The Intersection of Indigenous Studies and Urban Planning

I have been thinking a lot about the applications of city planning in Kelowna.  However, when we briefly discussed it in class, I felt there was a very large and important component missing.  British Columbia is unceded land.  Indeed, we attend school on the the unceded land of the Syilx Nation.  So what are the implications of this for settler society and city planning?

In this TedTalk, Dr. Jeannette Armstrong speaks about Indigeneity.  Dr. Armstrong is an Okanagan knowledge keeper, Indigenous scholar and head of the Indigenous Studies department at UBC Okanagan. During her talk, Dr. Armstrong calls into question our ethics of development.

What motivates city planning in Kelowna? In short, resource exploitation, exploitation of the land, and depletion of natural capital are driving many mechanisms of planning in Kelowna.  Dr. Armstrong suggests moving beyond this form of human-centric sustainability.

Re-Indigenization is about reconnecting to a specific place.  Dr. Armstrong explains, Indigeneity occurs over a long period of time in a specific place, where people and organisms adapt and become interrelated.  Living in a particular place, or being Indigenous, means participating in relationships that help regenerate the land and systems of that place.  This idea stresses relationships or relationality.  We have come across relationality and connectedness in urban planning through several different avenues.  (Animation in the grands ensembles, systems rationale, and Jane Jacons emphasis on community relationships to place).

Vine Deloria, Jr. examines the place and power based conceptualization of American Indigenous people in “Power and Place Equal Personality” (2001).  For Deloria, Western paradigms are unable to describe dynamic relationships (2001).  Western knowing is based primarily on taxonomic identification and nomenclature, where objects are sorted out through a system of binaries (Deloria 2001).  These naming hierarchies are viewed as infallible, however; they also accrue anomalies that cannot be explained by simple naming (Deloria 2001).  Deloria writes, “American Indian knowledge of the world does not suffer this structural handicap” (2001:21).

Power is the animate energy that makes up the entirety of the universe while place is the “relationship of things to each other” (Deloria 2001:23).  When these two concepts are understood in tandem, they create a sense of personality (Deloria 2001).  That is to say, a person’s identity and role in the universe is equivalent to the energy of the universe combined with place or relationship.  For many Indigenous people, these relationships have a moral component (Deloria 2001).

Furthermore, the moral component extends to prescriptive frameworks.  Deloria postulates, “Thus, the Indian people were concerned about the products of what they did, and they sought to anticipate and consider all possible effects of their actions” (2001:23).  This is extrapolated to create a sense of what is appropriate: How will relationships be impacted by actions and what is the appropriate respect and protocol (Deloria 2001)?

Relationships can be further defined and understood by examining Yale D. Belanger’s Ways of Knowing: An Introduction to Native Studies in Canada.

“To better understand the personal, interrelated nature of Creation, the oft-used example of the spider web is instructional.  The web and all of its beings-be it the fly, the strands of the web, or the spider itself-merge to create one living organism.  From a personal perspective, it may seem possible to travel to any part of that web without coming into contact with other relations such as the spider.  From a distance, however, the web is an organism composed of a network of relations, and just like you the spider is itself an intrinsic part of the environment-it represents a relation within the web of life” (Belanger 2014:13).

Belanger goes on to explain that relationships exist as part of an interrelated whole, where constant change and interactions define “each person in relation to the surrounding environment and all of the beings inhabiting that territory” (2014:13).  When considering city planning in Kelowna, perhaps Indigenous epistemologies should also be considered.

Belanger, Y. (2014). Ways of knowing: An Introduction to Native studies in Canada. Toronto,Ontario: Nelson Education.

Deloria, V. (2001). Power and Place Equal Personality. Power and Place: Indian Education in America. (21-28). Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing.

Monument City: revisiting three important monuments of the Canadian Capital

Monument City: Memory, National belonging and the social lives of monuments
A reflection on the lecture of the guest speaker Dr. Tonya Davidson, of Briarson University
November 6th 2015.

