Building to scale

 The Small Cities Book
The bigger could be betterâe"if urban giants would learn from their size-small counterparts

THE POPULATION OF Kamloops, British Columbia, is eighty thousand. The population of the Greater Toronto Area is five million. Is the small model better than the other? Does scaling down provide a magical formula for city building and socially conscious redevelopment?

These questions (and many more) are pondered in The Small Cities Book: On the Cultural Future of Small Cities, a collection that envisions the small city as the perfect Petri-dish for better, petite urban living. Throughout the book, the central British Columbia city of Kamloops sits as a model for examining how cultural identity and issues of globalization come into play in the creation of social capitalâe"that idea that better planning will lead to a richness of civic balance and well being.

The Small Cities Book is an odd mix of textbook and city diary, with pieces ranging from a bill bisset concrete poem to an essay titled “Upstaging History: Outlaws as Icons,” a look at how rural folk history can upset the narratives of official history.

There is a staggering amount of material here, much of it aimed not at the casual urbanist but at the professional city-scaper or policy-maker. But if you are looking to amp up your urbanist skills, The Small Cities Book presents a dense, far-ranging challenge.

Perhaps with a broader appeal is Downtown Canada: Writing Canadian Cities, an anthology on how the idea of urban Canada is portrayed in, and created by, our works of literature and art. It touches on the work of Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre in exploring cities as collections of fictions, character and history. Both these books are part of a new and growing literature on Canada as a mostly urban country (the majority of us live in large cities). However, Downtown Canada is slightly too zealous in presenting our country as an urban wonderland.

As always, rural (and by implication, less wealthy) existence doesn't easily factor into these arguments, nor does the tendency toward moving between small and largeâe"as many of us will do throughout our lives. Downtown Canada could learn good lessons from small places.âe"Emily Schultz

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