On Exactitude in Science by Jorge Luis Borges

…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.


HASTE & Sustainable Cities

I’m very excited to be collaborating with two fantastic organizations!  HASTE (Hub for Action on School Transportation Emissions) and Sustainable Cities International.  The work I’m doing in coordination with HASTE involves about 60 grade 5 students in New Westminster – read about the project here.    And Sustainable Cities has invited me to give a memory mapping workshop as part of their International Youth intern training happening at the end of June.  These are both great opportunities and I look forward to doing more work of this sort in the future.

Plan-It Earth

Last Friday I participated in Plan-It Earth, a student-organized forum that engaged about 120  high-school students in designing a sustainable future for the GVRD.

Facilitated by students at Prince of Wales Secondary with the help of Bruce Ford and Vanessa Lee from Metro Vancouver, participants were invited to look through the lenses of urban planners and decide where the next 10,000 people in the region should be located and what those communities should look like.  There was a lot of focus on building up instead of out and having work located close to home to reduce commute times and transit-related emissions.  Solutions to meet energy and food requirements were presented, and concerns about how to handle waste were expressed.  A number of innovative green technologies were highlighted, as well as the need for inclusive communities and education.

By mid-morning students were engaged in a variety of workshops.  Ian Marcuse presented a cob house demo, there was a student-led workshop on  backyard chickens, and Kevin Millsip presented the Vancouver School Board’s Sustainability Plan.  Amanda Mitchell engaged students in thinking about how the 10 goals of the City of Vancouver’s Greenist City 2020 Plan can be met, and I had students participate in a memory mapping exercise focused on their routes to and from school, with a focus on walking and active transportation.

After a lunch of organic locally sourced salad and pizza, it was time for City on the Wall.  An engagement process developed by architect Stanley King, the founder of Co-Design and a firm believer in the importance of engaging youth in urban planning and design processes.  Students were split into 10-12 groups, each with an artist to design their ideal livable community.  Most of these reiterated the values identified in the morning sessions with a focus on sustainable, complete communities that accommodate a range of daily activities and requirements within the radius of a few blocks.

During the Green Mapping workshop I was surprised to learn that a number of students don’t know the names of  streets in their neighbourhoods.  One participant commented that she doesn’t need to know street names because she knows where things are and has no need to remember the names.  I’m curious to know whether this a common occurrence? Not just with youth, but in general.  I can still fairly accurately recall the names of the streets in almost every neighbourhood I’ve lived in (and there have been many).  While some are a bit foggy, I think I could still draw a map and correctly label the streets of the neighbourhoods from my childhood and youth.

This was an incredibly inspiring and valuable experience.  I gained a lot of insight into the world of youth engagement, and look forward to doing more of it in the future.  Thank you everyone!

New Directions

I find myself venturing into new territory with Pedestrian City, engaging a new demographic and exploring other possibilities to get involved with schools in Vancouver.  As my first foray into this new world, I’ll be presenting a memory mapping workshop at the student organized Plan-It Earth Youth Forum at Prince of Whales School.  The presentation will focus on active and sustainable transportation and routes to school, engaging students in a memory mapping exercise and encouraging them to present their maps to the group.

This will likely be my largest audience yet, and I’m both excited and nervous!

Spring has Sprung!

What a perfect day to welcome spring!  And what better way to celebrate its arrival than with a walk.  Rain is forecast for tomorrow so I hope you all take advantage of this fine weather – and if you’re so inclined, share a map of your wanders on Mapping Memories.  Sadly I have to work today so there is no walk in my immediate future, apart from taking my compost to the community garden.

However, I did go on a delightful walk Thursday evening!  A friend took me out to Trail 7 at Pacific Spirit Park where we played with cattails, frolicked by the ocean at Wreck Beach and were at one point almost a bit too curious for our own good.  Beach + rainboots + curiosity led to me trying to free my friend’s lost boot from the intense suction of the muddy shoreline.  All the while laughing uncontrollably and balancing said friend on one foot.  Luckily we handled it with grace and only one of us ended up with a mud-covered hand from a near fall.  Ocean, laughter, mountains in the background and the beginnings of a sunset, I welcomed spring early!

If you’re interested in other ways to explore and map the city I highly recommend the following:

“The Water Beneath Our Feet” is a community mapping project organized by local artists and Historian Bruce Macdonald to map the False Creek Watershed.  A series of walks, talks and educational workshops will take place between March and May, beginning today!

Jane’s Walks began in Toronto in 2007 and have since spread to over 46 cities in North America.  These educational and exploratory walks are led by people who live, work and play in the city – often sharing insider knowledge of a particular neighbourhood, other times inviting participants to share their memories and stories as a collective learning experience.  The walks happen on the first weekend in May.

I plan to host a Jane’s Walk or two this year.  I will lead one of them on my own and hopefully a second with my friend’s grandfather, an architect who engages children in community visioning projects and can teach us a lot about how to read a neighbourhood.

Mapping a Collective Social Calendar

I’m working on a map of weekly and monthly events in Vancouver.  On the map so far: BarterTown (please come back soon!), Life Drawing, Temple Lunch, Psych Night, Soul Night and Sing-along.

This is an idea that came up in conversation with a friend about the perception of Vancouver as a “no fun city”.  We thought it would be a good idea to collect and map information about events our friends host or participate in on a regular basis – as a way to share the fun!

Help me fill in the blanks!  Send your suggestions to natalie@pedestriancity.ca