Thursday, July 05, 2012

Blog Guelph: 100 Days

(Day 41) Looking up at the sky today. Macdonell Street. by Aidan M.D. Ware

100 Days. That’s just a little over three months. And each one of those days has a story, a legacy, a thousand moments in its girth.

On March 30, 2012 I started a project called Guelph: 100 Days in the Mirror and each day since then I’ve posted images on Facebook that set-out to challenge our perceptions, contextualize our concerns, contrast our history with our modernity, and to anchor ourselves within the vision that is truly what makes Guelph a unique city, a most livable city, and the city we call home. The view from the Church of Our Lady as the sun rises or sets, the reflections of sun and water on Carden Street, the rich flowers that frame our limestone legacies, the trees that penetrate concrete to rustle in the street winds, the bridges that span our peaceful rivers through all changing hands of weather -  the corners upon which Galt built this city can still be seen.

I’ve been out there with my camera in the morning, afternoon, at evening, and at night investigating the meaning of our physical environment and trying to understand and expose the changes, the shifts, the oppositions, the mixed messages, the promises that failed, the triumph of economy class over creative class, the amnesia for past times, the laying of concrete over grass, the triumph of homogeneity over ingenuity, the dreamless erosion of our core to a near heartless depth, the demolition of our history, the casting off of our founder’s vision.

This morning I went back and looked at all my photographs leading up to today (Day 97) and also compared the images to those in the Guelph Public Library Photo Archive. I have realized the problem is very deep. There are forces that move to make big buildings, destroying in minutes, laws that upheld and existed for well over a century.  There are forces that do not wish to understand what has already been lost due to haste and a lack of visionary planning and leadership.

Galt was a visionary. He understood what it took to make a community – and it was not just a pile of people stacked up or strewn out. People alone do not make up a community and this is because we are inseparable from our environment. Our environment holds us up, nourishes us, fosters us, encourages us, inspires us, enriches us, and attracts us. But it can also limit us, push us, discourage us, take from us, and repel us. It can even make us afraid, unsocial, sequestered, and silent.

100 Days. It doesn’t seem like such a long time really. But I look back and realize how much has happened.  Guelph has been changed irrevocably. The passing of the Downtown Secondary Plan, the approval of the 18-storey condominium at Macdonell and Woolwich, the adoption of plans that change protections around our rivers. These are only some examples.

As I reach the final days of this project, I want to share with you the most important thing that I have learned and that is: we must do better. We, the people of this community, must do better. We have to get involved, be aware, have foresight, offer vision, be creative, speak out, and push back when it matters.

I’m honoured by the many comments that I’ve received on my project. And I’m so proud of those that have really taken the time in this 100 Days to be active, open, and connected.

I don’t know what the next 100 days in Guelph’s future will reveal. And in so many ways, I’m sad and reluctant to be reaching the completion of this project on Sunday (Day 100), but I will take it both as a lesson, and as a confidence.  

I hope you will too.

 ~ Aidan M.D. Ware

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For more great Guelph photos, try these links:

Downtown Guelph, University of Guelph, The Guelph Hillside Festival or The Guelph Lake Conservation Area.

On the other hand, you may be curious about what the City of Guelph looked like last October or maybe Spring.

Indeed you may be the type that would love to wade through our deep and refreshing archives. There are over 5,000 terrific Guelph photos, taken by a growing tribe of fantastic photographers, currently available for your viewing pleasure. Check out the Blog Guelph archives located 'back up there' and appropriately titled: Blog Guelph Archives.