We've announced the call for articles for On Site 27: rural urbanism.
Although I started thinking about this theme with the launch of OIL: a new town in a resource extraction region and the array of choices for new towns, we also had the example of reoccupation of agricultural villages in Italy, an article by Lauren Abrahams in On Site 23: small things. We had a photo-essay of Prince Albert Saskatchewan in On Site 19: streets. I had a recent report of Michael Taylor's observation of an urban flight to small towns in Denmark. And on the BBC last week a discussion of the English village as the holder of a vision of England that is both outdated and important. And last month in Sudbury, the Musagetes Café on the identity of small cities whose original reason for being has changed: the mine has closed, the smelter gone to China, the pulp mill defunct, the fishery closed – a variety of reasons that leaves small non-diversified towns at a loss.
And visiting Chelmsford, one of the small towns that encircle Sudbury where the four important sites, the CPR train tracks, the Algoma Tavern, the school and the church all sit together in a row: this is not a village with a central square or any of those models where the power base is singular and evident: this lines them up all together. We need a name for this, a way to speak about the realities of rural organisation.
So, have a look at the call for articles, have a think, and see if there is something you would like to say about rural urbanism, a much overlooked and scorned subject.
Click on the image and it will take you to an article by Jonathan Jones on the impossibility of dissidence in art today. Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, young unpublished writers in the early 1960s used to take dull dustjackets in the library and change them into something subversive, definitely something very funny. They were sent to prison for it.
Jones points out that outrage has become such a general condition of art that it is impossible to actually be outrageous. One just has to read The Daily Mail, that stalwart of conservative ladies of middle England, to see how far outrageous celebrity culture has penetrated a most unlikely society.
Something in this reminds me of the architectural conversations of thirty years ago, when modernism all of a sudden was named a rupture in a more organic development of traditional spatiality. Modernism was the outrage, and the radical position was to excise it. Yet the very notion of radical acts is itself a species of modernity.
Is it more that there is nothing one can do in art, or architecture or design that is so offensive, so radical, that it shakes the viewer out of complacency? Is it that we are immune to shock as the time-space continuum is so compressed that we have seen it all? This would seen to indicate that the passivity of consumption has rendered us complacent on a grand scale.
Will the Occupy movement be consumed in the same way? Perhaps, and it is this that will drive people to violence – the impossibility of dissidence in a 'liberal' society.
later, this very same morning, I came across Chloé Roubert's post on just how riots are being commodified.
Île Seguin, Paris, temporary garden and cafe on the site of a pending Jean Nouvel project. Plywood box lodged in a scaffold covered in greenhouse panels. Inside looks like a lunchroom on a construction site. This being France, they have a brilliant chef, and this being 1024, the building extends itself at night with an array of video and lighting projections.
1024 have this to say about perennial buildings, which this cafe is not – sitting so lightly on the land, dismountable and untraceable: 'As architects expected to build for eternity we found that the rules and limits of perennial projects are so far-fetched that they often limit possibilities and creativity. The fleeting dimension of our projects allows us to be liberated and open to larger and more stimulating grounds for expression and freedom'.
Instead, 'we use many simple, raw and standardised materials, most often from the world of construction or linked to industrialisation, transport, or packing processes. Scaffolding, containers, timber framework, pallets, nets from sites and thermo retractable plastic (used for mass packaging or in asbestos removal projects)... are found in our 'catalogue' of favoured materials. As for our favoured technology, obviously video projection and more specifically mapping, which consists of projecting directly onto a three-dimensional volume rather than a flat screen, but we are sensitive to all products which generate light, from LEDs and lasers to simple construction site neon tubes'.
The Kooples is a French ready to wear company, one of a number that use mass-marketing and manufacturing techniques (cheap off-shore labour for production, point of sale data collection) in combination with luxury market branding (good stores at good addresses, good design). The image above is from a The Kooples advertisement. It promotes couples shopping together, rather than shopping as an individual act. Well fine, whatever.
What is striking about the photographs in this ad is that they are taken from the vantage point of a CCTV camera. And somehow this is made to seem okay.
Coincidently, I just finished reading The Dying Light by Henry Porter, written in 2009, about a very near future, maybe 2012 or so, in which security systems and the corporations that provide them are so embedded in government that they in fact run the government. Since 9/11 so many civil liberties in so many western countries have been suspended because of anti-terrorist legislation that the right to privacy has been eroded to the point that there is none.
