Brent Toderian's blog

Brent Toderian is an international consultant on advanced urbanism with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS, Vancouver’s former Director of City Planning, and the President of the Council for Canadian Urbanism. Follow him on Twitter @BrentToderian

The Link between Density and Affordability

 Since its launch, one of the three primary goals of Vancouver's EcoDensity Initiative has been to use density, design and land use to strategically assist with the City's growing challenges around affordability. Over the course of the long public dialogue, we've heard many comments and questions on the relationships between density, supply, type of housing and affordability, and it’s been a very hot topic.  

Media Density Discussions are Needed for Cities

Can any North American city have a meaningful public discussion about sustainability, about its "green-ness" or ecological footprint, without having the challenging but necessary public discussion about the city's density? 

Many are still trying to. Many freely trumpet smart growth and sustainability without the tension and trouble that comes with discussing the "d-word" openly, and thus avoid the necessary heavy-lifting. Few politicians, and embarrassingly not enough city planners, are willing to tackle the density issue publicly, as it is still what Sustainable Urbanism author Douglas Farr calls the "3rd rail" of sustainable city building.

A Next Level of Urban Achievement in Vancouver?

Long before I arrived here, I've been a fan and student of Vancouver city-building.  

Does Vancouver need (or want) Iconic Architecture?

Like many world cities, Vancouver has a growing discussion on the issue of "iconic" architecture, one that I've been a part of and encouraging. This despite the fact that, like many urbanists, the word iconic actually makes me nervous.  

Vancouver's EcoDensity Initiative Takes Next Step

 In an earlier post, I wrote about how the EcoDensity Initiative here in Vancouver has been transforming the public dialogue about density ( ). Since then, over autumn, the conversations have intensified, with Vancouverites from all perspectives weighing in. Just Google "ecodensity" for a flavour of what’s being written, in media, articles, and blogs, etc. The community is very aware and engaged in this important initiative, and that’s a great thing. 

World Urbanists Take Manhattan - Addendum

Some of you may remember my observations in an earlier post on the wonderful event I participated in earlier this year, with New York's Forum for Urban Design. Its rare indeed to get the opportunity to discuss and debate issues of urbanism over 2 days with the chief planners for New York, Boston, London, Singapore and Toronto. Months later, I'm still thinking about some of the perspectives I debated about with my peers in these great cities. You can see my earlier comments on the discussion, titled "World Urbanists take Manhattan: Lessons learned and left" at:

EcoDensity Transforming the Density Discussion – Part 1

By North-American standards, Vancouver is already a density-friendly city, relatively speaking. Although we've had our share of density related brawls and debates over the decades, by comparison to the wars fought in other cities, the "D-Word" gets a better reception here than in most places.

World Urbanists Take Manhattan: Lessons Learned and Left

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of sharing several stages over two days in New York, with some of the most influential urbanists anywhere. The Forum for Urban Design brought together Amanda Burden (Commissioner and Director of Planning for New York), Cheong-Chua Koon Hean (CEO of Urban Development for Singapore), Robert Freedman (Director of Urban Design for Toronto), Peter Rees (Chief Planning Officer for London), Kairos Shen (Director of Planning for the Boston Redevelopment Authority), and myself, to discuss multiple city-building topics in front of (and with) Forum members, the business community and the general public.

The Importance of Beauty: A Personal and Professional Perspective

These days, there are many important city-building issues we’re promoting here in Vancouver. The first of which is always sustainability, and particularly ecological sustainability (its difficult to consider an economic or socially sustainable future, if the powerful changes necessary to truly address climate change and other ecological implications do not happen).

But beneath (or within) sustainability, there are countless issues and debates about the nature of city-building that need to have powerful voices, particularly within the broader public (as opposed to us converted). One that I’m pleased to see gaining more and more traction and attention, in the popular media and in dinner party chats around cities, is the critical importance of beauty in the work that we do. The tide is turning on this issue, when publications like Canadian Business are trumpeting the value added nature of design, and the power of “pretty cities” to economic success.

In planning circles though, we still seem too loathe to use the word beauty. Too subjective, perhaps? For whatever reason, you’d be hard-pressed to find the word in most planning visions and documents, and that’s a shame.

Is Vancouver Still a City by Design?

Vancouver has earned many titles and nick-names on its way to becoming an international model of urban livability. One used frequently is the title “city by design”. The language of the title is deliberately specific, particularly the choice of the word “by”. A city by design is one that has taken public or civic responsibility for its physical development. A city that has embraced the value of design, both in the broad strokes and in the details, in the achievement of its public goals, be they livability, sustainability, civic beauty or economic success.