Canada is a hotbed of urbanism and urban design thinking. This was a topic of a panel presentation at the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC) conference here in Ottawa. Presenters included David Gordon, Alexandru Taranu, Dan Leeming, Éric Turcotte, Rick Merrill, Ute Maya, and Antonio Gomez-Palacio.
My notes from the presentation and panel are below.
According to David Gordon, the bar for Canadian urbanism is constantly being raised by public agencies. Canadian cities are completely distinctive from US cities. We have:
• higher transit usage
• two hours driving from wilderness
• the most multicultural cities in the world (Toronto in particular)
Canada is an increasingly urban society (about 80% today). Or is it? Vancouver is actually 78% suburban, by population. Montreal is 85% suburban. In Canada only 12% of the population live in urban cores. We are a suburban nation. Most building in Canada takes place in suburban contexts. Any perspective on what is Canadian urbanism should take these factors into account.
Dan Leeming talked about impacts of climate change as outlined in a recent study by The Lancet Commission. They have outlined a 5-year action plan to deal with the impacts.
Progress is being made to address climate change. Dan outlined some of the measures that Canada has taken on the last 10 years.
Arcadis has identified a Sustainable Cities Index (2016). Number one is Zurich. Two is Singapore. Vancouver, the highest Canadian city, is number 23. New York is the highest US city at 26. This index is skewed toward cities that have jobs, of course. London is fairly high on the list, but set to slide, based on Brexit.
Dan concluded by indicating that global gaps between GHG reduction targets and actual results are widening. The US is going backwards on this. We need a new non- confrontational approach to reach common interests. The World needs to rally around climate change as we did around HIV / Aids and polio.
Eric’s presentation centred around transit as a structuring element of cities. Toronto’s the third largest metropolis in North America, and growing. The average Torontonian spends 79 minutes driving every day.
New transit lines are coming but not quickly enough. These new transit lines are being delivered via P3 processes. Something that’s unique in this process is Metro Link’s principles of design excellence for train stations; seeking to balance functionality, simplicity, and ‘place making’. They are seeking to ensure that train stations don’t have to be relocated as density is built up around stations.
Suburban stations are currently mostly car-oriented. Proposals will make ‘places’ around these and ensure pedestrians can move around them. Pearson airport remains poorly connected, however, in spite of the new train that connects it to downtown. Plans now exist to radically improve this condition.