Dr. Davidson delivered an interesting lecture on the social lives of statues and demonstrated how monuments have the power to both confirm and disrupt dominant narratives of nationhood and belonging. She took for example three important monuments located in the national capital city of Canada namely the National War Memorial, the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights and the Enclave the Women Movement. Dr. Davidson then reflected on how monuments contribute to the production of urban space by the biases of nostalgia, rationalism and protest.

The National War Museum
Dr. Davidson argues that the components of the monuments should change over time since war memories are evolving. The monuments is a representation of what War memories should be for us Canadians. Although, that monument is offering a limited way to remember the war loses. The main focus of the monument is on the Battle of Vimy Ridge and leaves very little space to celebrate the Canadian war effort that is ongoing.Dr.Davidson deplores that the monument focus too much on one element instead of celebrating Canadian war effort as a whole. She also deplores that this monument is unable to evolve with time. The monument is arguably a re-position of the Canadian war memories under the British imperialism and forget the more contemporary Heroes.

Canadian Tribute to Human Right
The monument is a Polish-Canadian initiative and a celebration of all Human rights. When visiting the monument we are invited to walk through it and admire the “House of Canada” on the inside. The walls are ornamented with writings in the First Nation languages of the Ottawa region. The outside is walls have writing in French, English and the first line of the declaration of Human Rights is visible at the top of the monument. The monument is one of the first one in Ottawa to include the First Nation heritage. The monument is a popular “platform” for many groups of protesters. This last point nuance the use of the monument, renders it ambivalent.

Enclave the Women’s Movement
The monument was erected shortly after the “École Polytechnique massacre”. To recall the details of that tragic day, a man open fired on a group of female trade students and killed 14 of them. The tragedy happened in Montreal on December 6, 1989 and was motivated by sexism and a personal fight against feminism. The monument acts as a commemoration of the events but also as a general stand against violence directed at women. The monument is a response to a lack of women and feminism language amongst the other monuments. The monuments also display the name of all the women that were murdered in Ottawa between 1992 and 2000 when the movement had to come to an end due to a lack of space. The spacial limitation cast a shadow on what the monument tried to achieve. At the same time the lack of space is a quiet but powerful reflection on violence against women and the important space it (unfortunately) occupies in our society. The monument is at the heart of many debates and reinforces the idea that systematic violence is hard to assimilate to the culture. It is a powerful symbol for the sex equality debates.

A Reflection on Mustafa Dikeç’s article

Mustafa Dikeç’s article “Police, Politics and the Right to the City”, one of the assigned readings, describes the issues involved with the Grand Ensembles in Paris, and how although they had their social issues, they were not a “crisis of the suburbs”, rather a social issue that faced the city, and not just the suburbs. Dikeç begins with an explanation that although the Grand Ensembles were social housing, they differed from the North American thought picture of social housing. However there is a direct correlation between the Grand Ensembles and slum like areas in North America, not specifically areas assigned to social housing but areas that the poor could afford to live in. This similarity is in the ability to find transportation, and the lack of basic necessities in that specific area.

The Grand Ensembles were on the outskirts of Paris and lacked many basic necessities and rights for people to access within walking distance or within walking distance from public transport. Which is similar to many poorer areas in North America. Many areas lack good grocery stores within walking distance, or near a bus route, so many of the people that live in these areas are forced to buy groceries from expensive stores, or simply eat out (at fast food restaurants). This problem occurs because purchasing groceries at reasonable price is simply not an option as there is no way to get to a store. Or in the case that schools may be too far from home to commute to for young students to attend. The problems go on about the issues caused by a lack of access to quality transportation. And this problem becomes the largest issue that is not currently being addressed.

Humanism, not Utopianism

I found this week’s readings to be the best ones we’ve done yet. Jane Jacobs gives voice to the criticisms that have meandered their way through the class discussion, and she does so clearly and distinctly. We’ve talked about how designers can’t predict how humanity will act, and they can’t predict everything a person will need; especially during periods like the early twentieth century when technology was advancing at a massive rate. In a nutshell, utopian cities don’t work because humans aren’t utopian themselves.

