Here is an audio recording of the keynote address by Martinus Geleynse at the inaugural Renew Hamilton Learning Forum in downtown Hamilton on October 18, 2013. Martinus is the principal of MGI Media and publisher of urbanicity magazine. He spoke on the topic of inspired urban environments through the lens of three key dates in our collective history: 1913, 1963 and 2013. He closed with a vision of the Hamilton of tomorrow. Enjoy.
Publisher’s Commentary | November 2013 Issue
BY MARTINUS GELEYNSE
On October 18, I had the privilege of delivering the keynote address at one of Renew Hamilton’s Learning Forums. It was 8:30 am when I started speaking to a capacity crowed in a large tent on the lot located to the immediate north of the Lister Block building. My presentation traced the development and effects of urban landscapes in the rustbelt from 1913 to 1963 to 2013. Ultimately, the question I asked was how we are shaping the urban landscape of Hamilton in 2063 through our planning and actions today. My goal was to present the development story of cities as linear – rather than a pendulum. I argued that it is critical to take a long view of history to understand the city we live in today and also to determine how we will make decisions that will impact the city in 5o years, 100 years, 200 years. Too often, our decisions are made with the next electoral term in mind. Or, if we are really going above and beyond – maybe we’re talking about a twenty year plan. This myopia is one of the reasons our public school board sold the Scott Park campus in 20o4 for $650,000 only to expropriate it in 2013 for $1 million. This myopia is why we still consider parking lots and hight capacity roadways to be the highest priority in so much of our city planning – despite the fact that automobiles are a relatively new idea in the context of history – and are, in fact, no longer the transportation method of choice for a growing number of urban residents worldwide. Will cars have the same dominance as today n 50 years? or in 100? Absolutely not. So why is the automobile (a recent invention with a finite future) the priority, when the pedestrian (who will be around forever) is relegated to a lower rung on the planning priority ladder?
Cities are living, breathing organisms with long life spans. With a long range view of history, we can see that the great cities of the world were developed over centuries. Amsterdam became a city around the year 1300. Beijing was founded around the year 1100 BC. Hamilton was finally incorporated as a city in 1846. We’re young. Very young. As with any living being, the formative years are critical in shaping its future. We are in the formative years of Hamilton’s future now. As her citizens, we have been entrusted with the care and health of this city for the time we are alive. It is incumbent upon us to help Hamilton to develop as a healthy, vibrant city for the sake of our children, their children, and the people that live here centuries after we are gone. The city will have times of success and failure, confidence and embarrassment, affluence and poverty. It will ultimately be what we help to make it. If we approach city building with a long view of history – recognizing that human beings (not cars, suburbs, or stadiums) are the only real constant in the narrative of civilization – we will build a strong and sustainable quality of life for centuries to come.
The history of cities is linear. We’re not destined to repeat our past if we learn from it. Hamilton has a long and beautiful future ahead of it – that is, as long as we spend our limited time here working to achieve that.