British Columbia

Glass towers amid green: New book details invention of Vancouverism

Former city planner Larry Beasley's new book, Vancouverism, details the city's transformation between Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympic Games. 

High-rise housing, strong public transit and outdoor spaces are part of the model

"[Vancouverism] is trying to create a city that is more liveable," says former city planner and author Larry Beasley. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Soaring glass towers, transit-dense arteries and an emphasis on green sustainability may seem like Vancouver's established identity, but former city planner Larry Beasley says it took a lot of imagination to push the city in this direction decades ago.

"We saw the economy falling apart and we saw the downtown was an empty place [at] six o'clock at night ... We were even losing people out of the West End," Beasley recalled. 

"[This was a] a time in our history when we rose to an occasion and frankly, people were very courageous."

Larry Beasley's new book details the city's transformation between Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympic Games. (UBC Press)

Beasley has written a new book called Vancouverism detailing the city's transformation between Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympic Games. 

Today, he says, this model of growth is emulated all over the world. 

"[Vancouverism] is trying to create a city that is more liveable, is more hospitable to people, that's not as brutal as the cities are around the world," he said.  "[Something] that's true to its time and its people."

Different era, different challenges

However, in an interview with Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition, Beasley said there were some ways Vancouverism didn't work for the city or created new problems. 

"It excluded many people," he said. "Today we're struggling with the homeless people... We're still struggling with mental illness and we're still struggling with addictions." 

He says the middle class and working class are also increasingly pushed out of the city.

But it's possible to shift course, he adds.

"One of the reasons I wrote this book was to remind people that if you face a big challenge in your city, you have to change the status quo. You have to move forward with new ideas, you have to have some courage to do that."

Listen to the full  interview on CBC's The Early Edition: 

Larry Beasley, is a former chief planner of the City of Vancouver, talks about his new book Vancouverism. 8:46

With files from The Early Edition


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