This is so Vancouver: it took an outsider from Boston to tell a Vancouver audience that the City of Vancouver itself has won an award named after one of the world’s great urbanists, Kevin Lynch.
Alan Berger, the speaker at the VIA Architecture on Urban Design last night, mentioned in passing that the City had received the award at MIT last week. (Actually, it was Ray Spaxman, Ann McAfee and Larry Beasley who were there to take the honours. You can see the ceremony and remarks here.) That was news to the assembled crowd, consisting of many of the city’s architects and planners.
No coverage in the local media, of course – at least that I saw.
While this is a big deal, Berger, a Harvard Design School associate professor and author of Drosscape, warned us that the Vancouver Style – unique to this place, its circumstances and its times – should “remain a secret.” The worst thing that could happen, in his opinion, is for the point-and-podium style to be picked up or exported to places where it was not appropriate or would be badly done. Which is likely what is actually happening.
To award Vancouver with the Kevin Lynch Award for urbanism is suitable for the city, being one of Canada’s best urbanism examples.
But I stop short there, because the city is a far cry from becoming a success any longer. Fears that the beloved podium/tower typology is actually destroying the urbanism of the city are quite true. Trevor Boddy’s article “Downtown’s Last Resort,” in Canadian Architect (Aug/o6) opens ones eye to Vancouver’s rapid expansion of residential living in the downtown core.
Vancouver is running itself into a “bedroom” community in the downtown; where it’s 4 times more profitable to build a condo than building an office tower.
Vancouver can enjoy its award for now, but if it doesn’t wake up to the fact that businesses are leaving at a alarming rate, all its going to be is a first rate poto-suburb.
Vancouver woke up a long time ago. The question is what to do about it. They City took one step by raising only the residential property tax rate this year.
Revenues are even 5 times higher in residential developments than in commercial ones.