The concept of Cathedral Thinking stretches back through the centuries to medieval times, when architects, stonemasons and artisans laid plans and began construction of the soaring, cavernous structures that served as places of worship, community gathering spaces and safe havens. Since then, the concept has been applied to space exploration, city planning and other long-term goals that require decades of foresight and planning so future generations can enjoy their full realization. Though there are many instances to which Cathedral Thinking can be applied, they all require the same foundation: a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to long-term implementation.
Tourism Vancouver and Cathedral Thinking
As we approach 2020 – the year by which Tourism Vancouver has proclaimed that Vancouver will be recognized as a world city – industry members would do well to revisit Cathedral Thinking and consider adopting its principles. The concept was presented in detail by several leaders of the city's tourism industry at Tourism Vancouver's 2012 Annual General Meeting. Within the cavernous space of the aptly chosen Christ Church Cathedral, the speakers stressed that holding major events and conventions each month of the year, formalizing Tourism Vancouver's role as a "destination marketing and management organization" and forming close relationships with the Hotel Association of Vancouver and partner DMOs, among others – we must also plan beyond that as we bid on international conferences taking place decades from now, or target sports and cultural events happening far in the future. "What we do today, and each day, as a tourism industry shapes the longer-term viability of our destination as one of the world's most admired cities," said Christopher Gaze, artistic director for the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. "We can learn much from the scheming and planning for the future by those who envisioned, built and used cathedrals hundreds of years ago."
Rick Antonson on Cathedral Thinking
Ultimately, Cathedral Thinking involves the greater collective coming together with a shared vision for a better future. It involves collaboration, advance planning and the determination to build something strong and lasting. Building a world city is no different. "Like cathedrals, world cities aren't formed overnight," said Rick Antonson, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver. "Shaping Vancouver into a world city will take a lot of work – work based on a vision beyond our own times." And that means we need to be strategic, take stock of our resources and continue forward even if we don't anticipate seeing the end result.
R. Gordon Johnson on Cathedral Thinking
Such long-term vision has been implemented in the past, said R. Gordon Johnson, Tourism Vancouver's 2012 board chair. It was seen in 1996, when Tourism Vancouver launched a bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in the face of detraction and doubt. And again in 1999, when Tourism Vancouver initiated the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion, despite tough odds. "These two undertakings not only reshaped Vancouver, they reshaped the province," Johnson reminded the audience. "We should be one hundred percent confident in our tourism industry's ability to envision and determine a future that is bold and beneficial for both visitors and residents."
Christopher Gaze on Cathedral Thinking
Christopher Gaze perhaps best encapsulated the theme as applied to cities when he emphasized that cathedrals and world cities exist by design, not by chance. By re-exploring the concepts of Cathedral Thinking, Vancouver's tourism industry and its citizens can start work today that creates a better Vancouver for future generations – the same way past generations helped build the city we all enjoy today. After all, what is today but yesterday's tomorrow?