Place Where You Live:

Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

Geometric patches of carpet-like grass and spherical shrubs surround every house in Richmond Hill. All houses here are structurally identical. Only a few minor details, such as the specific shade of red paint on each front door, can differentiate them. Clean-cut bricks complement the sloping roof lines on these desirable homes. In front of each home exists a single, young, lanky tree neatly embedded in sod. The straight, grid-like stretches of road are virtually free of potholes, and not a single break exists in the white and yellow traffic lines. This wonderland of standards and uniformity comforted my family when they first immigrated from a dilapidated and stratified Middle Eastern country. Even passersby are mesmerized by the town’s cohesive aura.

They do not know what lies underneath this facade. The trees and decorative shrubs planted around town are unable to filter the industrial fumes produced from the seemingly unending construction of new houses. Independent from the rest of the neighborhood, each home is stunning, but the relentless copy-and-paste layout of the town drains every structure of any true character it could possess elsewhere. It’s as if the architect was going for a computer-generated look. Eerily consistent distances exist between every building, tree, and etch in the sidewalk. Although there is a high level of structural harmony in this town, underneath that mask lies a dreary industrial underside.

The structural harmony also veils a dismal divide between the various ethnic groups of the town. The Persian kids all gather together in the park, sipping their mahogany colored elixirs. The Chinese kids frolic together, playing freeze tag in their native language. Similarly, the white kids keep to themselves in the background. For a place that wants to be the embodiment of the Canadian spirit of unity and assimilation, there is a clear lack of coherence underneath the surface.