This has long been Henry Porter's main theme. After The Dying Light I quickly re-read Remembrance Day, written in 2000 before all this supposedly started. Cell phone technology was key to a complex plot to destabilise the Northern Ireland peace process. As a document, this earlier book is very interesting: terrorism was still the purview of the IRA and Eastern Europe; Ireland could be understood in terms of retaliation and revenge, Eastern Europe in terms of greed for power. Nine years later he writes The Dying LIght where terrorism is industrial, based on total surveillance of one's every action, and at the core of British government.
My father, who was a great reader of a particularly addictive kind of action thriller where a captain (usually) in the British Army came up against all sorts of nefarious plots involving the abuse of power by the brass and/or the secret services, said that one reads novels to find out what is actually going on in the world, not history books, because novelists have a prescience gene; the act of writing is an act of gathering clues and thinking them into a future that the reader will recognise when they read it.
So, as a reader, I look at The Kooples ad and see an acceptance of the state of surveillance. London has more CCTV cameras than all of Europe – a great help in the almost instantaneous arrest of 3000 people and the charging of a thousand in the August riots, which echoed similar riots in Paris in 2005. A facebook group was set up to help the Metropolitan Police identify people caught on CCTV with 900,000 members. Much was made of the tactics of the police, batons and water cannons, and of the causes of the unrest, little was made of how suspects were identified.
Charging anyone from the Vancouver riots is bogged down in too much surveillance footage, including voluntary surveillance from private cellphones. The Canadian government has, for the first time, posted a most-wanted list on the web, inviting us as citizens to recognise and turn in these people, one of whom was apprehended almost immediately. We are being turned into informers. And this role is being eased in to our society by images such as the one above, where being watched is normal, cool even.
Taysir Batniji is showing a series of photographs this year at Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 which investigates the relationship between art and politics. Batniji's series, Watchtowers, consists of watchtowers on the West Bank border with Israel. There is a project of witness here, the recording of the watchtowers' existence, and there is a formal project, the typology of the watchtower, and there is a project of photography, the implications of the processes and products of the Bechers, their watertower series in particular.
Batniji describes the watchtower project:
Significantly, the project registers the attempt (or the situational difficulty in trying to attempt) to follow the Bechers’ method. The particularly perilous conditions of these photographs render them compromised. As a Palestinian born in Gaza I am not authorized to return to the West Bank, so I delegated a Palestinian photographer to carry out these photos. They are out of focus, clumsily framed, imperfectly lighted. In this territory, one cannot install the heavy equipment of the Bechers or take the time to frame the perfect position, let alone afford to wait days for the ideal light conditions. Aestheticization becomes a vivid political challenge, both in the creation of these photographs and in their reception, as these images challenge viewers to see these functional military constructions as sculptural, or as a part of a formal architectural heritage.
Aestheticisation is such a danger and must plague all photographers in war situations where the camera both sees and makes beautiful simply because it isolates a dynamic and horrific scene in a detached and calm image, and the calmness, and our inevitable space-time distance as viewers from the scene, sanctifies it somehow. The janus-face of documentary photography.
Nick Cave, not the singer, but the artist from Missouri who was with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and is now director of the fashion program at the Art Institute of Chicago. Above, is a Soundsuit. Soundsuits' references are wide and deep, they are sculptures, costumes, installations. They are assemblages, they make sounds, they refer historically to various African ceremonial garments. They appear in performances and in art museums.
I lived in the middle of Kansas for a year, my first teaching gig, and spent a lot of time driving back country roads and finding installations of what was known as folk art then, outsider art now. What they all had in common is their obsessive convictions and their marginal relationship to orthodox art and architecture – the Watts Towers in Los Angeles were not unlike Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in their mad-builder concentration.
More recently, Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg project in Detroit has rejuvenated a despairing neighbourhood by saying, your house is yours, make it into something that is you. And because this is an economically challenged place, such transformations inevitably are done with discarded and then re-found materials: the essence of folk art: all invention, no money.
What is interesting about this and where it comes back to Nick Cave and Soundsuits is that these projects cannot be included under the patronising rubric of outsider art: Nick Cave is firmly in the centre of American art production, and Heidelberg is a well-documented demonstration project of urban renewal that does not involve mass destruction.