While environment definitely has an impact on humanity and how we live our lives, this course has been an excellent education in how environment doesn’t forcibly shape the people that live within them. Despite best attempts at making humans fit into rational, logical boxes that outline how they spend their days, urban designers end up puzzling over why humanity refuses to do anything that they’re told to. I thought the contrary nature of humanity we talked about seemed accurate. It seems that when you try and tell people that this is the best way to live their lives, they end up doing everything possible to prove you wrong.

This isn’t true just for people trying to create perfect cities for perfect humans. It also applies to areas that urban planners and technocrats have written off. Jacobs cites the example of the North End in Boston, which rehabilitated itself through internal funding and trading of goods and services. She explains that they had to do it themselves: even the bankers saw no good in investing in an area that had essentially been written off. Despite operating against the will of the city, the people of the North End turned their neighbourhood into a place you’d want to live in today. This need to correct their own living space flew in the face of everything that the “experts” had thought about the people of the North End; interestingly, it still didn’t change their opinions of it. I think this is due to the boxes that we place humanity in. Once you’ve been pigeonholed, you can’t escape that until someone without the previous biases comes in.

I think what I got out of this reading was that humanity cannot be placed into neat boxes and told what’s good for them. The only way to create happy, healthy neighbourhoods is by including the people who will live there in the creation process. While the deferral of building processes and materials to technocrats makes perfect sense, calculations can’t predict how humans will act or determine the best way for them to live. If Jane Jacobs did nothing else, she impressed upon the minds of future architects that they are beholden to the people. Hopefully, this ensures that the style of architecture that continues to develop will place the people in front, flaws and all.

A Thought on Government Ideologies and South Africa

In recent classes, we covered how the ideologies of certain regimes influenced the landscape of urban spaces. I found it interesting how the physical city is affected due to governments in power, and how this also impacts the people living within it. In December of 2013, I visited Cape Town, South Africa and explored what is a beautiful city and the surrounding areas. The city was impacted significantly by the rule of the apartheid regime. The ideology of apartheid was focused on the desire of the ruling party for racial segregation, to protect the privilege of the white minority and subordinate less-advantaged groups. (Turok, 244). As a result, many cities in South Africa, including Cape Town, developed unequally, and were divided socially and economically. Townships developed on the periphery of the cities, with the economic wealth and white population living within the city core. Urban planning was used as a means of social engineering and control in an attempt by the apartheid regime to maintain their idea of a social order. As a result of this racial segregation, the “states hostility to black urbanization deprived townships of essential services, housing and economic opportunities” (Turok, 243), resulting in high levels of poverty, marginalization and crime. Although the apartheid ended in 1994, the urban design of the city still defines the social and economic realities of modern Cape Town.

Before visiting Cape Town, I was aware of the history of apartheid in South Africa, but was naïve about how expansive poverty was in the townships. I was in South Africa visiting a friend who grew up in the area surrounding Cape Town, in a town called Somerset West. The high way drive from Somerset West to Cape Town is a straight road and before entering the city, the urban sprawl of the townships is visible. Stretching for miles on either side of the highway, the housing plots could not be described as adequate for modern housing relative to Canadian standards, with tin slates for walls and many having no doors. Numerous attempts have been made to improve the townships, such as the 2001 National Urban Renewal Programme although very little improvement has been made. The power of an ideology to shape the urban design of a city is incredible. Apartheid affected not only the physical look of the city, but also Cape Town’s social and economic realities, with poverty being just one example of a serious outcome that has developed within the townships. Similar to the Italian Fascist regime use of urban planning for propaganda to promote their ideas, the apartheid city planning has influenced not only how Cape Town was built, but how and where people, classes and races settled and continue to live.


