WE Vancouver: 12 Manifestos for the City


This is a belated short note to say I am participating in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s current exhibition WE Vancouver—12 Manifestos for the City, running February 12–May 1, 2011. There are three weeks left to see the show. The occasion for the show is Vancouver’s 125th birthday, which happens to be today, April 6. For my part in the show I concentrated not on my own design work but on Habitat Forum, a key event in Vancouver’s civic history. In 1976 (as I’ve written here and here), the entire United Nations came to town for the world’s first global conference on urban issues and urban human settlements. It was a groundbreaking event, but despite its high profile and the involvement of key figures in early sustainable urban design such as Barbara Ward (Lady Jackson), Margaret Mead, Mother Teresa and Buckminster Fuller, along with Pierre and Maggie Trudeau and many others, the whole history of Habitat has entirely disappeared from the civic record and living memory. To remedy this lacuna I’m working on a long illustrated book about Habitat, and a small portion of its archival materials are on view in the WE: Vancouver show, along with my manifesto which, if you are in Vancouver, you can see posted on hoardings around town.

If you’re in Vancouver and are interested, please come to a public session on Habitat at the gallery on April 19 at 6 pm, and we’ll all go out for a drink or coffee afterward.

Acknowledgements: There was no place in the gallery to thank everyone who has helped with the exhibition and/or with my book research on Habitat so I want to do it here: I would like to thank Al Clapp, Habitat’s organizer, for extensive interviews and for the use of his archival materials, including the long original photograph of the original Habitat crew I used in the exhibition; Cornelia Oberlander for sharing archival material and information on Peter Oberlander’s key involvement in Habitat; architect Mark Osburn who designed Habitat’s stunning Plenary Hall and who has lent his archive and support; Colin Preston of the CBC Vancouver Archive for old CBC Habitat footage; architect Rafael Santa Ana for the digital plans of the now-demolished Habitat Forum site at Jericho Beach and a popup architectural model; Jarami Reid of Hopewell Works for producing the laser-cut wooden popup model of the site. I’d also like to thank Hank Bull, Ross Macdonald, Arabella Campbell, Sarah Gee, Michael Turner, Alix Brown, Andy Yan, Peter Busby and many others.  And not least Bruce Grenville and Kathleen Ritter, curators at the VAG, for inviting me.

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