Vancouver Master Plan Project
This fall, I had the honor of participating in the creation of the first large-scale master plan for the city of Vancouver, Canada since the 1920s. Fourteen landscape architecture and three planning graduate students contributed to the plan, which tackles envisioning how the lower density portion of the city outside the downtown core will accommodate the growth expected over the next 40 years. View the finished document here (35MB PDF file behind the link).
Professor Patrick Condon’s recent book Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities provided a basis for the interdisciplinary studio, and Condon required that the plan reflect a doubling of Vancouver’s population and a reduction of greenhouse gases by 80 percent of 1990 levels. Vancouver’s senior urban designer Scot Hein and architect James Tuer joined Condon in expertly guiding the venture.
Opening lectures from prestigious academics and practitioners overviewed best urbanism practices and recognized strategies for growth. Issues identified as exerting significant impacts on future growth and thus explored in depth included city form’s relationship to energy use, demographic shifts toward a disproportionately elderly population and the maintenance of place despite inevitable change.
Projecting urban conditions 40 years into the future proved challenging for participating students. Many of us questioned the validity of our actions and how applicable they were to reality. In response, Hein repeatedly emphasized the legitimacy and viability of the plan, stating that as students we were exercising the freedom and time that city staff lacked in order to accomplish such a daunting endeavor. The resulting master plan not only provides a comprehensive vision for Vancouver’s future growth but also depicts site-specific examples of how the plan’s various layers would be integrated and manifested on the ground.
The studio produced a physical framework to guide future growth in a sustainable manner compatible with Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Agenda. Although a master plan is necessary to guiding the organized maturation of a city, well-executed implementation remains just as important. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be for the city to successfully convince the public to embrace a narrative of growth that includes closing down streets to automotive traffic, increased densities (even if moderate) and unconventional mixtures of uses, such as residential with industrial.