Donaldson, Ronnie, Danie Du Plessis, Manfred Spocter, and Ruth Massey. “The South African Area-based Urban Renewal Programme: Experiences from Cape Town.” Journal of Housing and the Built Environment J Hous and the Built Environ 28, no. 4 (2013): 629-38. Accessed October 24, 2015. doi:

Swardt, C. De, T. Puoane, M. Chopra, and A. Du Toit. “Urban Poverty in Cape Town.” Environment and Urbanization 17, no. 2 (2005): 101-11. Accessed October 24, 2015. doi:10.1177/095624780501700208.

Turok, Ivan. “Urban Planning in the Transition from Apartheid, Part 1: The Legacy of Social Control.” Town Planning Review 65, no. 3 (1994): 243. Accessed October 24, 2015.

A Case for Preserving Class Hierarchies

During this past week in class we viewed Fritz Lang’s science fiction film, Metropolis. In the film, the female protagonist, Maria, predicted that a mediator would bring the ruling and working classes together into one united community. The question that arises then, is what if these two classes did come together? Could an equal system truly be achieved and would the city function better for it?

Personally, I do not think equality can be achieved among these classes because someone, or a group of people, will always feel as though their ideals, problems, and needs are greater than those of others. Even countries that claim to be democratic are never truly representative, there are always more important issues that benefit certain groups of people over the rest. Personal issues set aside, public space problems are never equally favourable for everyone. Whether it be the number of playgrounds or the construction of new highways, people will never truly be happy with the results. If the two sides did come together, would the perpetually oppressed working class revolt and flip the order to become the new ruling class instead? Maybe equality between classes isn’t actually achievable. Perhaps society needs some form of order to be able to function properly and the city runs efficiently within this order. Of course, I’m not saying that there are people who should be considered better than others or that there should be a class system at all, just that it’s possible that humans need to know where they stand in the social hierarchy to function. Knowing their role in society and what they are expected to contribute can serve as a form of guidance to people and may help them live their lives as best as they can.

The Urban Food Revolution and its Effect on City Planning

I recently found a very interesting online presentation on the Urban Development Institute Kelowna website called The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way we Design Cities and created by Peter Ladner. The presentation begins with an overwhelming amount of problems that are negatively impacting our society. One of the problems that Ladner brings up is the way that we produce and consume food in today’s society. One of the first things worth mentioning here are the added health risks with the type and quantity of food we eat in a large part of the world. In Canada alone the Health Care system spent $10 billion on diabetes in the year 2000. This is projected to increase to about $17 billion by the year 2020.
Another problem brought up was unsurprisingly, pollution. It is widely known that humans create much of the co2 levels in the atmosphere that is currently causing drastic climate change all over the world. However many people are unaware that the largest producers of co2 are in fact, cows. Yet the demand for beef is so high that rain forests are being chopped down in order to make room for more cattle, even though there are many countries whose cow population outnumber the people. Some examples being: Uruguay, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, as well as Brazil. (site) Yet the demand continues to grow.

cow2 (site)
So what does this all have to do with Urban Planning? Well the idea of The Urban Food Revolution is that it is meant to fix these problems and more. Essentially this movement is an increased global interest in locally grown food. It has been common knowledge for a while that local organic food is better for you because of the lack of pesticides, gmo’s, sugar, and so on. Also that without these added substances our food becomes much richer in nutrients. Now according to Ladner’s presentation, besides the increased interest in natural and local food there has also been a movement of people wanting to control the growth of their own food. Therefore many governments have begun making changes to their cities . For instance it is stated that the government in Seoul, Korea would like to implement the idea of personal food-growing plots for each citizen.

JillAndrew-CommunityGarden-cid_E0446C66-E177-4B6B-86C7-05986373784Fatt-sm-May2014 site

Another example Ladner used was a grocery store in London that has recently begun growing their vegetables on the roof. They are calling it ‘Food from the sky’ with the idea being that it is possible to grow and sell fruit and vegetables in a city. (site) Ladner also uses Montreal as an example as they supposedly have the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse called Lula Farms.

montroof5 (site)
Therefore, the whole idea behind this presentation is that hopefully cities around the world, including Kelowna, can begin implementing new ways the people to buy or produce their own local food, starting simply with garden food and hopefully moving past that to the point where each city can be self-sufficient as well as much healthier in regards to food production.



