taxibots” and “vanbots” will roam the hood. (The company will work with sister company Waymo to iron out those self-driving details.) It will test a new housing concept called Loft, packed with flexible spaces to be used for whatever the community needs. It will experiment with building materials like plastic, prefabricated modules, and timber in the place of steel. And yes, Sidewalk Labs says it's working on a comprehensive privacy plan.

The company will then crunch the numbers. Sidewalk Labs' data scientists will analyze the firehose of data to figure out what’s working and what’s not. It says it will use sophisticated modeling techniques to simulate “what-if scenarios” and determine better courses of action. No one's using that park bench, but what if we moved it to a sunnier corner of the park? “Sidewalk expects that many residents, in general, will be attracted by the idea of living in a place that will continuously improve,” the company writes in its project proposal.

That only works if Quayside improves with its human residents in mind. The good news is that Sidewalk Labs’ approach—fast, iterative, and based on observed facts—should take its cues from people, not lofty design principles. In fact, this is academic work that is badly needed: Despite decades of the scholarly research into how cities work, scientists still struggle through gaps in data. Governments mostly collect info about how pedestrians use sidewalks and cyclists use bicycle infrastructure by hand, and then only periodically. Sidewalk Labs could help agencies everywhere crack a few codes. [...]
https://www.wired.com/story/google-sidewalk-labs-toronto-quayside/

It's an odd thing, others outside asking pertinent questions, and yet the tendency is to acquiescence for the Toronto press.
 
Last edited:

interchange42

Administrator
Staff member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 23, 2007
Messages
25,045
Reaction score
25,956
Location
by the Humber
It's too early to get too up in arms. We don't know what they want sensor-wise yet, because there's simply no plan yet, so far it's just the intention to plan. Once enough details have coalesced into a concept plan, it'll be time for initial scrutiny, and as the plans develop, time for more pointed scrutiny. Until then, it just seems like running around and flapping one's arms in the breeze.

42
 

drum118

Superstar
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 24, 2007
Messages
17,195
Reaction score
13,384
Location
Mississauga, where cars rule city growth
Sidewalk Toronto will blend people-centred urban design with cutting-edge technology to help create complete communities.

On November 1, 2017, we’ll host a Community Town Hall where we’ll ask you to join the conversation and learn more about Sidewalk Toronto, and introduce you to our partners at Sidewalk Labs. Come out to share with us your ideas, your concerns, your hopes. The neighbourhood of the future begins with all of us. Please stay tuned for further details.

Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET
Location: Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
27 Front Street East, Toronto, ON M5E 1B4
RSVP: Please register via Eventbrite

If you are unable to attend in person, we will be live streaming the meeting for your convenience. To watch and interact, visit www.facebook.com/WaterfrontToronto/ or Sidewalk Toronto's Youtube page.

For more information, please contact info@waterfrontoronto.ca.
 

spaced

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
May 7, 2007
Messages
578
Reaction score
45
An opinion piece from the Guardian:

Google wants to run cities without being elected. Don't let it
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/24/google-alphabet-sidewalk-labs-toronto

...
In an era of intense competition between cities for resources, many cities are focused on achieving constant growth, large returns, and public-private partnerships. This has translated into city leaders expending much energy courting the tech sector – that locus of investment and innovation.

They coax tech companies by offering benefits like looser regulation and lower taxes. They create “innovation ecosystems” made up of things like hackathons, incubators, and co-working spaces meant to attract programmers and venture capitalists. Digital districts, like the one being developed by Sidewalk Labs, are the next-level version of these lures.

Why settle for tax breaks or coding camps when you can lay claim to an entire neighborhood? The city itself is turned into just another platform on which Silicon Valley can build and test new technologies – while also extracting more value and expanding its influence.
...


I personally see more positives for Toronto at this time--but point taken.

And another article, this one from Slate:

Building Googletown
http://www.slate.com/articles/techn...ent_in_toronto_is_google_s_first_shot_at.html

...
That is true in Toronto, too. It’s not that no one before Sidewalk thought that bike lanes might be a smart way to help people get around this fairly flat city; it’s that the city’s former mayor thought biking in Toronto was like “swimming with sharks” and tore out bike lanes to improve car traffic. It’s not that no one before Sidewalk thought to build eight-story buildings; it’s that neighbors don’t want them. But Google might have the influence to change local codes. The Sidewalk proposal is upfront about this: Cheaper, more flexible buildings “will require a new paradigm in the building code.” New approaches to transportation and energy “may require substantial forbearances from existing laws and regulations.”
...
 
Last edited:

Automation Gallery

Superstar
Member Bio
Joined
May 5, 2007
Messages
12,654
Reaction score
3,252
Location
South Parkdale
Town hall meeting held to discuss high-tech community on Toronto waterfront
The first of many public town hall meetings to discuss Toronto’s new high-tech neighborhood along the east-end waterfront was held on Wednesday night.

This district will become a place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn, and play – and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life, from climate-positive energy systems that can deliver a new standard in sustainability, to self-driving transit that makes streets safer, to new construction techniques that can lower housing costs.”
More..........http://www.cp24.com/news/town-hall-...ech-community-on-toronto-waterfront-1.3659743

Gee id like to see this kind of stuff down there:cool:

Finally, C.F. Møller shows the world
how to do building-integrated solar panels

https://www.treehugger.com/green-ar...-how-do-building-integrated-solar-panels.html


 

Attachments

  • solar.jpg
    solar.jpg
    31.7 KB · Views: 252
Last edited:

Irishmonk

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 29, 2007
Messages
1,920
Reaction score
942
Location
London, Ont
I have this dream crazy vision of a public/private new university in the Portlands devoted entirely to disciplines that relate in any way to global warming/climate change and how to both mitigate and live with it. Of course, that would probably include just about any discipline taught at a regular university, but in this case the research and training would have a specific mission--saving the world from the greatest threat we've ever had. It would also have to embrace a lot of non-science professions such as international relations (to deal with the hundreds of millions of refugees that will be desperately searching for higher ground), political science, media studies, acturarial science, law, etc...etc...

I think such an institution would be a natural fit in this new Googleland utopia that's being planned for this future oriented urban zone.

Any ideas on how to get the ball rolling on this? Tweeting Trudeau or Eric Schmidt may not be enough. Perhaps a kick-starter campaign. Any millionaires billionaires out there willing to cough up the dough to get your name on something important?
 

Top