Last week Gloria Steinem in an interview on Q said it takes about a hundred years for a social change to really become an embedded part of the social fabric. Second wave feminism is about 40 years old and so, no, we are not in a post-feminist era, we still have 60 years of feminist struggle ahead. The civil rights movement in the USA happened in the 1960s, just 50 years ago. We are only now starting to find work that is embedded in the orthodoxy of contemporary art discourse: it is not post-racial, for it is so very African American, an identity that is critical to the work. But it is allowed to take its place within the discourse, and that is new.
Just when you think that there is nothing left to mine in the Mitford archives, they find another 6,000 letters and another Mitford book comes along. They were awful people, fascists to stalinists, privileged and offensive, they all wrote effusively and were very funny. Deborah, the youngest of the Mitfords married the Earl of Devonshire in 1941. I visited Chatsworth in 1986 or so, shortly after it had been made a charitable trust (I find) endowed by the sale of a zillion old masters.
Memorable was a hothouse – a long, double brick wall with fireplaces in it, fed from the back (above, in the foreground). The front was, in profile, a glasshouse by Paxton with espaliered apricot trees pinned to the south facing brick wall. It was elegant, quite minimal and full of beautiful fruiting plants.
The visiting of these 17th and 18th century country houses is in a way a rite of passage for a certain kind of architect. Chatsworth the house was not as memorable as Blenheim which had a most wonderful library – a tall long room, one side wire-fronted book cabinets, the other side windows, in between a universe of big chairs, a piano covered with silver framed photos, apricot and blue persian carpets, slightly unkempt parterres outside the windows. It was a most perfect room for so many reasons. I have no photo of it, for in those days as a student we carried notebooks not cameras. And I think because of this, it remains so potent in my memory.
Google images being what it is, there are plenty of photos of Blenheim and Chatsworth on the web, none I can recognise. It is interesting though that both the library and the stove (a curious term that refers to this long, one-sided, heated hothouse) are similar in section: a thick back wall and a glass front. It is a profile familiar to any sort of energy-conserving house, but never as romantic as when it was done in the 18th century.
The Tate Modern is holding a Gerhard Richter exhibition, Panorama, this fall. He painted a townscape series in the late 1960s and early 70s, taking mostly aerial photos of cities and painting them on canvases in a way that the scale of the buildings is completely lost: one brushstroke, with all the scale of the hand and brush that made it, perhaps equals one side of a 30-storey building. Yet the work retains its photographic clarity, mostly because of the high contrast between shadows and sunlight in the original photos, and because of the recognisable patterns that cities have, that no other organism shares (the actual patterns, not the ability to become abstract pattern).
This, in the context of Piano's Shard in London, a kind of architecture where clarity is paramount, makes one wonder why we value clarity so much. Complex urban landscapes are often not legible for a number of reasons, mediaeval security for one, such as one finds even today in Rio's favelas. Or the illegibility of the POPOS landscape: privately owned public outdoor spaces presaged by Richter's blurred and ambiguous renderings.
Yet, we understand such complexities if it is our own city. We do not need a tourist map all laid out in graphic clarity telling us where we should and should not go. Cities at ground level have millions of small clues that keep a kind of social order. When something such as the Shard, or almost any new project crashes into this fairly delicate understanding, something is sterilised, made very clear. It takes decades, if not centuries, for a re-colonisation of the area by the complexity of everyday life.
But what does it mean?
Hal Foster, who recently wrote The Art-Architecture Complex, talks about Renzo Piano's Shard, a blindingly tall building next to London Bridge station. It is a post 9/11 tower, cognisant of the National Institute Standards and Technology report into the collapse of the World Trade Centre towers.
That it might be used as a wayfaring marker to orient one's way through the city is such a weak point: this is the language of marketting and branding. London is so dense and its mega-buildings with nicknames so relatively new, one wonders how anyone found their way to work over the last 500 years.
On FOP, Friends of the Pleistocene, a section of Smudge Studio, I found this link to a studio held in Toronto on divided cities, Border Town.
First of all it is interesting that one can initiate a 10-week design studio outside an academic institution simply because you want to investigate something. This is how it should be.
Second, what constitutes a border town is predictably open, from those towns where the line between one country and another runs down the main street, New Brunswick seems to have several of these. Or, between provinces, as in Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan. Or a container port, where the containers and their contents are not in this country, only physically, but not in any other sense.
