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Thirty-seven years ago, thousands of people descended upon a former seaplane base at Jericho Beach to check out the Habitat Forum.

The forum was a conference of non-governmental organizations that ran alongside the official Habitat conference downtown.

Politicians from more than 140 countries attended the official United Nations Conference on Human Settlements; the forum was designed for regular people. The forum started four days before the official conference.

Organizer Al Clapp and his crew had thrown together the site so quickly the sound system was installed only an hour before the opening speeches, but the forum proved to be a big hit out of the box. A standing-room-only crowd packed an old seaplane hangar which served as main hall of the site.

"The rattle of wind-snapped bunting at flagstaffs, chants of welcome from the Squamish Indians and the challenge of a livable future opened the Habitat Forum Thursday," reported Patrick Nagle in The Vancouver Sun. "The brisk wind and sun-speckled day caught the mood of the crowd as they sat on recycled driftwood and listened to the Forum’s keynote speakers." Canada’s urban affairs minister Barney Danson was swept up in the vibe, declaring "the spirit of Jericho is the spirit of humanity, a challenge to governments to help our people and all humanity." It was a happening event. Mother Teresa, Buckminster Fuller and Margaret Mead all dropped by to give speeches.

Participants debated the merits of atomic power, discussed the influx of poor people from rural areas to cities and heard a social scientist speculate there could be a community in outer space by 1990.

The festive spirit was enhanced by a stunning First Nations mural designed by Bill Reid that adorned an entire end of one of the old seaplane hangars.

There were displays of alternative housing, including a rammed-earth wall. And there was a very popular bar in one of the hangars. But it lasted for only two-and-a-half weeks, because the Habitat Forum ended on June 11.

There were proposals to save the hangars for art studios and even as indoor tennis courts, but in the end everything was torn down, including the Bill Reid mural.

-John Mackie, Vancouver Sun

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    Here’s to Bill Reid for his extraordinary mural that adorned an entire seaplane hangar! And thanks to Al Clapp for...
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