In September, I returned to Canada after living abroad for almost a decade, and was struck by the disappearance of those acres of cement emptiness. Toronto’s waterfront had become a wall of elegant glass housing towers, their tens of thousands of residents turning this former lonely wasteland into a thriving human community. Montreal is seeing its first new high-rise housing boom in more than 20 years, as the postindustrial southwestern corner of the island is populated.

And, of course, Vancouver has been remade dramatically, rendered into a thickly vertical city jammed with people and activity. Its combination of high population density in cozy downtown neighbourhoods, intimate street life and popular public transit has become one of Canada’s leading exports: When I visit cities in Europe and the United States, their officials talk earnestly of adopting “Vancouverism.”

Photo Credit: Vancouver's enviable skyline at night. Andrew Budreski / Flickr