Offered in 2014


City-Building: Vancouver and Regional Planning (Surrey City Centre Library)

Everywhere we turn, old neighbourhoods are being torn down and replaced by new developments. More than ever, these new developments are coming in the form of large multi-family, multi-storey buildings. Say the word “density,” and you’ll get several reactions—typically strong ones—on either side of the debate. After the Second World War and until recently, most development has come in the form of single-family housing with a white picket fence, front and back yards and quiet streets. Why the sudden change?

Using your personal experiences, we will explore how the region’s built environment has shifted focus over the past few years, and together, we’ll examine recent regional history to glean where we’ve come from and consider where we seem to be heading. Our final class will include a brief field trip to the Surrey City Centre precinct.

A $56 discount will apply automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Modern Urban Planning: A Brief History

Urban planning has a rich history, but we will hone in on key modern milestones. From Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850–1928) to Jane Jacobs (1916–2006) and others, we will discover a practice as informed by perceptions of social desire and need as by aesthetics and form.

Week 2: Planning Legislation

In Western democracies, the business of development can be a tricky vortex. We will examine legislation from the rezoning process to public hearings, making sense of the sometimes quite complex story of how individual buildings and whole neighbourhoods come into being.

Week 3: How Regional Planning Works

We will explore the canonical texts of regional planning, from the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board to the Metro Vancouver Regional District. We will see how each has attempted to influence society through city and transportation planning.

Week 4: Regionalism: A Federation of Cities

In the mid-1940s, people in the Lower Mainland demanded a regional response not to gangs but to Mother Nature. But what began as a response to a massive flood spawned a grander discourse about the future, taking a uniquely Cold War fear to address a foreseen environmental crisis.

Week 5: Case Study: The City of Burnaby

We will explore how the City of Burnaby took influences from regional plans to customize a blueprint for its development—for better or worse—and learn more about the Metrotown and Town Centre concepts.

Week 6: Case Study: The City of Surrey

Surrey demonstrates a contrasting tale of development to the Burnaby model: sprawling sub-divisions in the south and east and a challenge to Vancouver’s grandiosity in the revitalized Whalley/City Centre District. We’ll look at what this means for the region’s future as the Fraser Valley grows in prominence.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Essays (applicable only to certificate students)

Who should take this course?

This course is for anyone who is interested in learning about regional development around the Vancouver and Surrey areas.

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Recommended reading

Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1988.

How can I find my classroom or lecture theatre?

All our classrooms at Surrey City Centre Library are on the fourth floor. The staff at the library’s information and security desk, located on the ground floor near the entrance, can help with directions, but you will need to know the room number of your lecture or course. If you are taking a course, refer to your confirmation letter for the room number. Our online guide to Surrey City Centre Library contains other information, including how to get to the library.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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