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As election approaches, time to think about what Vancouver's future will look like

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Modernists like Le Corbusier with his grand totalizing designs for efficient and “liberating” cities gave us clearly separated zoning with modernist towers climbing above urban corridors, Georgia Street reminds me of a sketch from his Radiant City. We saw sidewalks filled with pedestrians, eyes on the street as Jane Jacobs put it, and finally we came to Stanley Park, a jewel of Garden City planning ethos made popular in the early 20th century by Ebenezer Howard, and emulated by others who felt the cure to bad urbanism and the horrors of the industrial city was a reintroduction of nature. Enjoy James Howard Kunstler’s amusing and entertaining diatribe about this here. Our urban environment has been indelibly shaped by the ideas of great urban thinkers and the successive political leaders, planners, developers and architects who have put them into practice over the decades.

So with all that in mind, what kind of city is Vancouver? And where is Vancouver going?

Vancouver is many things to many people. To some it’s first and foremost a port city, a gateway city for importing and exporting resources and commodities. For others it’s a leisure city and a retirement city, while for others still it’s a startup city, a city of students and a city of innovators.

It’s an investment city, drawing capital from the reaches of the globe, while at the same time it is a broke, indebted and unaffordable city to many of its inhabitants. Vancouver is a multicultural city, a mongrel city, and a global city, yet an intensely local city (see you at the farmer's market). It’s a colonizing city, a hegemonic city of capitalist cultural reproduction, yet it’s a city of activism and resistance. 

Above all these things Vancouver is a young city, coming of age in a complex time of change and challenges. Ones that perplex, bend and shake institutions. Vancouver is growing into itself in the crucible of a paradigm shift between the past we've tried to hold on to and the future we are being thrust into it.

In this respect there has never been a better time than now to draw upon the ideas and dreams of great urban thinkers and to question which of them are reflected in the various civic parties and candidates we have the opportunity to choose from several weeks from now.

 So between now and November 14, this series of posts attempts to do just that. Posts that examine Vancouver in the context of Great Urban Thinkers and considers how their work or their ideas have contributed to our city taking shape in the way that it has. How their ideas may help us make sense of where we’ve come from and perhaps where we may be going. I hope you’ll check back and comment.

I hope we can have a conversation about our city that will be useful to us as urban citizens as November 15 fast approaches. We only get this chance once every three years (every four years after this election) and I for one think we should approach it thoughtfully.


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