PRAISE FOR SHOWING THE WAY
As the consummate Canadian urbanist of the 20th century, Peter Oberlander’s mark is all over Greater Vancouver and other pace-setting cities, not only through his own innovations but also through the work of so many of the students that he taught and mentored. Ken Cameron’s superbly crafted book tells the story of this ever-forward man who set the foundation of the urban culture of our country.
Larry Beasley CM, Retired Co-Director of Planning, City of Vancouver, and Distinguished Practice Professor of Planning, University of British Columbia
Showing the Way is much more than a description of a life. This book teaches us that the value of life lies not in what you get but in what you give. Peter Oberlander had every reason to turn inward after being subjected to the horror of the Nazis. He had even more reason to turn bitter when he experienced the unexpected antisemitism of Canadians - Canadians who only very grudgingly provided him refuge. Instead Peter Oberlander dedicated his life to building the very containers needed for a true democracy, i.e. cities where all are valued and all can find their place. His optimism and generosity under the circumstances described in this book are breathtaking. His life and work are a beacon for young city builders to follow in these unsettled times.
Patrick Condon, Professor, Urban Design, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia
While this book at one level tells the life story of a most remarkable man, it also offers great insight and perspective on the planning history of Vancouver and Canada. It will be of interest to not only those who knew or met Peter Oberlander, but also to others around the world who want to understand why cities and citizens in Canada, and especially Vancouver, have excelled at creating livable urban environments. It advances the powerful idea that one of the keys to the future of humanity is better cities, managed by their citizens.
Michael Geller, planner, developer and commentator on urban affairs, former CEO of Simon Fraser University Trust
In this book, Ken Cameron has produced a compelling story of the life and contributions of a legendary Canadian planner, educator, and humanist. Peter Oberlander is one of several immensely influential immigrants – including Thomas Adams, Humphrey Carver, Hans Blumenfeld, and Jane Jacobs-- who have shaped the way we imagine and plan Canadian cities. This book ably addresses a gap in the history of Canadian planning by documenting Oberlander’s trajectory – from elder child of a middle-class
Viennese Jewish family, to interned teenage refugee, to brilliant student at McGill and Harvard, to university professor and to leadership roles in government agencies and international commissions. Peter Oberlander’s commitment to creating spaces for active, sustainable, and meaningful citizenship shines through on every page.
Jill Grant, Professor Emeritus and former Director, Dalhousie University School of Planning
Ken Cameron’s great tribute to Peter Oberlander is terrifically written! Peter was the embodiment of an engaged citizen of the world, with a unique talent for turning ideas about cities and citizenship into action.
Mike Harcourt CM, former Mayor of Vancouver and former Premier of British Columbia
In his characteristically perceptive profile of Peter Oberlander as global citizen, KenCameron has opened a new window of understanding into the character of Canadian cities. Across Canada, and well beyond it, Oberlander’s thinking has opened minds to creating the cities that we now depend on.
Many people wonder: What lies behind the particular look and feel of a Canadian city? Our urban communities often appear poised somewhere between the refined form and sophisticated function of the great Old World cities and America’s expansive civic exuberance. Some marvel at how Canadian cities can offer up the best features of both old and new urbanism in one place, and Cameron has contributed an important piece of the explanation for what makes our cities stand apart from, and often above, their
Cameron reveals in elegant prose how Peter Oberlander was uniquely situated to
provoke, persuade and push others to embrace the best features of both European and American urban development. The arc of Peter Oberlander’s trans-Atlantic life reveals how Canada began building its modern urban identity from the ashes of a war that transformed Europe and North America, building upon the gradual, yet resolute, rejection of prejudice and hatred by drawing on the insight of one of its survivors. Peter Oberlander did much to advance urban practice, and this book explains both how and why with great insight.
Canadian cities have had an out-sized impact on the world - and the world of planning.
Why? Who led, guided and imagined what our cities could be? What made it
happen? Ken Cameron makes the case that many answers can be traced to one man: Peter Oberlander.
Anthony Perl, Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science and former Director the Urban Studies Program, Simon Fraser University
In Canada we periodically get planners who are as much leaders and great teachers as politically astute bureaucrats. Some become celebrities. But they are among the many who were trained to lead, guide and imagine at a time when the issues of Canadian cities began to emerge, and we believed we could plan ourselves a better future.
Peter Oberlander came to Canada from Eastern Europe as a victim of the Second
World War, but he was a global citizen. A student, a professor, a director. Competently trained and organizationally ambitious. Truly working at local, national and global scales - with a core belief in the possibility of creating beautiful, humane and democratic cities. Which Canada largely achieved.
This book is that story - of the man, his times and his achievements. Engaging,
entertaining, with a message of hope.
Gordon Price, former City of Vancouver councillor and Metro Vancouver director, former Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program and Co- editor of PiceTags (https://pricetags.ca/ )
It is no understatement to say that Peter Oberlander is one of only a few people who can be credited with originating the distinctive approach taken by Vancouver and British Columbia to urban development and planning. He virtually invented the province’s planning profession, he was the intellectual godfather of the Agricultural Land Reserve, and he played a crucial role in the development of Vancouver’s citizen-based approach to planning. Ken Cameron does us a great service by connecting these dots. More importantly, however, he reveals the man in full and in his historical context. Self-assured, optimistic, and brilliant, Oberlander always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, soaking up the vital ideas of the times and building the networks and coalitions needed to put them into practice. Cameron presents Oberlander as a man whose appalling early experiences led him to confront a divided world with a generous humanism and, in so doing, showed us the way toward a global concept of citizenship.
This is what the book is really about: Oberlander’s life as a model of the importance of individual action in bending a complex and conflict-filled world toward a better future.
Zack Taylor, Professor of Political Science, University of Western Ontario
In Showing the Way, Ken Cameron weaves together three themes in a triple helix: the story of visionary Canadian planner Peter Oberlander; the development of community and regional planning as a profession in Canada; and the meaning of citizenship in a world of immigrants and refugees. Peter Oberlander’s lifelong dedication to building community and a sense of place in his adopted country were forged by his early experiences in World War II as an Austrian-Jewish refugee, forcibly separated from family and interned in the UK and Canada. This compelling book draws on Cameron’s personal knowledge of Oberlander, from student to colleague and friend. He offers warm and sometimes humorous accounts of their collaborative attempts to influence the federal and provincial governments to address Canada’s challenges as an urban nation.
Oberlander’s brilliance, energy and stubbornness, along with his ability to find a way around problems (often through carefully cultivated personal relationships) contributed to his many accomplishments. These include the School of Regional and Community Planning at UBC, the development of regional governance in British Columbia, the establishment of a role for the federal government in urban affairs, and his ongoing contributions at the international level to UN Habitat and to the International Centre for Sustainable Cities. Showing the Way is a testament to the commitment both Cameron and Oberlander have demonstrated to urban sustainability, to citizen engagement in planning, and to bringing ideas into action.
Nola Kate Seymoar, CEO Emeritus, International Centre for Sustainable Cities and Co-Chair, Vancouver City Planning Commission