A message from Richard Henriquez, Chairman

Cities are not just a collection of structures that grow and change as a result of external forces; they are also the setting for human rituals that bind us to our past, that define our relationship to each another, and that enhance our understanding of our place in the natural world. Their growth and evolution must be carefully cultivated through public engagement and thoughtful planning and design.  

Over the past 50 years, Vancouver has developed a unique planning and urban design culture that has influenced the incredible growth of this city, and served as a benchmark of success for other cities around the world. This activity has been accompanied by civic leadership focused on promoting liveability and sustainability, by an influx of talented design professionals and planners from around the world, and an increase in public involvement in the complex urban planning process.

We have an opportunity to share the successes and challenges of Vancouver’s evolution, and to collectively discuss and influence the future of our built environment and the forces that will shape it. The Vancouver Urbanarium Society has been founded to be a vehicle that supports this learning and open, non-biased discourse.

The roots of the Urbanarium reach back several decades, to the early 80’s when the then Director of Planning, Ray Spaxman, conceived of a place where people could discuss planning issues, host exhibitions and house a model of the city to support learning and discussion. Several successful Urbanarium events and exhibits were hosted during Expo ’86 as a result of these ideas.

Then, a year ago, members of the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Advisory Board (including myself), revived the idea and committed to (re)launching the Vancouver Urbanariam.

Why now? The timing couldn’t be more appropriate. A new Masters of Urban Design program is launching at UBC this fall and a host of important urban planning issues are facing the city – from the fate of the viaducts, the future of the False Creek Flats, and the expansion of rapid transit to UBC, to the expansion of the CPR line to Marpole, the shipping of hydrocarbons via the Vancouver Port and the persistent challenges of high home prices and densification in Vancouver.

In the intervening year since that Board meeting in 2013, much has been accomplished. The Urbanarium Society has been incorporated and registered as a non-profit society, a Board of Directors has been assembled, funds have been raised, committees have been formed, events have been planned and a website – a vital component of the Urbanarium - is now live. I have great admiration and gratitude for our Board and the more than 40 volunteers who have worked diligently to lay this important groundwork.

We aspire to have a prominent role in the advancement of our city, achieved through dialogue, lectures, exhibitions, conferences, and city tours. These are intended to be enriching experiences that enhance the enjoyment and understanding of our city and one another. We are highly focused on engaging the general public, especially younger generations who can help carry forward the Urbanarium and its goals.  Long term we also aim to have a permanent facility for hosting events and physical and digital models of the city.  

Vancouver has many organizations whose mandate and interests overlap with ours - we welcome partnerships and joint ventures wherever opportunities arise.

This undertaking will evolve over time and I invite everyone concerned with the future of our great city to become involved. The Vancouver Urbanarium Society offers a unique opportunity to engage in the compelling process of city building.

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Written by
Richard Henriquez