Archive for September, 2007

History of Sex Work

Our colleagues down the hall in the Community Education Program of Continuing Studies have just released a fascinating new study:

Sex worker

In 2005, a group of Vancouver-area sex workers came together in partnership with Simon Fraser University in the hope of discovering the history of sex work in the city of Vancouver.

The History of Sex Work: Vancouver project was born out of this partnership as a community art and historical research initiative. It offers alternative perspectives and creates diverse lenses (such as labour and human rights) through which to engage with the sex worker community in Vancouver by examining the rich history of that dynamic community since the incorporation of the City.

You can download the whole document here.


September 24, 2007 at 10:43 am Leave a comment

The Tyee on “City Making in Paradise”

A fine and comprehensive review by Charles Campbell on “City Making in Paradise” – the book that launched the Paradise Makers series here at SFU.

Here’s an excerpt:

The book was conceived when Harcourt and Cameron spoke at the 2005 memorial for Walter Hardwick, the Vancouver academic, bureaucrat and city councillor, about his under-acknowledged contributions. The book finds others to credit. There’s Tory political organizer Tom McDonald, who pushed for regional planning in the late 1940s. There’s the man McDonald found in Tennessee to do the job, Jim Wilson, who helped lead the first regional planning efforts in the 1950s. Early 1970s GVRD planner Harry Lash gets his own chapter for championing ideas and processes — he promoted the phrase “livable region” and created a very open model of consultation and decision-making — that persist today.

At SFU Harbour Centre, where the book was launched on September 7, Wilson was in the very large audience. So were people like Darlene Marzari who, along with young storefront lawyer “Ho Chi” Harcourt, fought to defeat Vancouver’s Chinatown freeway plan. Influential planner and Liberal insider Peter Oberlander was there, as was former NDP MP Margaret Mitchell. Current powers Mayor Sam Sullivan, Coun. Peter Ladner and new Vancouver director of planning Brent Toderian were in attendance. Former NPA councillor and SFU City Program director Gordon Price moderated the discussion.

This diversity of the crowd reflected another planning truth that the book makes clear: there isn’t much room for mindless partisanship if you want to build a city that works. Two people in the book who figure prominently in driving the success of the Vancouver region are former Vancouver mayor Gordon Campbell and former Vancouver NPA councillor George Puil — Campbell for aggressively promoting the GVRD’s late 1980s Choosing Our Future process, Puil as a key player in creating the TransLink regional transportation authority.

Read the whole review here.

September 17, 2007 at 11:35 am Leave a comment

The Dark Side

Sometimes a situation is improved by not shedding light on it.

Growing numbers of us pass most of our waking hours “in a box, looking at a box,” as Dave Crawford put it: we spend our days inside offices, looking at computer screens, and our evenings inside houses, looking at television screens. Fewer and fewer of us spend much time outside at all, except in automobiles—and when we do venture outdoors after dark we are usually just stepping into yet another box, the glowing canopy that our lights have projected into the sky.

The New Yorker makes war on light pollution here.

Thanks to Gladys We for the link.

September 14, 2007 at 2:35 pm Leave a comment

Google Your Campus

Dave Peterson passed along news of this intriguing competition from “The Official Google Blog”:

Show us your university campus in 3D

Today the Build Your Campus in 3D Competition begins. This spring, you and your (presumably equally artistic) friends can honor your campus turf as you hone your 3D design skills just by modeling your school’s campus buildings in Google SketchUp, geo-reference them in Google Earth, and submit them through the competition website to earn lasting online glory. And the winners get a visit to Google, all expenses paid.

You’re eligible if you’re a higher education student in the U. S. or Canada. You can team up with other students, or take the project on yourself. (To do the best work possible, we suggest you have a faculty advisor.) The deadline for entries is June 1, and the winning entries will be posted to the 3D Warehouse by July 10.

We’re pretty jazzed that our panel of judges includes Bobby Brooks from Walt Disney Imagineering, Ken Harsha from Electronic Arts, Janet Martin from Communication Arts Inc. Paul Seletsky from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Gary Smith from Green Mountain Geographics LTD, and Ken M Tse from HKS Architects, Inc.

We hope to see your stomping grounds soon.


September 12, 2007 at 9:25 am 2 comments

One Minute More

I’ve often heard it said (though I haven’t been able to find a citation) that the maximum length of time for a commute to work is 40 minutes. Whether in ancient Rome or contemporary Toronto, whether by foot or by limo, 40 minutes is it. After that, people make changes: they move, they change jobs, they change mode of transport.

Well, it looks like Toronto has a minute to go.  FromCanWest:

OTTAWA — Canadians are spending more of their lives getting to and from
work — a whopping 12 days a year, according to a new study.