The Border Town website has a number of provocative statements and diagrams as a group exhibition.
It is, of course, the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall this year, and there have been many tv and radio documentaries recently: a terrible partition of a city and a people, released only with the economic and thus the ideological collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
What seems surprising now that Berlin and Germany are unified, is how Berlin was perceived in the early 1980s at the time of the 1984 IBA, the Internationale Bauausstellung, which focussed on the rebuilding of central Berlin, much of which had not been repaired since the war, and had further damage because of the wall. A residential 'heart' had to be re-established. IBA Berlin was like a world's fair of architects who went on to be stars and others who died a graceful postmodern death: Koolhaas, Hadid, Siza, Krier, Hejduk, Portoghesi, Botta -- it is a long list.
At the time, this was the only architectural conversation worth having, it dominated all conferences, publications from both Europe and the US, it made architecture a public conversation; pilgrimage to Berlin was mandatory.
But not for me, I think I was struggling to survive the economic downturn after the collapse of the National Energy Policy. However, discussions of the Berlin Wall are strangely absent in my memory. It is as if it was some sort of geological feature, a cliff that one could not scale, a natural edge to the city. What was beyond it was wilderness, not architecture's problem.
I wonder if IBA Berlin did not signal the death of architecture as an autonomous act, something that the Harvard Design Review devoted a whole issue to around this time. I have it, I loved it then. It gave architecture a kind of unfocussed and undeserved agency which is quite dangerous. Nonetheless, this way of viewing architecture survives, and it cropped up again at the Musagetes Sudbury Café in a session about architecture and aboriginal sacred space. There is much to blame architecture for: its linearity, its inhospitable cities, its dead and deathly materials (a tree has a spirit, cut down and made into lumber, the spirit is lost), and above all, its indifference to social and cultural realities. It does not live, it does not understand the longue durée.
In such a critique, both the role and the act of architecture are considered as having some sort of inherent power to blight one's life and one's culture. Its very indifference makes it malevolent. One can make the critique, but to make it one has to believe in architecture as an autonomous act with inadvertent social and cultural consequences.
The Berlin Wall fall did not fall because West Berlin imported a lot of excellent international architects who rediscovered perimeter block housing and made the city complete again. It was the project of a very prosperous state, and the fall of the Berlin Wall was because of an unsustainable political edifice which had effectively lived under a western embargo for forty years. Did architecture play a part in re-unification, other than to be yet another form of glamourous consumer durable?
Architecture is a tool, the power is in the hand that wields the tool, not in who makes it. But there are other kinds of architecture with much wider, less ambitious possibilities, architectures which can resist being made symbols of political power.
Richard II, thinking of the Wilton Diptych, is also one of the roses in my backyard, which started out maybe 40 years ago in my parents' garden, got too big, was moved to a lot in the woods on the Cowichan River where, one winter, it accidently had a woodpile built over it. Several summers later I found a thin branch struggling out of the woodpile with a beautiful pink rose on it. Unearthed, it then struggled for lack of sun and water, and I eventually dug it up again and moved it to Calgary, where Richard II thriveth.
Why he became known to us as Richard II is because the original tag had RICHARDII on it, which I now realise is rosa richardii, also known as rosa sancta, the holy rose because its five petals corresponds to the five wounds of Christ. It is ancient, thought to be a cross between rosa gallica and rosa phoenicia and still grows around graves in Ethiopia, where it is known as the Holy Rose of Abyssinia.
In an Egyptian second century tomb excavation in the 1880s a dried wreath of roses was found, which when soaked in water for some strange discontinued archaeological practice, became fresh again: the rosa sancta.
Richard II has fearsome thorns that point back along the stem, each thorn with a tiny lethal hook at the end which will rip open a long gash in the skin if one brushes against it. Perhaps this has something to do with its historic longevity, this powerful anti-social mechanism. It explodes into flower in the week between June 21 and Canada Day, very lovely, the rest of the time it is a great green bush on the attack.
In this intangible world of electronics and consumerism I quite like that ground level is full of ancient things that have travelled the world for centuries and arrived in our back yards. That they survive each winter here is always a surprise, and the source of my great affection for them.
