Monday, September 17, 2007

Underground City


In Fritz Lang's Metropolis, the underground city of 2027 is portrayed as a domain where the underclass works under oppressive and alienating conditions. It isn't even clear what they are producing; all we know is that the workers spend their days toiling on huge machines.

What is the underground city like today? Toronto is home to one of the world's largest underground cities, with some 27 kilometers of underground pathways located beneath the city centre. Unlike in Lang's film, however, the so-called PATH system is not a world of consumption rather than production. Beneath the towers of the metropolis are shops, food courts, and entertainment. Rather than a space of industrial regimentation, it is a space designed to maximize consumption by preventing people from finding routes back to the world above ground.

As reported in the Star, the City of Toronto has tried repeatedly to establish a system of signage that would allow PATH pedestrians to find their way from place to place, even when they don't have the benefit of seeing the exterior cityscape. But planners have only been partially successful. In the end, the PATH system may be less like a system of streets and more like a casino, where clues about one's location in space and time are reduced to a minimum, and people are encouraged to think only about what is right in front of them.

5 Comments:

Blogger Nat Draz said...

A response by the public (at least myself) is not to be entrapped by the public consumption in stores but use them as a new and rather quirky set of directions, such as "turn left at the Ardene's and continue past Shopper's until you come to MAC". Just because the shops intend us to concentrate on shopping does not mean the pedestrian has to comply - I've never walked into either Shopper's or MAC in the underground (though I admit I have a soft spot for Ardene's sock sales). Intention does not equal success, as I can see with the crowds of people streaming by in the underground every day.

9/20/2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find interesting about Toronto's underground city and the movie Metropolis is not only is there a difference in what the undergrounds cities are used for in term s of cusumtiom vs production, but the underground in Metropolis was limited to the working class where as shopping centres and places of consumption are more likely to attract people with greater wealth and more leasure time to shop. I would imagine the working class would not have as much time to shop in these underground shops because they are usually open during bussiness hours when people are working and if lunch hour is brief or rushed it would not afford these workers the time to leisurely shop for cloths and other things of that nature. It is almost like Toronto's underground was designed like above ground in Metroplis, and above ground Toronto where people are working and being productive is like Metropolis's underground. I think Toronto's underground is where the workers from above ground will try to grab snippets of leasure time, whether eating lunch or having a coffee especially in the cold weather.

9/25/2007 1:12 AM  
Blogger madison said...

What I find kind of scary about these underground path ways are how they attach so many buildings together, both residential and business and if one lives and works in the same area he or she never has to ever go outside. You can access your office from home via the path and then when you are finished work do your shopping, go to the gym, eat and even access public transportation, which can then take you to another one of these indoor areas. This sort of life style is probably rare right now, but as these path way systems increase they might become more of a norm within the city.

9/25/2007 5:04 PM  
Blogger Khalid said...

You will be surprised how frequent people do take any opportunity to be excluded form the outside world to "cut on time"! I lived with a person who's lifestyle is exactly what is described by Madison, going as far as being two weeks indoors.

As portrayed in Metropolis, we are losing our human touch through this "underground city" in addition to gentrification and, as Koolhaas mentioned, by bringing suburbia into the city.

10/06/2007 1:11 PM  
Blogger LynneS said...

I think that part of the PATH system that formerly did connect various destinations is now a big hole in the ground where a building has been razed. I had to emerge to the above ground world, where I found a fenced off area full of dumpsters and scrap metal bins. Because the buildings in the PATH system are privately owned by businesses that are competing with each other, trying to establish a public right of way through the interiors of these buildings is difficult.

10/22/2007 9:35 PM  

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