Toronto Weather – As Bad as it Seems

Today I wanted to talk about Toronto’s weather. Maybe that seems a little bit random to you, especially if you’re someone who lives in Toronto, so you have to realize first and foremost that I’m from Ottawa originally. The home of snow and ice and coldness. The halfway point of freezing temperatures in the steady plunge towards Montreal. I was born with a cold tolerance that somehow, in no uncertain way, I have completely lost in the last year and a half of school in Toronto.

I get it. The country makes fun of Toronto all the time for being wimps when it comes to winter. Hardly a newscast can go by without the next day being forecasted as extreme weather warning (at -20 degrees, amateur really) or deadly onslaughts of flurries or freezing rain. At home these ‘extreme temperatures’ rarely even stop school busses. I even would still wear shorts to school. Now I’m sitting in bed refusing to get up if its snowing outside, dashing as quickly as possible towards busses, buildings, and Starbucks, and otherwise being a complete wimp when it comes to cold weather. The only thing more wimpy than me is my phone, which likes to shut down after prolonged exposure (try ten minutes) to temperatures under -10 degrees.

Glendon's actually  photogenic in winter.

Glendon’s actually photogenic in winter.

Here’s the thing. If you live on campus at Glendon, you’re treated to residence buildings heated to feel like Florida year round. It’s not uncommon for windows to be open all year. Warmth is in abundance. The two minute trek to class is short enough to sprint in shorts, pjs, sweatpants, with as little bundling as possible. On top of that, Glendon is surrounded by trees, keeping wind from picking up and insulating the heat fairly well. The amount of grass and plants takes in more of the heat than pavement does, leaving Glendon a warmth hamlet in the middle of the city. My theory is that our little escape slowly conditions us to expect warmer-than-actual temperatures, such that when you leave campus the cruel cold of winter bites all the fiercer.

On the other end of the spectrum is Keele Campus, with a very different feel to it. When York University was founded, Glendon became the first campus, with classes starting in our manor while all of the brick buildings were designed and built. All the residences and York Hall, as well as the gym and maintenance facilities, were built in just three years, between 1961 and 1964. The tradition that buildings not be higher than trees has been continued, and trees removed in construction were replanted elsewhere – keeping our tree cover and protection from the elements. In the meantime, Keele Campus was built to an entirely different plan in a completely empty suburban field.

This famous picture I think best shows the isolation Keele was built on.

This famous picture I think best shows the isolation Keele was built on.

Keele followed modernist planning conventions at the time, building around the idea of access to nature and sunlight. Wide, open space between buildings was necessary, removed from car traffic. The scale of the campus is huge – the paths and space between buildings are large, and are only starting to be filled in with more buildings. Snow, rain and wind are all channeled along the streets between buildings, making Keele even colder feeling than it actually is. Part of this has been attributed to a master plan for the campus originating in California, with open arcades meant for warm weather later being closed off with class (the walkways around the Commons) to protect from the weather.

The size of Vari Hall eclipses anything at Glendon.

The size of Vari Hall eclipses anything at Glendon.

As a result, Glendon students who end up at Keele for events and classes are often freezing cold, and often thrown off by the size of everything. The amount of difference between the two campuses is impressive, but that’s what keeps Glendon so unique! With construction coming to both campuses over the next few years, however, the character of is starting to change. The need for more space at Glendon is leading to buildings like our new wing, while new construction at Keele is aiming to close off the holes around the campus. It’s important – especially at Glendon – that we keep the feel of our campus that we’ve gotten so used to – one of familiarity, human-focused scale, integration with nature, and of course, warmth.

In the meantime, as I hide away in Starbucks from the snow, I’m seriously contemplating moving to somewhere that stays no colder than 0 all year. Somewhere like Vancouver. I can deal with rain better than I can deal with sub-zero temperatures, much to the shame of my Ottawa roots. If you’re looking at coming to York, you should check out our campuses this March at our open houses and get your own feel for each place – hopefully by then it will at least be warm enough to explore comfortably!

My relationship with Starbucks has only gotten more crucial.

My relationship with Starbucks has only gotten more crucial.

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