Probably not buying fruit – Prince Charles visits a marketplace
Another quick follow up to the post made here about last Saturday's forum titled The Business Case for Sustainable Urbanism, which drew out our city's leadership in sustainable city-making, and a brief visit by HRH Prince Charles. I promise that I wasn't smitten by the presence of royalty, it's just that I'm still thinking about some of that day's discussion.
A detail I neglected to mention in my previous post was that I made the acquaintance of Vancouver's new Deputy City Manager, Sadhu Aufochs Johnston. Looking understandably shy with this new crowd, I was glad to be able to have a quick exchange with him. I sincerely hope he succeeds in his important new position with the City of Vancouver – they're big shoes to fill. He brings a lot of smarts and a pleasant demeanor which will no doubt win him friends around town. I offered to tour him around my neighbourhood someday when he's settled, to take a look a my coveted green lane and learn about the challenges and opportunities my community faces.
We've made reference to the blog Vancouver's Director of Planning keeps at Planetizen.com. Brent Toderian's latest post concerns last Saturday's forum, and in particular comments made by Prince Charles. It's a worthwhile read, and provides another interesting perspective from the day. Brent sums up the Prince's remarks, which were that Vancouver must be dogged in selling its sustainability message both locally and abroad. Toderian also notes one important way that Vancouverism differs from the direction set by the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment:
In all, it was an interesting day, with a certain thrill in having the Prince engage somewhat directly with the content of the discussion rather than simply reciting a form speech. I noted with interest that both the Prince and Hank stayed away from two aspects of Vancouver urbanism that have generated some debate within the Foundation and CNU … our willingness to entertain well designed taller buildings if the ground plain and lower portions are handled well, and our tendency to embrace contemporary design over traditional or neo-traditional styles. The fact that the Foundation sees us as a partner and model, suggests we are moving away from such positioning around style and other dogma, to a focus on sustainable performance - a very good thing.
Indeed, one of the hardest selling points of Vancouverism for some people is the PoTo (podium/tower) form. How often do you hear in this discussion, "but I don't want to live in a highrise"? Toderian echoes a comment I made earlier, that by eschewing modernism the Poundbury example looks more like a country hamlet than a true urban neighbourhood.
Instead of getting stuck on the form, perhaps we should continue to focus on the objective, and build to that. Of course, smart growth doesn't always have to be about towers. For example, look at the "mansion house block" architecture shown in Dittmar's slideshow. Compare and contrast pages 24 & 25 of this presentation. This shows much higher densities at a much lower height (6 to 7 stories) versus 15-20 story towers.
I'll share Brent's last paragraph from his post because of the powerful language he makes reference to.
As for the culture of excuse and those 8 powerful words ("we could never do that in our city"), I'm reminded of the words of another influential global urbanist, Jaime Lerner. The former mayor of Curitiba Brazil loves to say that any city in the world can fundamentally change itself within two years. The key - choosing energy over excuse.
That's the message from Saturday's event in a nutshell – get on with it!