Intelligent Urban Designs That Have Inspired Vancouver City Planning
Imagine a world where crumbling overpasses become public spaces and citizens prefer public transit over cars: that’s the reality for residents of cities with smart urban designs. Urban planning has an immense impact on the social and cultural life in a city, and can encourage social contact, political involvement and healthier citizens.
Vancouver continues to be one of the most livable cities in the world, even as it grows. Part of this reputation is based on intelligent urban planning—Vancouver’s design promotes active lifestyles, environmentalism and creativity. And luckily for its residents, our city continues to learn from world-leaders in urban planning and design.
These four cities from around the world have made urban planning a public art—though you may not have to leave town to experience a taste of their intelligent designs.
No neutrality here: the Swiss have one of the world’s best public transport systems. The city of Zurich in particular is completely interconnected with trams, buses, subways and ferries.
Most impressive is how Zurich residents travel from Point A to B. Transit routes are designed to be as direct as possible, with minimal need to switch lines. This helps citizens avoid crossing through the city centre to reach outlying areas—reducing commuter congestion and leading to easier, less hectic travel. It’s no wonder why, despite being a wealthy city, over 60% of Zurich’s citizens choose to ride transit.
Vancouver’s own public transit combines an extensive bus network with a skytrain and ferry system. The skytrain lines are growing alongside the city; the new Evergreen Line brings people comfortably in from Port Moody and Coquitlam to the city centre. While Vancouver’s public transit network is far less elaborate than Zurich’s, it is based on the same principles of accessibility and environmentalism. Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 Plan outlines the city’s commitment to continue providing affordable transit that reduces our reliance on non-renewable fuels.
Seoul, South Korea
Re-purposing dated structures has become a trend in home design and in urban planning. Seoul in particular has gotten crafty by upcycling its old freeways and infrastructure into public spaces. Recently, Seoul announced plans to convert the elevated Seoul Station road into a park with about 20 other facilities, including a cafe, a library and multiple public squares.
This project aligns with other urban design projects that have transformed the city—for instance, the gorgeous Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, an urban renewal structure that tore down a busy downtown highway in order to recover a drainage stream formed during the Joseon Dynasty. Today, the space has been recreated as a beautiful park that provides an oasis of calm in the urban core.
The City of Vancouver has approved a similar change. The Arbutus Greenway, currently under construction, will replace an unused railway route with a public pathway designed for cyclists and pedestrians. The path will connect people, parks and communities all the way from False Creek to Marpole.
Any tourist will tell you that bicycles are built into Danish culture. Their capital city, Copenhagen, has one of the most impressive cycling infrastructures on earth. Over 450 kilometres of bike lanes are used for commuting daily by nearly 60% of residents. Bike to work week is every week in this city.
Vancouver is also known as a bike-friendly city. Bike lanes and greenways span the city and Vancouver’s bicycle culture is proliferating like never before—especially with Mobi, our bike-share system that’s taking over the city with over 1500 bikes available at 150 stations.
Paris is known for love, culture and food. But it is also a city of magnificent public squares, and Hôtel de Ville tops them all. Host to the city’s local administration, Hôtel de Ville is soaked in history—it was once the site of public executions by guillotine, but today it’s a testament to the benefit of shared urban spaces.
Hôtel de Ville has become a lively gathering point where tourists and locals alike can watch street performers, attend political protests or take in public art installations. Galleries, luxurious hotels and museums wall the square while vendors offer food to passersby. In the summer you can occasionally find outdoor volleyball courts set up; during the winter, a majestic outdoor skating rink.
Vancouver’s Robson Square similarly acts as a de facto meeting spot and public gathering place. Built directly in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Robson Square is the sight of annual creative urban design installations meant to propel relaxation and engagement within our busy city core.
Towards Intelligent Design
The genius of smart urban planning lies in its ability to repurpose, imagine and create areas that are as efficient as they are livable. Cities can bring residents together using design that reuses old infrastructure, provides refuge from the stresses of “city life” and encourages citizen engagement. As urban planners continue to make Vancouver liveable for its population, these spaces will become more and more important—and reflect the values of environmentalism, responsiveness and democracy at the core of our urban design.
If Vancouver is the city for you, a REALTOR® can help you find your perfect home. Contact Rennie with your questions.
Gallery Photos: Flickr / Mikael Colville-Andersen, Flickr / Filippo Giunchedi, Flickr / brian kusler, Flickr / Alper Cugun, Shutterstock / Alexander Butsenin, Shutterstock / Usanee Saengsuwanlert, Shutterstock / Lissandra Melo, Shutterstock / Roman Babakin