Vancouver, ‘Vancouverism’ and 21st-Century Urbanism

Planning the Metropolitan Region: A Critical Perspective.

On April 15-16, 2014 the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) held a two-day symposium on Planning the Metropolitan Region: A Critical Perspective.

About 30 prominent urban thinkers, practitioners and policy-makers explored themes a the legacy of planning in Vancouver. They shared stories, reflections and critiques about the evolution of the City of Vancouver and the region in recent decades, and looked ahead to the future. The 35 videos of presentations and panel discussions are available on YouTube.

The symposium launched the Vancouver, ‘Vancouverism,’ and 21st Century Urbanism project in which UBC SCARP faculty members will critically look at the legacy of planning in the metropolitan region and in the central city of Vancouver. The project will culminate in the publication of a book of essays.


A number of Commissioners participated in the symposium, seeing the project as timely given the growing challenges arising from changing demographics, climate change and global economic forces. The Commission also sponsored the videography of the event to make sure that the ideas and perspectives can be widely accessible.

UBC SCARP’s exploration of the planning legacy was relevant to the  Commission’s initiatives, including the idea of a city-wide plan for Vancouver and an examination of principles which underlie the best of current planning practice.

Key Themes

Presentations and panel discussions were organized under the following themes (Links to YouTube playlists):

Twenty-one Suburbs in Search of a City (Keynote)
Spaces of Exclusion and Contestation
Canada’s Cosmopolis on the Coast
Four Decades of Planning and Innovation in Vancouver’s Central Area
Metropolitan Sustainability and Urban Development
Dynamics and Governance of Risk in Metro Vancouver

Presenters and Panelists

Trevor Boddy
Ken Cameron
Stephanie Chang
Patrick Condon
Nathan Edelson
David Edgington
John Friedmann
Michael Gordon
Penny Gurstein*
Matt Hern
Meg Holden
Tom Hutton*
Michael Leaf
David Ley
Ann McAfee
Tamsin Mills
Kathryne Mitchell
Jennie Moore
Gary Paget
Lyana Patrick
Gordon Price
Bill Rees
Leonie Sandercock
Maged Senbel
Cornelia Sussmann
Bob Williams
Andy Yan
Henry Yu

*UBC SCARP project co-chairs


From the UBC SCARP Symposium Backgrounder:

“While many urban regions are cited as exemplars of progressive urbanism, Vancouver occupies a privileged position as a site of successful planning accomplishments in the conservation of green spaces (agricultural, wilderness and recreational), in social housing and community development, and in the comprehensive reconstruction of the post-industrial landscapes of the central city.

This twenty-year record of redevelopment in the urban core since the influential Central Area Plan (1991), incorporating housing, community centres, and enhancements of the public realm, has been (perhaps too loosely) described (and publicized) as ‘Vancouverism’ – shorthand for a specific form of land use change, urban design, and community planning.

We believe that this record needs to be re-examined in light of the larger record of postwar planning in Metro Vancouver and, secondly, against the experiences of other medium-size cities, in Canada, the Pacific North-West (‘Cascadia’), and further afield.”

The symposium program can be downloaded here:  UBC SCARP Symposium 2014  ( 147 KB)

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