Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Vancouver is being recognized internationally not only for the Olympics or for one of the top places to live - now it is being recognized for its architecture. London is now displaying our buildings in a show called Vancouverism: Westcoast Architecture and City Building. Part of the exhibition is outside. Bing Thom’s cider wall wraps around Canada House in London… it’s 61 meters long and 8 meters high – hard to miss!
Canada House with Vancouverism Display

So what is Vancouverism? From what I can tell it originated from Author Erickson’s sketch called Project 56 in which he imagined a downtown of soaring, 50 to 70 story, slender towers – and a hyper concentration of buildings and people. From John W MacDonald's Blog - Arthur Erickson
But it is even more than that – as I found out in this great article - it's the way Vancouver, one of North America’s youngest cities has broken all the rules of North American urbanism. For example: no freeways within Vancouver boundaries, the separation of urban planning decisions from elected government officials, and social bonus zoning. Because without these there would be no incentive or need to build tall, high density, urban towers. Vancouver skyline

Vancouverism is not all due to municipal plans, there are many outside factors at play here – one is the geographic boundaries; tucked between ocean and mountains - the space naturally encourages denser living; another is Expo 86 – high rise buildings needed within the site small area to satisfy the event was the real blue print for other high density neighbourhoods; and the 1991-1997 influx of Hong Kongers and Taiwanese who were not afraid to live in high density areas. One of Arthor Erickson's designs

All of these factors actually made Vancouver the most densely populated downtown core in 2005 – superseding Manhattan, which has now taken the title back after some rejuvenation of its own.

So how does the show (which collaborated with two young Architects (Bing Thom and James Cheng) at Erickson’s firm) define Vancouverism? It quotes New York Times’ definition on December 28, 2005: “Vancouverism is characterized by tall but widely separated slender towers interspersed with low-rise buildings, public spaces, small parks and pedestrian friends streetscapes and facades to minimise the impact of high density.” Sounds like the city I live in!!
The Vancouverism show will be in London for the rest of the summer, where it starts its European and North American tour, finshing in Vancouver around the Olympics.... which makes my opening line quite ironic.

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