We're so pleased to announce that Alderhill Partner and Senior Planner Jessie Hemphill recently defended her thesis for the Vancouver Island Master of Community Planning program! [Check out the attached two-page summary handout.]
The topic of her thesis was Indigenous urban design using her own community, the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, as a case study. The goal of the research was to discover how an Indigenous community might modernize our traditional planning and urban design practices in the modern context. The thesis title is: Indigeneity and Urban Design: Examining Generative Urban Design Approaches within the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Context
Jessie chose this topic given the increasing number of First Nations in Canada who are adopting land codes, giving them much greater jurisdiction over on-reserve lands. Often, these communities immediately adopt a land use plan or zoning bylaw similar to the tools used by non-Indigenous local government. One of Jessie's findings was that a type of land use planning and urban design called "generative planning" may more easily align with Indigenous values and practices.
Some additional findings include:
- Urban designers who wish to revitalize Indigenous practices need to look beyond the built form, and think about cultural values and epistemology (it's not enough to just replicate the shapes of traditional buildings)
- In order to Indigenize the process of planning and urban design, we have to create collaborative processes that engage citizens, while also supporting cultural revitalization and learning how to create communities that reflect the unique culture of the community members
- Non-Indigenous planners and designers need to be aware of the fact that planning (especially zoning) has long been a tool of racism, oppression and colonization. We need to be very intentional about decolonizing our planning work and using the appropriate tools for the community.
[For the planners reading this - if you want to learn more about generative planning, check out the work of Christopher Alexander (especially his 2002 series, "The Nature of Order") Michael Mehaffy, Fumihiko Maki, and Andrés Duany. Some potential models of generative planning in action include Pattern Languages, Form-Based Codes and SmartCodes, but these form-focused tools should be complemented by a robust community engagement strategy beyond one or two design charrettes]
We are looking forward to incorporating this research into our work as Indigenous planners, and would love to hear from you about this topic or your own work in Indigenous urban design and community planning.