If you are a nobody, and you don’t know anybody who isn’t a nobody, the only way you can make yourself heard in a large city is through certain well defined channels. These channels all begin in holes-in-the-wall.

Jane Jacobs/First Urban Design Conference at the GSD, 1956

Free City


Informal Settlement

Vaughan, ON


Housing; Carpool Terminal; Education; Legal Aid; Cafeteria; Social Services; Daycare; Market


Over 90,000 temporary work visas are issued through the Foreign Worker Program every year. Non-citizens on temporary work permits share few of the support structures available to residents with status. They are vulnerable to abuse and often feel lost in sprawling North American suburbs.

The Free City is a network strategy for non-status people existing beneath the radar. Like a school of fish, individuals are protected by the strength of their community, where a part is obscured by the whole.

It is a place of refuge for marginalized people who are adapting to foreign spatial conditions of a car culture. It is for activating spaces in redundant places and creating a public realm for unrecognized people.

Download the Free City Manual here.