The Wilton Diptych has come up a few times recently, on tv and yesterday as I was reading Alan Bennett's Untold Stories. It is a fairly mysterious small pair of paintings, just 12 x 11" each, hinged, a personal altarpiece for Richard II, painted near the end of his reign. He was born in 1367 and became king at ten in 1377, deposed in 1399 and died at 33 in 1400 of starvation, the imprisoned last of the Plantagenets.
Not sure why it keeps popping up in public view all of a sudden unless it is part of a general reclamation of the past that underpins European's problems with multiculturalism. 'They want to change our culture', or our way of life, or our laws, or whatever it is. I'm sure the British don't mean the culture of binge drinking and football hooliganism, no, it is glorious culture, safely lodged in places such as the National Gallery. Genius, the series on British scientists introduced by Stephen Hawking, Downton Abbey, the bloody History of Scotland — Britain is intent on reminding itself, on television, just what it was that made it Great.
The diptych is a lovely thing. On the left panel, the boy king kneels, flanked by his patron saints Edward the Confessor and Edmund the Martyr, both once kings of England, and John the Baptist carrying the lamb of God. Richard kneels on stoney ground, not unlike Sudbury.
On the right panel is a phalanx of angels, all wearing Richard's emblem, a white hart lying on the ground. They, and Mary, stand on a carpet of flowers, their blue robes are Marian blue, the blue of heaven. Their crowns are English roses, their powerful wings a fractal of feathers on a wing.
Richard's earthly life is being sanctioned by something on a completely different scale. This is the power of faith, earthly life may be hell, but there's an end to it, and a field of flowers will be achieved. This encourages endurance; a lack of faith perhaps encourages impatience with an unsatisfactory life in the here and now.
Our touching faith in technology as a solution to the energy crisis is cast as a kind of achievable heaven, but on such a different scale that there will be many generations whose lives are sacrificed while we plan for a future none of us will see.
Tidy segregated piles of construction waste placed in between piles of blasted granite. They take on a kind of beauty as they subside into the landscape. The gently sagging drywall might simply be fill, but given that one of the remedial actions on an acidified terrain is to spray it with lime, perhaps gypsum has the same effect.
One of several problems with this new housing on the ridge overlooking Sudbury is that the horizon has been broken by buildings, making it close and limited. Horizons are like frontiers: places of potential simply because they are so abstract and so distant. They appear without scale, the line between land and sky. Here there is a horizon limited by the temporal and limited quality of the housing development. A roof is not a horizon.
There was much made in rural Britain in the 1960s about preserving horizons: one could build on a hillside as long as the roof line did not interrupt the natural top of the hill when observed from a main road, or a town, or a footpath – in other words, nothing could be built on top of a hill because it interrupted some sort of sacred understanding of topography.
Behind this row of drab new housing is a field of rubble: the process by which rock, seen as obstructive, is reduced to ground, seen as fertile for building. It is a small tragedy; the mistake would be to think that it is the rapacious nature of development or the limited thinking that insists that services be installed as if it was a loamy field.
Instead, the tragedy is one of imagination. There is value in a difficult landscape millions of years old that puts a natural limit on building within it. In our late capitalist world progression is still seen as positive, growth is necessary, stasis indicates a slipping backward, rather than a stillness. Must this be? Why must Sudbury try to expand, and so expand into newer and more difficult terrain?
Terminology, very confusing. As a child I learned that the difficulty in laying down the trans-continental Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s was crossing muskeg, which swallowed tracks and even whole trains. This is what happened in the north, which I assumed was in Northern Canada, somewhere in the Northwest Territories, and as with things you learn in grade 8, I never examined it again until this past week in Sudbury.
It is not that muskeg isn't a treacherous thing, great wetlands that form where there isn't drainage: bogs, full of decaying plant material, trapped moose and train tracks which eventually form peat and I suppose, ultimately coal. No, the other treacherous thing is the word north.
The northern imagination written about by Northrop Fry, Margaret Atwood, embodied in the Group of Seven and Georgian Bay is not the north I thought it was, The North, north of the provinces. It is actually western Ontario.
This came as something of a surprise, given that Sudbury sits at 46°N and has a growing zone of 4b. Calgary, which no one would consider north at all, sits almost 600km north at 51°N in zone 2b.
