Sustainable Urban Landscapes: The Surrey Design Charrette

Sustainable Urban Landscapes: The Surrey Design Charrette

Sustainable Urban Landscapes: The Surrey Design Charrette

Sustainable Urban Landscapes: The Surrey Design Charrette


This book is about how to make our new neighbourhoods more sustainable than they are now. By sustainable, we mean the maintenance of the ecological health of our neighbourhoods and the provision of equitable access to affordable housing for our children. We hope that this book will be of interest to everyone; from the public officials and private developers who participate in developing and managing the urban landscape today to the secondary- school students who will shoulder these responsibilities tomorrow. The book includes four different designs for the same 400-acre site in Surrey, British Columbia, each design having been produced by a team of architects and landscape architects, working "en charrette."

Each team had a clear goal: to illustrate a vision of what our communities could be like if they were designed to conform with emerging regional, provincial, and national policies for sustainable development. Currently, there are very few examples, or illustrations, of what more sustainable urban landscapes could be like. In British Columbia, many ministries and other sectors of government are developing policies and legislation aimed at enhancing the sustainability of future developments. This project was the first in British Columbia to illustrate the changes that these policies might bring to the texture and pattern of the urban landscape, should they be carried out. We hope that these illustrations will enhance public discourse by allowing citizens and decision-makers a chance to assess for themselves what a more sustainable urban landscape might look like.

The James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments

This charrette project is the first in a series of related projects sponsored by the University of British Columbia's James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments.

UBC formed this endowed chair in response to the 1987 United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. In its assessment of the state of the global biosphere, the commission argued that the solutions to global environmental problems lay largely at the local level and, particularly, at the site-development level. Members of the Landscape Architecture Program at UBC realized that-most ongoing research in landscape sustainability was being done at the ecosystem scale (landscapes larger than 3,000 square kilometres) and that very little work was being done at the site scale (landscapes of less than two square kilometres). In 1990, the Landscape Architecture Program presented a proposal for an endowed research chair in sustainable site design. In 1991, during the UBC's "World of Opportunity" campaign, the university received a gift to endow the James Taylor Chair in "Landscape and Liveable Environments." A central principle that informs all the chair's activities is this: the individual site, and even the individual house and yard, are to the landscape region what the single cell is to the human body. Just as the health of the human body is dependent on the health of all of its cells, so the ecological health of a landscape region is dependent on the health of its individual sites.

A Brief History of Design Charrettes

Most people are not familiar with the word "charrette." A charrette is a design activity where the participants are assigned a very complicated design project and are expected to bring it as close to completion as possible within a very short time. Members of the School of Architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris coined the word at the end of the last century. The faculty in that school would issue problems that were so difficult, few students could successfully complete them. When the allotted time had elapsed, a pushcart, or, in French, a . . .

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