Learning from Chinatown
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In Learning from Las Vegas, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour approach the city without preconceived opinions because they believe there is something to be learned from every aspect of the built environment. Inspired by their research methods, I walked around Toronto’s Chinatown and observed its unique spatial character, paying particular attention to how it was formed by the nature of its bottom-up socio-cultural and economic patterns. Toronto’s Chinatown first emerged 150 years ago as a place of convergence for the Chinese diaspora. In response to the struggles faced by new immigrants in becoming established in a foreign context, kinship systems of support and exchange emerged, bridging old- and new-world cultures. The resilience and tenacity of their desire to establish a foothold in a new city and build for future generations is the foundation for the unique characteristics of today’s Chinatown—both in how it is enmeshed in the local context within the urban core, and also how it is a distinct space with its own internal set of social and economic networks. The core of this study consists of extensive field research, visualized through maps, photographs, diagrams, and illustrations based on personal experience. A key lesson to be learned from Chinatown concerns the intelligence and innovation of immigrants who adapted their cultural habits to a different environment in order to maintain a self-sustainable, affordable, and resilient neighbourhood.
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Li Ting Guan (2013). Learning from Chinatown. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/7415