35th birthday of the UN Habitat Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver

Happy Birthday, Habitat!

Today marks Habitat’s 35th birthday. The UN Habitat Conference on Human Settlements took place in Vancouver from May 31- June 11, 1976. This anniversary also just happens to coincide with Vancouver’s 125th birthday in April 2011.

The UN department known as UN Habitat, which is responsible for issues relating to human settlements worldwide, was to some extent founded in Vancouver at this conference and its founding document is known to this day as The Vancouver Declaration. The groundwork for the international discussion about housing and sustainability was done here, yet most Vancouverites don’t know that this foundational event took place in our city. This is unfortunate, since Habitat ’76 was formative for the city, for the UN, for the international community, and for the growing studis of urbanism, sustainable urban development, green architecture and efforts to tackle homelessness and poverty worldwide. It’s also unfortunate since the demolition of the beautiful public buildings in which many of the conference’s events took place were unceremoniously demolished in the late 1970s, despite massive public outcry.

The videos included here have been kindly uploaded by David Repa and The Hackery. They were transferred from 8mm movies recovered in an estate sale. See the whole playlist. There’s no sound, but they provide some fabulous footage (often a little impressionistic) of the site, the hangars and the general mood of Habitat. Huge thanks again to The Hackery and David for this rare resource.

I am working on a book on Habitat. If you were there or are in possession of stories or materials from Habitat, and are willing to share them, please contact me via the Habitat 76 site here.

These videos document the construction of Vancouver’s Habitat Forum site, part of the 1976 UN Conference on Human Settlements. The beautiful First Nations mural was designed by renowned artist Bill Reid, and the hangar it adorns sat on land now occupied by a chain link fence and sailboat storage at Vancouver’s Jericho Beach, just east of the Sailing Club

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