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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

hindsight: Strathcona

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Early urban renewal plans for the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver, circa 1957 (City of Vancouver Archives LEG26.8)

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What happens when a crisis, much like the one we are acutely dealing with right now, undermines the normal operation of our cities? With the majority of us working from home, shops closed, restaurants dark, and the sidewalks nearly empty, the tangible, urban quality of our cities has, albeit temporarily, ceased to exist and we are all left wondering how long this is going to last. This is certainly not the first time our cities have faced a daunting challenge, nor will it be the last.

Thankfully, a city is, by nature, dynamic, ever-changing, and adaptable to new realities. At hindsight magazine, we have been studying the urban past and we are confident from our research that our cities will recover. The question is how a new set of societal expectations will impact the future direction of our metropolitan areas, as new top-down policies affect the planning function. In the mid-twentieth century, as many North American cities struggled with the multi-year, drawn-out crisis of population loss and a dwindling tax base, urban renewal schemes promised to save the day.

In Vancouver, like many of its peers, this was often met with resistance as neighbourhood groups rose to the occasion and fought to defend their beloved communities from these ill-conceived plans. Through this understanding of our shared past, we can offer hope that citizens will come together to save the unique quality of life that only our cities can provide. After all, throughout the twentieth century, we witnessed many cities pushed to the brink of collapse, only to eventually emerge in an even stronger state. Equipped with this knowledge, and a little bit of patience, we, and our cities, will too survive.


hindsight magazine explores a variety of timely and relevant issues facing the urban condition through archival photography.