Just a couple of books that provide much in the way I view urban planning. Also having lived in Vancouver, I admire much about that place. There is always going to be negatives, and the Lower East Side is notorious in Canada for all manner of low lifes, the flotsam and jetsam of life, putting that aside, the rest of the world can learn so much from the successes and failures of that town, which went from being a rural outpost, to a vibrant and stunning major urban centre in a very short time scale.
Vancouver Achievement: Urban Planning and Design
UBC Press 2004
This book examines the development of Vancouver’s unique approach to zoning, planning, and urban design from its inception in the early 1970s to its maturity in the management of urban change at the beginning of the twenty-first century. By the late 1990s, Vancouver had established a reputation in North America for its planning achievement, especially for its creation of a participative, responsive, and design-led approach to urban regeneration and redevelopment. This system has other important features: an innovative approach to megaproject planning, a system of cost and amenity levies on major schemes, a participative CityPlan process to underpin active neighbourhood planning, and a sophisticated panoply of design guidelines. These systems, processes, and their achievements place Vancouver at the forefront of international planning practice.
The Vancouver Achievement explains the evolution and evaluates the outcomes of Vancouver’s unique system of discretionary zoning. The introductory chapters set the context for the study: they cover the invention and refinement of this system in the reform movement, its development of policies, guidelines, and control processes, and its translation into official development plans and neighbourhood design in the 1970s. Subsequent chapters focus upon the downtown, waterfront megaprojects, single-family neighbourhoods, the city-wide strategic planning programme (CityPlan), pressures for reform of control processes, and current downtown and inner city developments, especially issues of affordable housing, social exclusion, and multiple deprivation. The concluding chapter summarizes “the Vancouver Achievement,” explains the keys to its success, and evaluates its design success against internationally accepted criteria.
I know these are both featured together on Amazon, but I was actually going to talk about them together anyway.
Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination
Douglas & McIntyre 2005
The story behind Vancouver’s emerging urban form: the buildings, public spaces, extraordinary landscapes and cultural values that have turned the city into the poster-child of North American urbanism.
Located at the edge of a continent and at the corresponding edge of national public consciousness, Vancouver has developed in unique and unanticipated ways. It is now emerging as an experiment in contemporary city-making, with international interest in Vancouver as a model of post-industrial urbanism increasing exponentially.
Lance Berelowitz explores the links between the city’s seductive natural setting, its turbulent political history and changing civic values, and its planning and design culture. He also makes the startling case that Vancouver is to Canada’s imagination what Los Angeles is to the American—a mythologized place of endless possibilities, while being grounded in an altogether more limited set of socio-economic and environmental limitations.
I know this is off task a little, but I do keep harping on about a ‘vision’ that could surround this development, and for me two obvious examples stand out like the proverbial, Vancouver and Wellington’s Waterfront. For instance the two cities are unique in that they have a special connection to their waterfront and harbour. Both have similar histories and time scales, and both don’t have major motorways running through them or cutting off their waterfront (ah hem Wgtn’s later day sins forgiven). Vancouver is particularly unique in North America, in that waterfronts were often seen (in the context of when motorways were built late 1950s-1960s) as industrial wastelands and easy land to provide 4 or 6 lane motorways. Seattle is a horrendous example of the city cut off from the water, you can glimpse it from the back of Pike St Market at Victor Steinbrueck park, over the 6 lane highway. The Seattle Seahawks (American Football) team has a relatively new Qwest Stadium, built in 2002 for $360m USD. It’s near the water, but cut off from the water by the lovely same 6 lane Alaska Way highway (and an almighty container terminal). It’s built by the none other than Paul Allen of Microsoft on the site of the former Kingdome (classic late 60s early 70s architecture covered baseball stadium).
and the classic but now demolished Kingdome.
But I digress.
However these two cities share more than this fleeting similarity, in waterfront stadiums. Wellington’s Westpac Stadium (affectionately known as the Cake Tin) was built in 2000, designed by Warren & Mahoney whom we don’t need to remind have a stunning architectural heritage in New Zealand, for a cost of $130m (about $180m in today’s money very roughly). Interestingly enough among it’s tenants are the Hurricanes Super 14 rugby franchise and the University of Otago (Marketing and Communications and the School of Physiotherapy).
(nb all aerial pics from 200m elevation for comparison). Westpac Stadium (cake tin) note the motorway to the north and the railway to the south.
Westpac stadium was an interesting exercise in archietcture, in that the land wasn’t ideal, cut off from it’s surrounds by sea (a good thing), motorway and railway. The entrance and how the stadium delt with it’s fans access was an interesting exercise, resulting in a very long covered concourse that extends out from the stadium like the tail of an apostrophe, towards the city and the railway station (interestingly shielding people from the waterfront). I love this stadium, it’s a funny place though. It has imposing massive austere walls, it’s completely insular looking, and the way it’s cut off from the waterfront and shields it’s patrons from the water is a shame. I would have loved to have seen this right on the waterfront, but then Wellington Port is a huge commercial institution, and land for them is a valued commodity. I would have rather seen a Stadium New Zealand concept like the defunct proposal fro Auckland on the waterfront that what they have presently, but that’s personal preference.
Detail from the defunct Stadium New Zealand concept for the waterfront in downtown Auckland. Note the transparency of the stadium, and the proposed area for cafes etc connecting the people with the stadium and the waterfront (ah the dream).
Wellington’s stadium is built and now part of the sporting and events consciousness of New Zealand. It’s loved by some and loathed by others, and some like myself love it, but bemoan it’s location and isolation from the waterfront, although it’s less than a couple of hundred meters away.
The Vancouver Whitecaps football team (soccer – the beautiful game) currently play their football in the adjacent city of Burnaby in Greater Vancouver (think Manukau City, separate from Auckland but consumed by the big smoke) at Swangard Stadium. This ageing stadium holds a capacity of nearly 7000. I can speak from personal experience, watching football from Swangard on a late summer’s evening with the sun going down more or less to the north west in a balmy 20°C is a treat (the beer is average and there are more Brits and other foreign football fans than there are Canucks). It’s located on the edge of the beautifully wooded Central Park in Vancouver, it’s a nice walk along the edge of the park from the Skytrain.
However the team has indicated that they wish to relocate to a modern facility, and the proposed waterfront stadium in Downtown Vancouver is unique in many ways, most of which I will write about in full very soon, but the main high lights are;
There is so much to learn from this project that it deserves a post of it’s own, so over the next couple of days I’ll be collating all of the material I have collected on this topic and putting together as close to the true picture as possible, it’s a cautionary tale of what if’s and maybe’s with potential yippie.
The pic below is a rendering of the view from the south looking north out of the stadium across the water to the mountains on the north shore of Vancouver.