October 13, 2021

Saying Goodbye to a Public Space Champion-the Great Alan Slater Duncan

There are some posts that you never want to write and this sadly is one of them.

One of the most thoughtful and fun people  has passed. Alan Duncan was wonderful to work with, gained national recognition for Wellness Walkways, the Society of Public Dreams, and  the City’s first Greenways Planner. That’s Alan in the photo below receiving an Exceptional Contribution Award for his work, with Moura Quayle, Vice Provost of the University of British Columbia. Gordon Price had run into Alan and Moura (of course, in a park) after Alan had received this award. Gordon wrote about “Recognizing Alan Duncan” here.



Allan grew up in Toronto and graduated with a degree of Landscape Architecture from the University of Guelph.  His career started in the maritimes, and then he moved to Edmonton Alberta where he campaigned eloquently for the need for better bakeries and fresh brioche. After working in Toronto, Alan moved to Vancouver for planning school. He loved the city, the art and the culture and made it his home.

Alan wrote his master’s thesis on Public Art in Public Spaces, and realized the importance of performance art in public space making.  He was a founder of the Society for Public Dreams and was involved in many festivals in Vancouver, not always in the background. He was a costumed stilt walker at a musical event featuring Bryan Adams and Leona Boyd;  and he opened up a greenway on Windsor Street at the front of a parade dressed as Queen Victoria.

Alan was a reasoned individual with a very dry sense of humour. It was no surprise he spoke out eloquently and kindly for a higher level of public interest and public art in cities, and was featured in many symposiums on the quality of public art in places. It’s also no surprise that the article below has Alan’s name and the word “brouhaha” in the same sentence.



Alan was a groundbreaker all the way but did it quietly with wit and finesse.
Working at City Hall he was involved in the public process for greenways, which visited all areas of the city to talk about the border to border greenstreets that would be for walking and cycling before vehicular traffic. He also championed Wellness Walkways around the St. Joseph Hospital precinct, creating the standard for accessible pathways for all users no matter what ability or age. He received national awards for his work, which of course he said was due to the tremendous input of the varied users.

It only seems fitting to recognize Alan in the public realm in some way and his many friends  hope to have his name in a public space associated with him, perhaps on the wellness walkway. This is a person who has spearheaded so much public engagement and public space, and personally impacted so many people in his work.

The Stanley Park Ecology Society has already set up the Alan Duncan Bird Conservation Award for an individual that contributes to conservation efforts. You can contribute to that award at this link.

As Landscape Architects Erik Lees and Illarion Gallant wrote: “Alan was a champion of tree protection, greenways, bird habitats, public art, education and reconciliation. He spearheaded the City of Vancouver’s Bird Strategy.

Alan was instrumental in the shaping of the urban fabric of Vancouver with contributions to Public Art policy including the realization of the First Public Art Greenway, contributing to the city’s bicycle access strategy and the ecological restoration of Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park to name but a few.

Alan was respected and trusted by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations through his works in Beaver Lake and Stanley Park…In true Alan fashion, there will be celebrations of his life. Time and dates for those memorials will be forthcoming”

You are going to be so missed, Alan.

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  1. I can’t believe it. I’m so sad to hear about Alan. He was such an inspiring and fun person. I never came away from a conversation with him without a smile on my face. I hope I can make it to a celebration of his life.

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