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The Rise of the Urban Forest

December 2, 2013

The latest entry at Changing Vancouver is a good reminder of how quickly the urban landscape has been transformed as a consequence of the massive tree planting that occurred in cities in the 1970s – very much a reaction to the world created by Motordom.  All those road-widenings and surface parking lots had removed much of the treescapes that managed to survive, leaving behind the ‘asphalt jungle.’

Doesn’t seem that along ago, does it?  (At least for those of us of a certain age.)  But in that last 40 or so years, street trees have grown enough to dominate the view – notably on Hornby Street, where Arthur Erickson and his landscape architect, Cornelia Oberlander, were able to ignore the city engineers and plant the double row of trees that has now become the new standard.

Here’s the entry from Changing Vancouver:

hornby

Our 1965 image shows just how much this area of Downtown has grown in under 50 years. There were plenty of surface parking lots in those days, and the greenery consisted of untended sidewalks rather than proliferating street trees. In winter the view is a little less lush, and it’s possible to see a little of the Hotel Vancouver and the Art Gallery (still the court building) in the 700 block to the north.

Vancouver is not alone.  Even in such unlikely cities as Los Angeles (at least in the more affluent sections), street trees have grown enough to rise about the residential roof lines of this largely low-rise city.

LA

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An unbroken urban forest, where the only punctuation is the occasional highrise, is even more common in eastern urban regions.  Here’s the view of the Washington, D.C. suburbs looking north from a hotel in Silver Spring at the bottom of this map.

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And then, of course, there’s the West End in Vancouver – our most highrisey neighbourhood.  But looking down Cardero Street, you might not know that.

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Urban or suburban, we live among the trees.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrew Browne permalink
    December 6, 2013 12:07 pm

    I think I must be one of the few people in Vancouver who can’t stand much of the West End exactly because it’s trees are so overgrown that they choke out the light (a big problem in a City perpetually starved of light in the winter months). It gets dark down there at like 2pm this time of year. That and I like in-suite laundry (haha).

  2. December 17, 2013 8:54 am

    Reblogged this on archiabyssniya.

  3. December 17, 2013 9:51 pm

    indeed ! Selected pruning and removal of trees is in order. Views are important and light. Not every tree has to be saved.

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