Big Tech Urbanism

Diego Arango / 2019
Yale School of Architecture


This research focuses on the project proposal by Sidewalk Labs for Waterfront Toronto. The former is a design and development company of Alphabet, Google's parent company; the latter is the government agency tasked with overseeing development along Toronto's waterfront. If we look beyond the glossy presentation images, it is possible to understand the ways in which Google is acting as a traditional developer, and the ways in which it might be proposing something unprecedented. Is Sidewalk Toronto significantly different from a project like Hudson Yards? In both cases, the project has been conceived by Daniel Doctoroff, the current CEO of Sidewalk Labs. Like NYC, Toronto seems to be moving towards giving its corporate stakeholders large financial incentives. But the emphasis on data collection and management in the Toronto plan seems to be one of the key differences. How will this data be stored, who will access it, and how might it be monetized?

The research led to a series of drawings which use the seemingly innocuous format of Sidewalk Lab’s advertising campaigns as a “trojan horse” to reveal information about the acquisition, extents, and operation of the project in Quayside.