Astrid Idlewild is an urban designer, writer, and historian based in Toronto. Her interdisciplinary approach to city design and planning is based on placeist principles.
Astrid holds a master in urban planning from McGill University. She specialized in urban design. Her research proposed the discipline of illumination planning for nocturnal ecosystems. In 2011, she launched the Kodachrome Toronto Registry, a finding aid to help researchers and historians locate and preserve Toronto’s past (as it was documented with Kodachrome media). She earned her H.B.A., with distinction, from the University of Toronto, in urban and Canadian studies. Before university she worked as a marketing, graphic, and technical communications professional. Her LinkedIn profile has more on her labour biography.
In 2007, Astrid launched a series of shirts for each of Toronto’s subway stations. In 2010, she expanded the line with Montréal’s métro stations. The Denizen.TO store now sells her other Torontabilia designs.
Astrid lives in Toronto’s Rendrintown. She tends to a cat named Frida. Recently she’s begun exploring the relationship between augmented realities, collaborative placemaking, and psychogeography with the Niantic Labs game Ingress, partaking in dérives around Toronto and Ottawa which would impress even Guy Debord. It’s an enlightening experience.
Toronto the Good Toronto the Muse
Toronto is central to much of Astrid’s research work. She has written on its history, public spaces, laneway housing, vulnerable populations, nocturnal ecosystems, and the impacts of condo development on wayfinding legibility at the street level. She has proposed citizen-led approaches for greening easements.
Astrid envisions developing and optimizing artificial lighting policies — illumination planning — to shape ethical principles and comprehensive forethought into the root of planning/design, urban engineering, and public health. Illumination planning and design means shaping best practices for artificial outdoor (and outdoor-facing) lighting exactly where it’s needed — using methods and technology to deliver illumination where and as people need it while mitigating light trespass, ecological light pollution, and resource waste. She has begun to examine the history, role, and enduring receptiveness to neon signage in cities where climates tend to be overcast and inclement.
Astrid champions a holism for street arterial planning, taking “complete streets” principles and going further — challenging how areas adjacent to streets are qualitatively altered by transportation planning policies. Holistic arterials, as she calls them, fuses four interrelated elements: the complete streets approach; Peter Calthorpe’s proposal of pedestrian-oriented development; an attentiveness to thoughtful urban design; and the effort to assure that public spaces continue to remain firmly within the public commons.
Placeism: life after urbanism
As a placeist, Astrid has chronicled cities on four continents, including Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Bangkok, and London. She’s been a bicyclist for over 35 years and has held a driver’s license for over twenty years. She has lived in cities where driving is compulsory and cities where it is not. She has lived in four major climatological regions. She recognizes that every city has unique variables and unique needs which extend to local level attention. She became a Torontonian eight years ago, previously living in Montréal, Seattle, Minneapolis, Rochester NY, Austin, and Houston. Her first visit to Toronto in 1996, an unforgettable experience, affirmed she would one day settle there.
And she did.
Social justice work
As an intersectionalist and fourth-wave feminist, Astrid advocates strongly for the inviolable agency over managing one’s own body, voicing its needs, and describing one’s narrative on her own terms. She asserts firmly that women exist in many kinds of containers, that no one container is more authentic or legitimate than others. Her research work has critically looked at how the gendering of public spaces in Toronto, particularly with nocturnal geographies, are disruptive yet perceptual. She moonlights under a nom de guerre to advance social justice for gender & sexual minorities (GSMs).
- 2011 :: Writing, BlogTO: “The story of the first Yonge Street pedestrian mall” (co-authored with Duncan Taylor in 2008)
- 2009 :: Photography, Spacing: “Stillwater (No Men, No Soda)”
- 2008 :: Writing, Hidden Geographies: “I love to listen to Beethoven: Andrea Yates and the spatial confinement of suburban isolation”
- 2008 :: Photography, Hart House Review (17th ed.): “No Title”
- 1998 :: Photography, Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Uptown Fire: Ladder Takedown”
- 2013 :: NOW Toronto, “Bike, survive, and videotape”
- 2012 :: Inside Toronto, “Cyclists encouraged to share stories of close call with motorists on blog”
- 2011 :: BlogTO, “The Kodachrome Toronto archive”
- 2011 :: Toronto Star, “Project documents Toronto’s evolution in Kodachrome colour”