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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Talking About Cars

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“So what is it about Vancouver that everyone’s talking about?”, my father’s question from 2009 resonated in me as I was taking this picture.

Downtown cities crammed with high-rises are a common sight in our world. Watching south from North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park you can definitely recognize it’s Vancouver. However, to be honest, as a postcard image, it’s just another big city. So what is it about Vancouver that everyone’s talking about? In my morning discussion with my wife we were talking about my future as urban designer. Am I actually contributing to our city’s future?

One of my first incidents of planning for urban space was back in 2006. An invitation to participate in a public arts selection panel for the Steveston Community Center has introduced me to Doug Senft, one of three artists who had prepared a maquette for that event. His Metal Cathedral from 1986 – seen in the headline image above – is a beautiful reflection on nature in and about the city. Still, our city is only as beautiful and meaningful as the people living in it and building it.

For our visit to the north shore we decided to take a walk starting from Lonsdale Quay and to let our steps lead us. Walking into the Waterfront Park, I was intrigued to see all these BMWs scattered around the lawn. My love affair with BMW started as a boy browsing through my grandmother’s National Geographic Magazine. Every month they used to have ads for BMW on one of the very first pages of each issue, they were all nice and full of extras, including the Blackbox my car products. I still admire what BMW are making but not so much as a drooling teenager anymore.

In 2009, after going to various places and experiencing some of Vancouver’s sights, my parents got over their flight inflicted back pains and jet lag. But it wasn’t until they had seen an acquaintance they’d known from a visit to Germany a few years earlier that the city made sense to them. Suddenly their whole visit turned into a story of success.

So what is it about a car club show that BMW lovers might talk about?

As Anat, Inbal and I were sitting on a bench enjoying the weather, the views and the hotdog, a passer by has asked me whether I was a BMW owner. Our first words drifted away from cars to let us learn that he had come from Acre. When he had realized our Israeli origins, our exchange shifted into an intriguing conversation. The whole visit to North Vancouver became a heart warming connection. Our city is only as beautiful and meaningful as the people living in it and caring for it.
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This one is for Judi, whose recent remark to me about blogging was probably a good push for writing this one. Thank you.


YarOn Stern is a designer dedicated to urban living. His training as Industrial (product) Designer in Israel, introduced him into the industry of Architecture and Construction in Vancouver. In 2011 YarOn completed the Urban Design certificate program at Simon Fraser University. You can see him in community events around the lower mainland and beyond, listening to insights and sharing his stories.