This long but well written critique of Vancouver’s Downtown Planning in Canadian Architect is well worth the read. Writer Trevor Boddy comments on Vancouvers habit of replacing office space in the downtown core with condo’s and mentions the alarming fact that one third of Vancouver’s head-office jobs have left Vancouver in the last six years while Calgary has seen an increase of 64 percent. Are we forgetting about jobs in the midst of our condo mania?
“A revealing example is the fate of Rhone and Iredale’s 1969 West Coast Transmission Tower on Georgia Street, recipient of many engineering awards for its Bogue Babicki and Associates-designed cable-hung forms, converted recently into condos and renamed “The Qube.” Many more of downtown’s dwindling stock of towers would have met the same fate, had City Council not slapped a moratorium on such conversions last year. Although hard to grasp for many planners–especially Americans or Canadians in slow-growth cities–too much housing may be killing peninsular downtown Vancouver, especially the mono-form, mono-class, crank-the-handle towers of recent years.”
and what article mentioning condos in Vancouver would be complete without Bob Rennie?
“..Leading this trend is the extremely influential and political condo super-marketer Bob Rennie-topping Vancouver magazine’s 2005 list of most influential Vancouverites. As a society we may come to regret a scene in which 15 percent of the cost of new housing goes to marketing, but only five percent goes to all design fees. With the exception of a token condo tower by Arthur Erickson for Concord Pacific, Vancouver’s finest architects are largely conspicuous by their absence in the downtown boom.”
Boddy has lots of not-so-nice things to say about the state of architecture and design in Vancouver. He refers to the corner of Richards and Nelson streets as “a particularly bleak concentration of the Beasley-era architecture of Vancouverism”, but wraps his critique up with a postive note, well.. positive other than the ‘sharp recession’ bit.
“Vancouver will succeed–despite its resolutely lame mass media, the rewarding of its architectural bottom-feeders, its unsettling convergence of developers’ and planners’ pretensions–because of the depth of passion many of us invest in it. We have let the rhetoric of real estate supplant the craft and consciousness of city building, and a sharp recession is what will soon set things right. The bones of a great city are coming into place, and now we need time and public wisdom to put some flesh on it. Love-hate relationships are always signs of a love frustrated, and Vancouver is now ours to make or break.”
There are a lot of good points in this critique from an architectural point of view, ranging from design to planning to jobs – definately worth the read if you have the time.