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The impressive city cantos: death and life amid urban materiality

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The Impressive City Cantos (hereafter the ICC) examines the interplay of material and image in urban form. It addresses a specific question: what is the role of the material in the impact upon development of influential urban representations? To answer this question, the ICC examines one particular image of city streets taken from Jane Jacobs and its effect on North False Creek (NFC) in Vancouver, a large urban redevelopment project that is internationally renowned for its liveability. The ICC pivots around a collision between a pedestrian and an automobile that took place in NFC. How does such a catastrophic event, which resulted in severe injury, fit within the liveability attributed to the street on which it occurred? The ICC unpacks the material conditions that made the collision possible, such as the speed of the car, the sidewalk off which the pedestrian stepped prior to being struck, and, somewhat more abstractly, the fungible nature of subjectivity that shrouded the event, shepherded by such institutional players as the police, insurance company representatives, and doctors. The ICC also links the event to photographs of the city commonly used to characterize the liveability of urban developments such as NFC. The ICC describes the collision and its effects as an interconnected series of masks and launches from that insight into an investigation of the origins of such masks in antiquity. It carries this historical investigation forward into modernity and the rise to prominence of concrete and photography. The ICC concludes by “unmasking” Jacobs’ image of idealized urban form with which we began. This image is compared to photographs taken by Walker Evans, a colleague of Jacobs, and is thereby linked to the rise of a professional-managerial class and in particular the planning experts and their ideas responsible for the design of NFC. Perhaps the most innovative and important aspect of the ICC is its narrative, semi-fictional structure. The theoretical framework outlined above is revealed through the observations of a semi-autobiographical figure and the characters with whom he interacts. This novelistic approach presents a new means of reconciling the minutiae of personal experience with theoretical syntheses.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Anderson, Robert
Member of collection
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etd6090_DSimons.pdf 4.92 MB

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