I’m fortunate to have friends that have access to one of the best views of city. The views are nothing short of breath taking, and pictures don’t contribute any justice to what this looks like in real life. From that vantage, this city is a gem. Cars look like toys I can flick; Georgia has traffic lights that pass as art; the alley behind Robson looks bigger than the busy street itself. Dense isn’t just an adjective from this perspective, it’s clearly a verb, something that is happening, active. English Bay is more than a harbour, it looks like a refuge. The North Shore Mountains and beyond are truly a fortress.
For a moment, as with any city you see from a distance, I forget the social gaps and economic disparities that co-exist in one of the most livable cities in the world - a contested and debatable rating (even today, as we slip to 3rd place, whatever that means). From the top, everything is beautiful. Viscerally, especially in the summer dusk, it’s perfect.
Increasingly, I both feel and know Vancouver is a place of contradiction, experimentation, and extremes. I know that this city is a beacon for many to learn more about metropolitan living, a case study for how a new city grows - for better or for worse. And yet, I can look down on this city that I call mine and it still bothers me that I can’t locate its heart nor it’s soul. I don’t think it should be too recognizable, but I wonder why it’s being so difficult for me to find. Maybe I’m looking in all the wrong places, or maybe it’s not even a place and something in its people.
Vancouver, I know have much to figure out about you. But for this brief moment, let me forget about that and to just say, despite your mystery, you’re still like that rare supermodel that doesn’t need photoshop.
A few short weeks away from starting a program in Urban Planning (once only a dream, and then eventually a concrete goal of mine since 2007), I’ve decided to create this blog in order to casually explore and merge what I know and what I will learn about urban (and not so urban) spaces and how they are planned, created, and experienced.
I have lots of questions. What makes a city great? How do we make good cities and fix bad ones? What is the difference between place and space? How are social interactions made possible through built environments, and further still, what inequalities are ignored and reproduced through said constructions? How do we have conversations - and honest ones - about what we want in our neighbourhoods, in our sites of work, play, and rest? How can we move from those conversations into action? What (and who?) governs, structures, and monitors the invisible and silent decisions made for us regarding our city and how we must, should, or can live in it?
I need a place to discover and come up with answers. This is that space.
One of my favorite places in the whole world.