Squamish Nation not squeamish on blending indigeneity and urban design

Clunky title, but this story on the re-development of one of Canada’s smallest First Nations reserves mixes boldness with vision for Vancouver that is easy to romanticize but more nearly resembles a living model for cities going forward.

Few First Nations reserves in Canada are found so centrally in urban areas, and this unique location has given the Squamish Nation a chance to explode local city-building norms. Construction begins in 2021, and at more than 500 units per acre, Senakw’s density will reach Hong Kong levels – a fact that is only allowed because Senakw exists not on city land, but on reserve land, which is technically federal.

Another striking feature is that only 10% of apartments will include parking, unlike the city’s rules that mandate one parking space per unit. The buildings will also forgo the podium-and-tower design that’s become a hallmark of “Vancouverism” in favour of slender high-rises maximising public space. The buildings could be up to 56 storeys tall, towering above the low-rise neighbourhoods nearby.

But beyond even the serious density considerations, there is the language slight of hand that gets at something far more pernicious:

“In the early history of Vancouver, and colonial cities generally, there is this opposition assumed between the civilization cities are imagined to represent, and the imagined savageness of Indigenous people,” [Stanger-Ross] says. 

The ways that the terms ‘urban areas’, ‘cities’, and even abstractions like ‘density’ have been co-opted as code words for racist politicking is maybe coming full-circle. Hopeful, I know. But good work, First Nations folk. Right racists depend on decent people being too nice, too squeamish, plus the ever-present lack of temerity to call out, punch back, or in this case, build up. Re-take the words, then re-make the savage cities with civilizing force of architecture.


I’m all ready to put up something for your friday reading enjoyment, but (accidentally) listening to NPR this morning for a little too long had me pulling an Inspector Dreyfuss, and not in a good way.

Mara Liasson, you know you know me, national political correspondent or whatever, talking about the post-election shake-out, practically encapsulates the conventional wisdom flowing from every quarter that also just happens to be a ridiculous way of thinking about politics. It’s pulling for atrophy, as one friend is want to say. I’m not linking to it, but it goes something like this:

The final score of Tuesday’s election gives Republican’s evidence of a resurgence.

People want divided government, so it can do nothing.

So they vote for Republicans, even though they don’t like them (~20% consistently self-identify as republicans).

Republican can win, if they obscure their stances on social issues.

NY-23 was an example of Republicans dividing their support, and so handing a victory to the Democrat.

CA-10… oh, Mara didn’t mention CA-10.

Moderate democrats better hedge their bets on supporting the Obama agenda… or else voters will punish them for looking like they support something and running afoul of the way national political correspondents (aka The Village) and others have grown accustomed to thinking about what the legislative branch should [not] be doing.

So, NPR donors listeners good liberals… Is this the way the news about this or any election should be delivered?