Yesterday I attended the 4th and probably last Green Line speaker series. I went to the third one after coming home and found it really interesting. This one was especially appealing because I had been told Jan Gehl, the legendary Danish urban designer, would be there.
Sadly he was only there in video form. Apparently he only travels for book signings and to receive honourary degrees these days (somebody give the man an honourary degree). The video was interesting and included gems like thinking of community hubs or villages at each station as pearls on a string. He talked about complete communities and placemaking. There is a reason the man is a legend.
The panel set forth to discuss what he said in the video was interesting. It included four very key officials in Calgary who all had interesting perspectives. The thing they missed was what Gehl and my program really talked about, which was placemaking. They talked about policies and finance but they didn’t really get into how to make these stations interesting and vibrant places, how to ensure that future growth looks more like Orestad and less like single family homes on culs-de-sac. Part of it is a matter of values. Part of it is a matter of planning choices and what you push for. Since Gehl was talking I’d like to have seen more discussion of how you can take lessons from Denmark and Copenhagen and apply them. There’s a lot to borrow and to learn from whether it’s the finger policy or the importance of having a variety of activities in a new suburb. Orestad, where I lived in Copenhagen, had all the services you could want including retail, offices, a hotel, park, schools, bank, clinic, library and three grocery stores. It looks very little like the suburbs we build. I’d like to see Canadians seriously consider what suburbs and outward growth look like elsewhere and how we can change the way we build housing in Canada.