Based on data from the 2005 General Social Survey released by Statistics
Canada on Wednesday, commuters spent an average of 63 minutes a day
making the round trip, the equivalent of nearly 275 hours of commuting.

Toronto commuters topped the charts, with residents there suffering an
average 79 minute round trip — roughly 340 hours a year or two solid weeks.

Then this:

Vancouver, on the other hand, has remained steady over the last decade,
with round trip commutes holding at about 67 minutes last year.

Average travel time in Canada’s major cities:

Toronto — 79 minutes
Montreal — 76 minutes
Vancouver — 67 minutes
Ottawa-Gatineau — 65 minutes
Calgary — 66 minutes
Edmonton — 62 minutes

So how come Vancouver bucked the trend of increasing commute times? What’s going on here?

September 11, 2007 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Wanted: a Gab-fest

Architectural critics Trevor Boddy is back from Copenhagen – and in his Globe and Mail column, he makes a point about Vancouver’s lack of comparative dialogue on architecture and urbanism:

From our side, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia’s tiny gallery on Victory Square is run by volunteers with a microscopic budget. In fits and starts, the Vancouver Art Gallery dabbles in architectural exhibitions, successfully in their mid-1990s New Spirit show on Vancouver modernism, plus their Lang Wilson Practice in Architectural Culture installation a few years ago, but much more problematically in last year’s ill-focused show on some of Arthur Erickson’s buildings. Moreover, VAG has no curator of architecture and design, nor does any other gallery in Western Canada. No institution in British Columbia collects architectural drawings, so the visual records of our nation-leading designers go to archives in Calgary and Montreal.

Moreover, the D.A.C. bookstore features dozens of books — in both Danish and English — on recent architecture and urbanism in their city and country. In Vancouver, Hal Kalman’s fine guidebook to the city’s architecture went out of print years ago, so it is difficult for the general public to understand who built contemporary Vancouver, much less shape its urban future.

There may be a reason for this neglect. In the absence of a more mature literature, the way Vancouverites talk and think about their city is shaped instead by the promotional literature of our real estate industry. Instead of scholars, critics and community advocates probing the character of our city-building, we have advertising copy writers, slick brochure designers and the interior decorators of lavish pre-sales show suites.

Even our politicians and senior urban planners fall victim to this promotional hype, spouting “our city is the best” boilerplate boasts when they should be talking straight about what’s right and what’s wrong in this town. Simon Fraser University’s City Program often falls into the same self-congratulating trap, and many of its courses seem more dedicated to promoting the New Urbanism than understanding and building the New Vancouver.

The predominance of rose-coloured visions borrowed from real estate promotion is one reason Vancouver has been so slow in coming to terms with the mounting urban tragedy of the Downtown Eastside. Because slums are so seldom included in condo brochures, we simply do not talk about them. The problem here is not our developers and their marketers and copy-writers — they do what they do well, and Vancouver has led the world in real estate marketing innovations.

The problem rather is with our governments, universities, cultural institutions and professional organizations for not investing in thoughtful talk about Vancouver. Led by London, Paris and even Copenhagen, the world’s leading cities are having gab-fests about their towns. Vancouver, one of the urban world’s great hotbeds of civic improvement, needs to start talking — and listening, too.

September 10, 2007 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

Paradise Making


The following Op-Ed ran in the Vancouver Sun:’

Making paradise

The ‘village on the edge of the rainforest’ didn’t become one of the world’s most livable cities by happenstance

Gordon Price
Special to the Sun
ANOTHER JEWEL IN THE CITY'S CROWN: The new, wider seawall along Coal Harbour in the Bayshore hotel area.
CREDIT: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun files
ANOTHER JEWEL IN THE CITY’S CROWN: The new, wider seawall along Coal Harbour in the Bayshore hotel area.

Once again Vancouver is the world’s most livable city.

And the usual responses: (1) So what else is new? (2) How can they ignore the Downtown East Side? (3) Have they seen our housing prices?

But never: “Well, that just shows what a great job our local politicians are doing.”

If our rating goes down a few notches, you can be sure the blame will be disproportionately allocated to whoever sits in the mayor’s chair.

Until then, those presently in power shouldn’t expect any credit. That doesn’t come with the job.

Still, we lotus eaters expect our leaders, minimally, to pass this paradise on to the next generation in reasonable shape. In fact, given our blessings, we expect them to improve on it — to be paradise makers.

Paradise making is not without precedent: You can trace its origins back to the 1950s, when Jim Wilson, the head of Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board, articulated a vision for our future as “cities in a sea of green” — the basis for all the regional plans that followed.

With the inheritance of the North Shore watersheds, creation of a regional park system, establishment of the agricultural land reserve, designation of the Green Zone and concentrated growth in downtown and regional town centres, connected by rapid transit, that’s pretty much what we created.


September 7, 2007 at 10:39 am Leave a comment

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