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rebuilding communities: sketches + studies + analyses + reviews + references + debates + strategies + plans + proposals + policy + planning + designs

designs for The Terminal City: critical theory for urban and environmental  policy, planning & designs + sketches + studies + analyses + designs + reviews + references + photographs + debates + recipes + strategies + plans + proposals for the construction and reconstruction of some of the queerest of sites, spaces, neighbourhoods, and communities along with protection of some of the most beautiful and vulnerable landscapes and ecosystems. At its founding, Vancouver nearly became officially known as `The Terminal City’. Today, most regions of the world are becoming part of rapidly expanding and deteriorating metropolitan areas: terminal cities that require new perspectives and theory in order to be sustainable and to nurture social justice and contemporary culture. As privatization of public space and environmental deterioration intensify making older notions of democracy and liveability seem quaint, Vancouver, and its alter ego‘ The Terminal City’, are promising laboratories, for both empirical observation and theoretical discussions, for constructing new forms of public space, metropolitan ecosystems, and landscapes support heritage protection and extend infrastructure for contemporary culture.

Environmental planning and design are about people and where we live and, in particular, decisions about space, resources, technologies, practices and ethics. Communicating possible solutions to environmental problems and conflicts, including through contemporary culture, is a central part of this work. design for The Terminal City is both a space for debate around critical theory and an informal studio blog. This studio, and the loose collaborative that is side stream environmental design, coalesced in 1998. Most of the original members of ‘side stream’ are now over-employed and only have time to work in collaborations on a project-by-project basis. And scores of other individuals have contributed to this studio of side stream on individual projects. Going into our second decade, those of us who interact around this studio on Vancouver Harbour are constructing a broader space for exchange of critical perspectives and design for communities, public spaces and contemporary art being transformed for social and environmental justice. This studio blog has been created to share and transmit ideas and images in order to foster badly needed debates on public space, lands, and art.

Much of our work in this studio has involved the following kinds of engagements and interventions:

* more socially inclusive land use planning and urban design linked to movements for social and environmental justice;

* planning and design studies combined with environmental assessment;

recommendations for sustainability especially on the West Coast of North America and a wide range of developing countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa;

* reviews and criticism of site-based and environmentally oriented culture;

development of innovative theoretical frameworks on the cusp of ecological and urban design and contemporary culture such as public art;

* photo-based documentation of sites and communities;

* designs, proposals, and interventions for particular sites and communities; and

* related course and curriculum development as well as other forms of education and capacity-building.

Our work remains grounded in the unresolved legacies, challenges and relatively favourable conditions for creation of more democratic and multicultural public space, that exist in the Vancouver metropolitan area, south-western British Columbia and other parts of the West Coast of Canada and the adjacent United States. The name of this studio blog, ‘designs for The Terminal City’, refers to design in the broader sense: as well as production of imagery that is inherently spatial, designs for The Terminal City is for better formulation of social and environmental agendas some of which are more utopian.

Much of what we mention in ‘designs for The Terminal City’ reflect dilemmas, wicked problems even, in contemporary urban environmental planning, landscape architecture, and public and other site-based art that are not being fully debated. Paradoxically, Vancouver is being touted as a model for small and affluent ‘World Class Cities’ without much attempt to resolve its more persistent social and economic issues. The city is increasingly expensive and affordable housing is all but disappearing. Much of the city’s architecture and landscape architecture, both old and new, is bland, unimaginative while rarely rooted in the local context and careful site analysis. Vancouver’s cultural infrastructure remains modest when not weak. And while the city was spared freeways and there has been an exceptionally protracted and bipartisan effort to expand and link public open space, ‘Vancouverism’, as largely an invention of developers with off-shore capital and a few pliable architects, is by no means a viable formula to build public space nor a ‘sustainable’ city. Urban environmental planning and design in this city that spawned grassroots movements such as Greenpeace, both professional practice and activism, remains curiously adverse to critical discussion. So making more space for debate is a crucial early project for any ‘designs for The Terminal City’ especially for exploring expanded notions and practices for social and environmental justice.

Other pages in this domain on the work of Gordon Brent Ingram:

curriculum vitae at

scholarship at

photographic, site-based and related public art, ; and

studies, projects, plans, designs and related activism, .

Charette sketch of a traffic calmer (initial black & white), 2002 proposal for Ontario Street, Vancouver, side stream environmental design

Gordon Brent INGRAM side stream environmental design

321 Railway Street #108 Vancouver V6A 1A4 CANADA
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gordon_brent_ingram1966[at symbol]

While much of designs for The Terminal City focuses on implications for metropolitan areas on the West Coast of North America, initiatives further afield will also be discussed. For example, both Vancouver and Dubai have tended to ignore and obliterate their earlier, most modest forms of architecture and public space. The photograph above illustrates the state of the Satwa neighbourhood in central Dubai. Pockets such as these highlight unresolved policy and planning issues within both the Dubai Municipality and the United Arab Emirates related to public open space, urban pedestrian space, heritage site, and natural habitat.