Soviet Silent Film: the Sins and Aspects of Humanity

On Friday October 16th, we watched a Russian silent film that was based around the worst aspects of humanity. While I was watching I couldn’t help but compare it to some of the silent films I had seen when I was younger. All the silent films I was used to were more light hearted and comedic than the Russian film. This demonstrates the difference in ideals between soviet and Western films at that time: During the late 1890’s-early 1900’s, all the Western films were produced to catch the attention of every member of society from children and teenagers to adults and elders. Even without sound or voices these films were easy to understand and caught everyone’s attention through the comedic relief of the main character(s). This seems to match the ideals towards humanity in Western society – that everyone has a goodness inside us that will emerge to help bring light to the dark. The producers and writers for the Russian film we saw in class had a different objective in mind: from the outset one could tell that the film was based around a much darker outset on life, that almost every character in the film had a dark ideal/belief/outlook on life be it greed, fear, lust and/or hopelessness. In a scene after the son Freder has a moment with Maria, he is seen praying to several statues representing the deadly biblical sins (lust, deceit, etc.) Rather than look to the blessings of God and the Holy Son, he prays to the dark spirits of life and the world to spare him and his beloved. At the same time, the father lusts for the face of Maria to be added to the robot built by his ‘trusted’ scientist-inventor; this was done against the advice of the scientist who quoted how it would cost him the most important thing he had in Hel: his son, Freder. The fact that he would commit such a thing in spite of his own son made me feel sick to the stomach; if I never see this film again in my life, it’ll be too soon.

The Modern City and Metabolic Rift as Symbolic Displacement

Metabolic rift was initially posited by Karl Marx (Foster 1999).  Metabolic rift occurs when food and fibre from the countryside are shipped great distances to be consumed and processed in urban spaces.  Consequently, soil nutrients are depleted from the countryside while waste is accumulated in the city.  In other words, the spatial separation of country and town ensures that natural systems do not replenish themselves through waste recycling.

This problem was also articulated by the leading German agricultural chemist Justus von Liebig (Hardy 1991).  During the 19th and 20th centuries, Europeans needed to increasingly rely on fertilizers to renew the soil depletion of the countryside (Hardy 1991).  Meanwhile, the scourge of urban sites became mass quantities of waste and an inability to safely deal with the waste.  In short, the natural cycle of food and resource extraction that occurred more locally was disrupted by the rise of industrialized capitalist metropoles.  Populations moved from the country to the town in great numbers and exacerbated the problem of metabolic rift.

Metabolic rift can be understood then in a fracturing of humans from natural cycles.  Modern cities and industrialised capitalism ensured that this fracture would deepen and lengthen over time.  Nonetheless, Ebenezer Howard postulates a meaningful solution to metabolic rift through the creation of garden cities in Garden Cities of To-morrow.  

The cities would contain 5000 acres of agricultural land that rings a 1000 acre heavily gardened city centre.  Thus humans and human society would be reintegrated into a living system where soil depletion is slowed because of waste recycling.  Therefore, Howard’s garden city is an answer to the problem of human society existing outside of natural systems.

Metabolic rift could be applied in a broader sense to multiple systems.  That is to say, the modern city and capitalist practices created multiple rifts in natural human systems.  The film Metropolis explores these issues through filmic imagery.

For example: Freder Fredersen, son of the overlord of Metropolis, ventures into the depths of the worker’s city.  There he witnesses a giant machine explosion and he hallucinates a large monster in the smoke and ruin that sacrificially consumes the workers.  This imagery reflects the dehumanization and dismemberment that comes from industrialization.

Freder immediately rushes to his father’s office to explain how his brothers, the workers, have been consumed by the monstrous machine.  Freder realises that the great class division between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is not a natural division, but rather one that removes humanity from the mechanistic doom below the utopian city.

