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People, Space and Time: Landscape Change in Hamilton's Durand Neighbourhood, 1946-1994

Walter George Peace

Abstract

This study investigates the links between urban form and process as evidenced by buildings. Specifically, the objectives of the study are to describe, explain and interpret the post-WWII evolution of the Durand neighbourhood, an inner city residential area in Hamilton, Ontario. The focus in these objectives is placed on viewing buildings as markers or symbols of the forms and processes which characterize the inner city. Using a variety of primary and secondary sources of information, the postwar evolution of Durand is reconstructed featuring 'place/space vignettes' which illustrate the significance of buildings on the urban landscape. The findings suggest that buildings, in addition to being the products of broad societal forces, can also be viewed as spatial manifestations of actions by individuals and groups acting as knowledgeable agents. In Durand, the ideologies and aspirations of the residents and other key participants are evidenced by the fates of individual buildings. Taken in their totality, the buildings which comprise this urban landscape are both products and symbols of a variety of forces which shape our cities. This study demonstrates that a closer inspection of the urban landscape's constituent elements, e.g., buildings, can enhance our understanding of the city. It is argued that such a 'closer inspection' is possible through an interpretive approach to the study of the urban landscape. And while such an approach contains its own inherent limitations, it does provide insights into the urban landscape which otherwise might remain inaccessible.