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Fringe explosions: risk and vulnerability in Canada's new in-between urban landscape

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This article argues that a new landscape of urbanization takes shape in Canadian cities. In-between the old downtowns and the new suburbs of urban Canada, a hitherto underexposed and under-researched mix of residential, commercial, industrial, educational, agricultural and ecologically protected areas and land uses has become the home and workplace, and increasingly also the playspace of most people in Canada. The article examines this new landscape through the lens of the specific risks and vulnerabilities experienced by its inhabitants and users. Using a propane gas explosion in Toronto in the summer of 2008 as an example, we demonstrate that the ‘in-between city’ is a space of great complexity, which has grown haphazardly and in a contradictory fashion, where, in contrast to the archetype of inner city and suburb, no clear spatial imaginary has been guiding urban development. This leads to always uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous proximities between various and competing uses and social practices. This is nowhere as clear as it is in the splintered urban infrastructures that service this landscape or use the in-between city's space to service other adjacent or distant purposes.

Keywords: Toronto; explosion de propane; in-between city; paysage urbain; propane explosion; risk; risque; urban landscape; ville mitoyenne; vulnerability; vulnérabilité

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The City Institute at York University, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3 ( ), Email: 2: The City Institute at York University, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3 ( ), Email:

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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