You think you’re so smart
Admittedly, I’ve been a bit of a sucker for many of the smart-city ideas that I’ve heard over the years. Putting sensors in public garbage cans, so cities can be more efficient about scheduling pickups? Cool! Lampposts on streets being used for car-charging or cellphone transmission points? Ooh, multi-tasking! Open-data collection that allows anyone to map the neighbourhoods making the most calls about coyote sightings or parking…
That shrinking feeling
A couple of years ago, I spent a week and a couple thousand dollars to holiday in Detroit — perhaps not the most obvious vacation spot. But for someone from Vancouver — where housing prices shoot straight up like rockets every few years, where there are constant arguments over what kind of growth and development should be allowed in existing…
This unaffordable Vancouver
I have long wished for someone to write the definitive book about Vancouver: its blend of idiosyncratic subcultures, its conservative-meets-Lotusland-meets-revolutionary politics, its fraught relationship with real estate and housing. Something that would be the equivalent of Mike Davis’s 1990 portrait of Los Angeles, City of Quartz.
Over the years, there have been several titles about various slices of Canada’s little…
Directing the many moving parts of a great city
Big, successful cities can’t survive on twee Jane Jacobs–style neighbourhood preservation alone.
That’s the essential message in Perfect City, by the prominent Toronto planner Joe Berridge, whose work with the increasingly controversial Sidewalk Labs, a project of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, exemplifies his preference for the yin of city building over the yang of lovely little urban…
Are suburbs the next great creative frontier?
Surrey is the epitome of the changing suburb in North America. Originally a farming region with a few scattered settlements, this 300-square-kilometre principality south of big-city Vancouver became the archetypal bedroom suburb in the second half of the 20th century. For those decades, it was little more than a vast tract of wide sidewalk-free roads,…
Cities don’t just collect our garbage; they help make us who we are
I live in Vancouver. Sort of. I tell people who need to know these things that I live in Mount Pleasant, which cues them that my house is in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, part of the ring that is the intertidal zone between Vancouver’s downtown and its more suburban-feeling neighbourhoods.
It has the lively street life (hopping Main Street and its 10,000 coffee bars) and the grittiness (drug…
Making a living between the bird’s eye and the street
In the elegant -former palace of the Duke of Urbino in the hilly, green Italian province of Le Marche, the painting La Città ideale hangs on the wall of one of the second-floor rooms. The long rectangular painting displays “The Ideal City” like a stage set. A grand circular temple-like structure sits dead centre in the…