Fred London* visited Vancouver in 2018 as one of 12 case studies on ‘Healthy Place-Making‘ – the title of his newly released book.

In modern-day society the main threats to public health are now considered ‘avoidable illnesses’, which are often caused by a lack of exercise and physical activity. Practitioners must now consider how they can encourage people to lead healthier lifestyles and improve health through urban design.

This book presents the path to healthier cities through six core themes – urban planning, walkable communities, neighbourhood building blocks, movement networks, environmental integration and community empowerment. Each theme is presented with an overview of the issues, the solutions and how to apply them practically with exemplars and precedents.

Here are some excerpts from his Vancouver chapter:

Vancouver’s diverse character.

Old buildings remain along (Yaletown streets) reinforcing local identity, and former commercial loading bays create an appealing street cross section for eateries and retail, with walkways raised a metre or so above street level forming promenades unencumbered by the cars parked below.

Vancouver’s cultural heritage is also reflected in the varied social environment, strongly represented by the Pacific east coast. These are mainly from China and Japan, and notable for the extensive choice of good grocery stores and places to eat, catering for a range of income levels that serve as the bedrock for lower income communities.

Vancouver’s towers enjoy uncluttered views onto North Shore Mountain slopes saved from urban sprawl:

The social environment boasts a wide range of cultural and sporting facilities, and the rich variety of streetscapes has a further element in the form of narrow roads (lanes) behind the main street frontages that, whilst in themselves often unattractive, are very practical ‘back-of-house’ facilities which enable the primary public routes to be free of service yards.


*Fred London (MA, Dip Arch, RIBA, AoU) studied at Cambridge University Faculty of Architecture and at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, punctuated by a year of employment in Vienna.  In 1995 Fred became a founder director (now partner) of John Thompson & Partners (JTP), where he worked on numerous housing projects for developers and also the London Wetland Centre. The breadth of this cross-cultural experience has contributed to his unique perspective on what makes for universally-applicable healthy placemaking.


  1. Vancouver’s towers of glass … blech.

    Vancouver’s plethora of views of billboards – advertising corporate garbage in our aesthetic commons – blech.

    Broken glass all over Vancouver’s lanes. Appalling.

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