Academic journal article Urban History Review

Gerald Sutton Brown and the Discourse of City Planning Expertise in Vancouver, 1953-1959

Academic journal article Urban History Review

Gerald Sutton Brown and the Discourse of City Planning Expertise in Vancouver, 1953-1959

Article excerpt

This paper examines the discourse Gerald Sutton Brown, the director of the newly created Vancouver Department of Planning, employed between 1953 and 1959. Amidst rapid urbanization and suburbanization, changes in local state governance, and wider debate over the urban future, Sutton Brown began speaking in public to popularize his vision of planning. He regularly compared planning to business, medicine, science, and politics. I argue that his co-optation of language, images, and metaphors drawn from more established professions promoted planning projects and asserted the authority of the planning profession. However, Sutton Brown's rhetorical strategy obscured and depoliticized many of the realities ofhis high modernist planning program. Even if his discourse proved relatively ineffectual in the face of financial, political, and practical constraints, his rhetoric was important because it demonstrated one way that high modernist ideas could be mobilized to promote significant urban change.

Get article examine le discours employe par Gerald Sutton Brown, le directeur du nouveau departement de planification urbaine a Vancouver, de 1953 a 1959. Au cours de cette periode d'urbanisation et de suburbanisation rapide, des changements dans les structures de la gouvernance locale et des debats sur l'avenir de la ville, Sutton Brown s'exprime publiquement pour populariser sa vision de la planfication. Il compare alors regulierement la planification au commerce, a la medecine, a la science et a la politique. Get article suggere que Sutton Brown a employe les principes et le vocabulaire propre aux professions plus reconnues afin de gagner l'appui public pour ses projets de planification et etablir l'autorite des competences des planificateurs proftssionnels. Toutefois, sa strategie rhetorique a contribue a cacher et a depolitiser plusieurs des realites de son programme d'urbanisme moderne. Meme si le discours de Sutton Brown a ete relativement infructueux face a des contraintes monetaires, politiques et pratiques, sa rhetorique a ete importante parce qu'elle a demontre comment les idees moder-nistes pouvaient etre utilisees pour promouvoir d'importantes transformations urbaine.

The city of Vancouver is often discussed in reverent tones. It is praised for its integration with the natural setting and its embodiment of the mantras of diversity, liveability, and sustainability. (1) However, this celebratory attitude towards the urban fabric emerged only in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In tempestuous urban debates, activists united to protest the radical change proposed by the advocates of high modernist planning. Plans to build an extensive network of express highways linking the far suburban reaches of the metropolitan area to downtown, to erect housing projects in the city, and to renew the downtown core with an imposing series of public buildings and large-scale commercial development were largely halted by new sensibilities and reform politics. These proposals, though, had their origins in the 1950s. During this earlier decade, a reorganization of administrative structures within the local state allowed planners steeped in high modernist logic to assume a prominent civic role. Amidst wider debate over the urban future, Gerald Sutton Brown, director of the newly created Department of Planning, began speaking in public to popularize his vision of planning. Between 1953 and 1959. he regularly compared planning to the practices of business, medicine, science, and politics. I argue that his co-optation of language, images, and metaphors drawn from more established professions promoted planning projects and asserted the authority of the planning profession. However, Sutton Brown's rhetorical strategy obscured many of the realities of his high modernist planning program.

Historians have variously examined the forces of urban change and the advent of new planning policies in the postwar years. The rise, fall, and consequences of freeways and urban renewal are well-discussed terrain. …

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