Viewpoint (July 01, 2005)

Forget about the pathetic symbol of the inukshuk that will be used for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Let’s talk about another logo such as the one pictured above. It was created for the inaugural meeting of the United Nations’ Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) in 1976. The logo has three components comprising a person in front of a shelter within a circle representing the earth. Drawn in heavy felt pen to indicate a sense of incompleteness, our ability to address issues of housing on our planet are far from being resolved.

From June 19-23, 2006, Vancouver will not only celebrate the 30th anniversary of HABITAT, but will play host to the World Urban Forum (WUF), an organization created out of HABITAT in 2002. Held every two years, WUF hosts governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations and urban experts from around the world. It is a global initiative addressing our planet’s transition to an urban focus. Planning for the celebration in Vancouver has already begun, but more architects need to get involved. Canada is one of the most urbanized populations on the planet, with over 80 percent of our population living in urban areas. It is projected that over the next 50 years, two-thirds of humanity will be living in towns and cities. This continuing global shift will present major challenges to the goals of minimizing poverty and providing access to basic needs such as shelter, clean water and sanitation.

In 2006, Canada has an opportunity to take to the stage and emerge as a global leader in urban development strategies relating to affordable housing. In Vancouver for example, the Lore Krill Housing Co-op provides a useful model for social housing that successfully integrates itself into the city. Urban developments such as this and other projects found across the country serve as an impetus for architects to further their ability to design and facilitate a dialogue on affordable housing in Canada. The downstream benefits are simple. Can architects in Canada export our expertise to develop better housing in less privileged countries? Can our housing delivery mechanisms serve as successful case studies within an international sphere?

In preparation for the Vancouver WUF, a committee has been created to nurture a partnership of public and private agencies and community groups. Designed to initiate a series of research issues, the WUF will discuss emerging possibilities and mechanisms for a sustainable planet. Thus far, the various subjects for discussion include cities that are efficient, ideal, youth-friendly, resilient, livable, and secure. It is hoped that these subject areas will contribute to the development of a thematic framework for WUF 2006 that will be able to generate effective actions toward achieving sustainable processes of global urbanization. Through balancing social, economic, environmental and political goals presented under the banner of “Turning Ideas into Action,” the Forum needs to concretize the initiatives relating to the various themes to be discussed. Ultimately, architects are at the centre of the sustainability question, but they need to be aware of the necessity of improving livability for our own “ideal cities.” For more information, please visit or Ian Chodikoff