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By Matt Hern

An unapologetic safety of urban existence in a time of environmental crisis.

summary: An unapologetic safeguard of urban existence in a time of environmental problem

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Extra info for Common ground in a liquid city : essays in defense of an urban future

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We have to mark things. But we have to do a lot more than put a sign up and mark a spot. That’s a start. If we can put our language up, then I’m all about the signs. But I’m not willing to stop there. Signs point you in a direction. We all know that signs are a message telling us something. But the last thing you want to do is follow that sign and find nothing. It has to point to something real, to something happening. I’d like to see a longhouse at Whai Whai. I’d love to see an interpretive dialogue going on there all the time.

Property has become another commodity for the global elite to invest in, to buy and flip, especially in hot cities like Vancouver and Dubai and Shanghai, and even in new, recessionary economic climates property is the investment that people tend to cling to. As David Beers, editor of the Tyee said to me: I totally buy the argument that we badly need density here, but how do you get density without a high-priced sterility? And that’s what’s been built here. I don’t mind that there are some parts of town like that, but I really don’t want every part of town like that.

Public space, and lots of it, is crucial but we have to realize that we need more than that. People move through public space—but common space is where they stop, what they learn to inhabit, and make their own. The re-energizing of downtown with residents, pedestrians, and bikes and the commitment to public space is critical, but there’s just no way to master-plan a great city nor can you make it happen just by throwing money at it. But you can prevent one from emerging by insisting on instrumentalizing public spaces and marionetting their uses.

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