Industrialized capitalism created a world where rifts opened up in multiple systems.  Soil depletion and recycling became disjointed while class divisions deepened.  Ebenezer Howard seemed to be answering these problems of class rift and metabolic rift.  Similarly, other city planning seems also an attempt to reintegrate fractured systems and heal the fractured human psyche in the modern city.


Foster, John Bellamy. “Marx’s Theory of Metabolic Rift: Classical Foundations for

Environmental Sociology.” American Journal of Sociology 105, no. 2 (1999): 366-405. Accessed October 14, 2015.

Hardy, Dennis. From Garden Cities to New Towns: Campaigning for Town and Country Planning, 1899-1946. London: E & FN Spon, 1991.

Howard, Ebenezer. Garden Cities of To-morrow. Memphis, Tennessee: General Books LLC, 2012.


The Moscow Metro

The metro of Moscow was built in 1930 under Joseph Stalin rule. The project was realized in four stages. The first of the four stages was completed in 1935 when the first line, measuring 11 kilometres was open to the public. The second stage was completed in 1938 before the outbreak of WW2. The third stage was delayed, but not interrupted by the War, and two more sections were put in service. The completion of the third stage, in spite of the War, is in itself a tribute to the efficiency and capability of the Soviets. In the stations built during that period, the traditional socialist designs are replaced by war motifs. The two stations built during the third stages were inaugurated in 1943 and 1944. The fourth stage of the original plan begun after the War. The decoration and design of the last stage is arguably considered the best of all four. The construction of an even deeper section of the metro began during the Cold War era. The stations were planned to double up as shelter in the event of a nuclear war.

The Moscow Metro is no ordinary underground railway system. Stalin’s vision was to create unique stations that would double as palaces for the people of the Soviet-Union. The project was so successful that the Moscow metro is classified as historic monuments. An estimated 358000 meter square of marble was used to build sculptures, mosaics and columns that compose the decor of the miniatures underground palaces that is the Moscow metro. They depict, within the socialists limits, the great events of the ancient and modern Russian history. The realization of the magnificent project required an estimated 75000 people, mostly from the mining industry. Thousands of volunteers also participated in Stalin’s grandiose project. The metro of Moscow remains the biggest one in the world even to this day. As of 2015, the Moscow metro has 197 stations and its railway is 329 km long and mostly underground.


The initial construction was on average 40 meters deep (nowadays its deepest section is 74 meters) and offered a shelter to thousands of moscovites during the Second World War air raids. Stalins agenda of security and protection was hardly a secret when building the metro. Underneath the marble and beautiful frescos lays steel columns and concrete walls built to withstand a series of bomb attacks on Moscow. The animosity climate that reign during the 1930’s indicate the inevitability of a Nazi attack on Moscow. Stalin therefore used the metro as a passive defence mechanism thus protecting thousands of citizens. The Metro is also home to one of Russia’s greatest mysteries. If the protection agenda was known, the mystery behind “metro 2” still remain an unsolved puzzle of the Soviet Union. The station Chistye Prudy is believe to lead the way to a secret metro line laying profoundly under the city. Speculation has it that the metro line is design to be used by the officials as a head-quarter if the city ever comes under attack. The lines would connect the Kremlin, the Federal Security Services (FSB) head quarters, the ministry of defence and the airport. It is suggested that it was one of Stalin’s project in his paranoid need of security and protection. Certain documents retrieved by Washington allude to the project but its existence remains a mystery.
Confidential state secrets aside, the construction of the Moscow metro is an incredible achievement. The record time in which it was built demonstrate to the socialist sympathizer the efficiency of the Regime. Its beauty and palatial allure pay tribute to the people of Russia and their National History in a magnificent way.Kievskaya_KL_2010

A French journalist investigation of the mystery behind Metro 2. Russie Video, Découvertes des Stations du métro de Mouscou (Russia Moscow metro) T

he video takes you on a virtual tour of the Moscow metro. The narrator speaks French, but you can mute him and still enjoy the image. 

All the pictures are part of the public domain and have been uploaded from