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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Book Review – So It Is: Vancouver

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There are different ways to learn about your city. Its past. Its present. And its future. So it is: Vancouver is a collection of inspiring stories of about 100 Vancouverites who have made and continue to shape this city. Created by photographers Adam Schelle and Kev Holloway, along with writer Guy MacPherson, the book speaks to a number of important questions: What is the collective memory of a city? What makes Vancouver great and desirable? What inspires people to do what they do?

While the stories are all mutually exclusive, their love and dedication for Vancouver makes them collectively exhaustive. All participants within the book agreed to get soaked with warm water for the photoshoots. It is an allusion to Vancouver’s reputation as being Raincouver and runs throughout the book like a common theme. Between the portraits, eight guest writers share their perspective on defining events in Vancouver’s history.

At a first glance, the coffee table book is seemingly superficial, depicting successful entrepreneurs, athletes, founders, business people and local celebrities who have established a successful reputation in the city. But by capturing the perspectives, memories and stories of people from different socio-economic and cultural demographics, the book also shows that behind their successes lies hard work, dedication, failure and set-backs. It also highlights the diversity of this city—something that has not always been the case, as pointed out in the book’s introduction.

The portraits and the storyline shares a similarity with Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York Stories, except, of course, that Vancouver’s population is less than 1/8 that of New York. Yet, the book emphasizes many unique local initiatives and ideas, often driven by ethical motives. For example, Vancouver has a Society dedicated to saving and preserving a 700-year-old tree stump. Similarly, the portrait of Anna Farrant, co-owner of All City Athletics, reminds us that Vancouver is the only city in North America that has a safe injection site.

It is stories like these—in tandem with the wonderful photographs—that remind us that Vancouver is the place where new ideas blossom and visions become reality. This being the case, So it is: Vancouver is a beautiful and authentic tribute to the city of Vancouver and its people. And like the city’s quick recovery after the Great Fire of 1886, it reminds us that this city was built on hope, teamwork and the vision of a better life for everyone.


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Ulduz Maschaykh is an art/urban historian with an interest in architecture, design and the impact of cities on people’s lives. Through her international studies in Bonn (Germany), Vancouver (Canada) and Auckland (New Zealand) she has gained a diverse and intercultural understanding of cultures and cities. She is the author of the book—The Changing Image of Affordable Housing: Design, Gentrification and Community in Canada and Europe.