Recognizing that innovation starts with a dream, I started mapping out the scope of this social engagement project I call "Dream Home" last summer, scrutinizing Idealistic, mid-century neighbourhood housing plans and researching modern off-the-grid, mobile tiny houses that could make use of the city's empty land investments. (See video at the end of this post.) I was inspired, as I often am, by my very social Grandma Flo who lived out her retirement years in a "manufactured home" park on King George Highway in Surrey. (I remember as a teenager being appalled that she chose not to live nearby, in a West End apartment maybe. She dismissed the mere idea, saying, "But where would I put my piano?" Indeed, what city condo-dwellers would put up with her devotional daily practice and voice as bold as a Broadway musical singer? Plus she had to grow hollyhocks and delphiniums, and invite people to drop by for afternoon tea.)
But my idea is dissolving into pure fantasy in a city core where the old neighbourhoods are becoming encased in glass towers no one who grew up here could possibly afford anyway. It's almost a post-apocalyptic idea; some major catastrophe would have to happen in Vancouver that would reduce the speculative housing investment market to rubble. Maybe The Big One would shake things out.
Yet as I write this, I am living it - just for the taste of it, in small-beachtown Mexico. I'm tasting it in the breakfast of avocado and some limes from the vendor. I hear it in the sounds of neighbours sweeping corn brooms over their sidewalks inlaid with brilliant, broken ceramic tile, and in the recorded sing-song call from the propane-gas micro truck, the cheeping birds in the trees, the music on radios from every doorway, the church bells. I smell the fresh bread, about to be loaded into the front carts of bikes for neighbourhood distribution. I watch children in yellow and white uniforms head to school and grandmothers board a battered mini bus to the next town. The area is alive with human and animal activity, day and night, but without the motor vehicle congestion, the conspicuous wealth, the rising alienation.
It reminds me what constitutes a rich life.
Below: A courtyard restaurant in small-town coastal Mexico was once a collection of simple sleeping quarters with full bathrooms, perfect for an extended family of origin or choice. Carlyn Yandle photo
Daring to think differently is the first step in my social engagement project, Dream House. Example: