Monday, December 29, 2014

Opinion Vancouver Courier Christmas Eve

Making plans for new Christmas traditions
Christmas is a time for traditions and holiday greetings
“Tradition is the prison where change is detained.”— Israelmore Ayivor, The Great Hand Book of Quotes
 “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” — Gustav Mahler

For nearly all of us, Christmas is a time for traditions. While some can be a millstone around the neck, others bring great joy and satisfaction.

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is keeping in touch with long-lost friends and colleagues by sending out holiday greeting cards and messages.

The first commercial Christmas cards were produced in England in the 1840s shortly after the introduction of the Penny Black, the world’s first postage stamp. Since then many of us have spent endless hours signing and mailing cards.

More recently, email letters and digital messages have replaced many of those cards. Instead of “return to sender” envelopes we get Mail Delivery Subsystem notifications.
After working in offices where I was asked to sign my name on thousands of anonymous cards featuring a snowy scene I did not particularly like, I vowed to one day design more personal holiday cards.

My 1989 greeting card was inspired by my company’s Spetifore Lands proposal that failed after 26 nights of public hearings. The design featured a Christmas tree with branches created from newspaper headlines leading up to the project’s defeat.

Subsequent cards proclaimed approval of the Furry Creek community and golf course (Hole, Hole, Hole); a rezoning application to convert Vancouver city hall into a large children’s toy shop and reindeer stables; and celebration of the 1993 Arafat/Begin peace deal.

In 1996, I asked Santa for an end to all the pink stucco houses being built in Vancouver, a larger foyer for the recently completed Ford Theatre and an expanded Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. (I was provincial project manager at the time.)

In 2007, following an around-the-world sabbatical, I wished for a year of health, happiness and global cooling.

My 2008 greeting card featured photos from my failed municipal election bid with the inside message “No, I won’t do it again!”

In 2009, I asked Santa to help Mayor Robertson make Vancouver the Greenest City in the World by, amongst other things, saving the Bloedel Conservatory and giving us better electric car designs. Both wishes were granted.

Some 2009 wishes did not come true. The design of the West 49th and Cambie SkyTrain station was not improved, bike theft did not end, and Vancouverites continued to discard cigarette butts and chewing gum on the streets.

This year I designed an electronic greeting card offering 12 gift ideas for Vancouver for the 12 days of Christmas, based on recent travels.

These included more floating home communities like those found in Amsterdam and a world-class city museum or Urbanarium like that in Singapore. It allows residents to see a model of the overall city plan and what could be built next to their building.

In light of the forthcoming transit referendum, I thought an improved public transit system like that in London would be a nice gift, as well as more colourful buildings such as those found in Montpellier.
Having experienced Palm Springs Modernism Week last February, I though Vancouver should hold an annual festival celebrating Pacific Northwest architecture.

Other gift ideas included replacing weeds growing in many street medians with landscaped planters and flowers like Chicago, and more pedestrian-only streets like Madrid.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I suggested we learn from Kiev and promote civic pride by better protecting our architectural heritage.

Other gift ideas included more beautiful transit stations such as those in Moscow, more fee-simple row housing like Toronto, and turning electrical boxes and other ordinary items into art as they do in Santiago.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I thought we could get rid of our no-fun city moniker by organizing events like Odessa’s city-wide comedy festival held every April 1.

On this Christmas Eve, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and a year of health, happiness and lots of good humour.

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