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Larry Beasley's Simple Plan

Cities all over the world, in love with the image of Vancouver as an urban utopia, are eager to clone it. But as former planner Larry Beasley will tell anyone who’ll listen, it’s not quite that easy.
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Cities all over the world, in love with the image of Vancouver as an urban utopia, are eager to clone it. But as former planner Larry Beasley will tell anyone who’ll listen, it’s not quite that easy.

The call to prayer startles everyone as it comes over the loudspeakers. For a full long minute, as the recorded keening fills the hall, we sit looking meditatively through the room's glass walls out to the fading dusk. Finally, someone locates the Off switch. As silence returns, we come back to the moment-in the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, D.C., where the presenter picks up his explanation of the very new-century Arab city that will materialize in Abu Dhabi over the next two decades.

We've already seen the animated video of men and women in robes and traditional headdresses striding along shaded sidewalks, of strollers pushed through parks and along canals, of trams and trains and water taxis gliding silently through compact urban neighbourhoods that look both modern and traditionally Arab. Now, Michael White explains, we must understand the overarching goals for the new Abu Dhabi: to be green, to celebrate diversity, to respect the local culture and environment.

And with that, in this doubly foreign setting and among an international audience from the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa, the Emirates, and Europe here for the annual Capitals Alliance conference, I feel a tingle of familiarity.

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Haha, "simple plan" indeed! Michael

by jthomps on Dec 7 2009 at 10:37 AM