In another instance, the Ring of Fire is generally known as the zone of earthquake and volcanic activity that rings the Pacific Ocean, where the Pacific tectonic plate grinds against the North American plate, the Eurasian, Australian and Nazca plates. In the west we hear a lot about it, especially in Vancouver where all buildings have been essentially rebuilt to earthquake standards.
But in Ontario, Ring of Fire is a mine in the James Bay region where chromium was recently discovered and for which a smelter is planned, much to the purported benefit of First Nations in the area. It is seen as a revitalisation of Ontario's mining interest and will be introducing Chinese development interests to Sudbury. I only know this because I watched Steve Paikin's Agenda last night on TVO where there was a debate on whether industrial development or species protection was more important in the north. Their north. The wishy-washy conclusion was that we should have both, which means that mining and forestry will proceed with glee and with a few ameliorative concessions to fish, birds and migrating herds. Who do not vote.
It is a different country, Ontario.
Anyway, this train of thought was triggered by a new subdivision (above) on a ridge that looks down on Sudbury. Downtown Sudbury has a problem with drainage, sitting as it does on the bedrock of the Canadian Shield. Water sits in lakes or in muskeggy wetlands, (they'd be called sloughs on the prairie, bogs on the coast). In older districts, streets and the little houses lining them in the bottom of the basin in which downtown Sudbury sits, regularly flood, the streets become culverts and swales, the water hasn't got a lot of options. Thus, new development perched on ridges above the city has a certain appeal.
Putting in services for new development requires, by convention, that they be underground. But there is no underground here, it is solid rock, so ground is created in a cut and fill way. The rock is blasted into rubble and shifted around to make flat sites for houses with the sewer and water safely installed beneath.
There are a lot of similarities between Sudbury and Yellowknife, where new development does exactly this, rock blasted into coarse gravel for developer houses on cul-de-sacs one could find anywhere in Canada. Aleta Fowler wrote about this in On Site 14: does one go to the north to live as if one was in a southern Canadian suburb?
Kenneth Hayes has introduced the term geo-cosmopolitanism to the discussion of urban development which, in its rough outlines means being aware of and taking into account the deep geo-logic of place. The naming is important, we can put geo-cosmopolitanism in all its complexity onto a different way of looking at cities, more deeply rooted in their history, their industries, their place in the world.
Musagetes Foundation held a Café in Sudbury last week, part of a series of investigations in how artistic thinking, practices and strategies can inform medium-sized cities whose industrial bases are either shifting or leaving. Rejka in Croatia, Lecce in Italy, Sudbury in Canada.
The Big Nickel: didn't realise this had been a Centennial project, not authorised by the City, independently funded and built by the mining community and originally placed 36" outside Sudbury's city limits.
N E Thing's 1969 photograph of an empty billboard in Sudbury. This one is like the Stanfield fumble: he caught the football a dozen times in a row for a photo-op, fumbled one and of course that is the one they used. The empty billboard is of course surreal, the empty frame, but only coincidently was it in Sudbury.
Sudbury Saturday Night, the girls at bingo, the boys are stinko, Inco temporarily forgotten. Well, that bit was prescient.
The Trans-Canada through Sudbury, a channel blasted out of the Shield, chemically blackened by ore-reduction processes that also produce slag heaps.
Kenneth Hayes has written a most amazing essay about why Sudbury even exists. It is a history 2 billion years old, giant meteor hits the earth and splashes nickel, which may have been in the meteor but may have been deep in earth's core, into a great ring. Nickel is what hardens steel for stainless steel. Confusingly, much of the ore is smelted in Norway.
There are other minerals, copper - lovely pale green river-run pebbles on gravel roads, and iron staining cliffs red when they aren't already black, all this found accidentally when the CPR was going through in the 1880s.
However, mining requires less people these days, Inco is now Vale (Brazil), Falconbridge is now Xstrata (Switzerland), at the base of the Creighton Mine is a neutrino observatory, there is a new university, Laurentian, soon to have a new architecture school, there is a medical centre with a cancer research component that serves the Sudbury region, there are lakes, there is a fierce re-greening program and there is a hell of a lot of civic pride that appears to rest mainly on the ability to be in a canoe, on a lake, 10 minutes after leaving home.
The thing about stereotypes is that they can act as a protective shield. The rest of the country can dismiss Sudbury, lodged as it is somewhere in Stomping Tom's 1970s, meanwhile Sudbury has been extremely busy developing itself for better or for ill, almost without attention.