• Ed Brown

Arnold Rockman's Flemingdon Park

Writer, artist and educator, the late Arnold Rockman lived at 58 Grenoble Drive in townhouse #57. The art critic for the Toronto Star wrote a column titled, Art & Society. The following appeared in the newspaper on April 21, 1962.

Rockman family resided in this townhouse in 1962

When my wife and I decided to move last August from the jerry-built apartment house we were then living in, the question was “Where to now?” “Let’s take a look at Flemingdon Park,” I said. We did. We moved in.


What was it about the place that captured our imagination? Planning on the grand scale. Preservation of the human scale. Abandonment of the gridiron street pattern. Separation of the automobile and the pedestrian. The swimming pool, playgrounds, golf course, give a luxurious country-club air to a reasonably priced rental development. The unexpected variety of living spaces: Big apartment houses for people with no children, row houses for young couples with children, terraced apartments, maisonettes, two-storey apartments. The secluded parks and gardens. The surprising vistas.


Obviously, people with great imagination had been at work here, and in Toronto of all places, a city not particularly renowned for either esthetic sensibility or planning on the grand scale.


It was summer when we moved in, the best time to get to know your neighbours around the swimming pool. In winter we got to know the house. The basement we had intended to use as a playroom was unheated. Upstairs, the children raced around and around the open floor plan whose spaciousness was an illusion. The windows could not be opened without getting a blast of freezing air. The heating system could not be controlled—you either froze of roasted. The door to the underground could not be negotiated while carrying a bag of groceries. Because there was no door to the basement stairs, cold air rushed up from the underground garage. The baby fell down the stairs. My wife pinched her finger in the badly designed and constructed banister rail—the end of a perfect day.

Arnold Rockman's illustration accompanying April 21, 1962 column in Toronto Star

We cursed the architect and blamed the management. But in a society of fantastically divided responsibilities and consequent lack of craftsmanship as a daily ideal, who should really be blamed? The architect? Architects, mainly eye-minded, often design buildings that look good. If the building doesn’t work, they don’t feel particularly responsible. The management? They are farsighted in many ways, but the contractor skimps on material and labor. The sub-contractor? If he is an immigrant, he is often exploited by the contractor.


Perhaps the responsibility lies in a society increasingly geared to the pretty package whose contents rarely perform as advertised. Appearances are important, but the way things look should never become more important than the way it works.


Because of all the considerations, Webb and Knapp (Canada) Limited, the developer, and Irving Grossman, the architect, cannot be awarded full marks. But we must give them at least 75 out of 100 for having had the courage to think in long-term human terms. Their pioneer effort will undoubtedly inspire other developers and architects across Canada and in other countries.


Utopia will always remain just around the corner (who would want it otherwise?) but because of the pioneer effort of Flemington (sic) Park, Toronto may gradually become fit for human habitation.


Arnold Rockman's Flemingdon Park? "Utopia...just around the corner."

 

Used without permission, Toronto Star, April 21, 1962, pg.23


Ed Brown lived in Flemingdon Park at 58 Grenoble Drive from 1969-1991


edbrownwriter@gmail.com