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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of social belief on landscape change: a geographical study of Vancouver Gibson, Edward Mark Walter


The landscapes of Western Canadian cities reflect a distinctive blend of social beliefs and municipal policies derived from the founding groups whose origins were in the last decades of the nineteenth century. This study investigates, within Vancouver, the extent of order between social beliefs and the man-made landscapes observed in the period between 1886 and 1929; the persistence of these beliefs and landscapes in the period between 1929 and 1970; and the process of change through the intervening years. To compensate for the limited documented social history of Vancouver, the reconstruction of early beliefs and landscapes was guided by a theoretical model of Victorian society and landscape emphasizing the conflictive nature of social interaction in British cities. In Vancouver, economic, class and racial conflict contributed to the social segregation of the city into four major groups within distinctive sectors. Although there is no absolute order in relations between beliefs and landscapes, close associations are demonstrated between beliefs about nature and society, and local landscape, as defined by street layouts, park design and housing orientations. Diversity of landscape was maintained in the early period when the sectors tended to be politically discrete. In the modern period political control has been increasingly confined to the western sector, and recent landscape changes have tended to reflect the beliefs of these elite and middle-class groups. Nevertheless the persistence of beliefs about society and nature identified in the early period was corroborated by the statistical analysis of survey data. Further, five case studies of recent public issues concerning landscape changes illustrated the legacy of the distinctive origins and the persistence of inter-group conflict in the political processes controlling landscape change. The analysis of changing landscapes and the interpretation of "beliefs were based upon archival material such as city reports, club proceedings, diaries, maps, and interviews as well as field observations. The identification of contemporary social beliefs and landscape conflicts was based upon participant observation in civic organizations, interviews with civic leaders and a systematic analysis of data produced by the application of the Kluckhohn-Strodtbeck value-orientation test. Some implications of the study's findings for geographical research and urban policy are explored.

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