Almost half a century after it was designed and built, the South Shore of False Creek – a reflection of the values and optimism of the Seventies – has matured in both its housing stock (and the leases under which much of it was financed) and in its landscaping, which now more than ever has a quality that without exaggeration can be called idyllic:
While much of the attention is deservedly on the current residents and mixed-income housing in the community, and how the City-owned leaseholds can be reconciled with the value of the land and the opportunity to provide much more housing, there’s another aspect to the neighbourhood that is just as important and adds another layer of complexity.
The landscape design of the South Shore is as remarkable as its architectural and urban design – as good an example of how modernism was rejected for a more naturalized approach, both in its use of materials and the luxuriant quality of the planting. A west-coast garden city combined with the English 18th-century landscape style, as if Capability Brown had been given this contract instead of Chatsworth.
All parties agree that there will be additional housing provided somewhere on the site – but no doubt there will be a desire to restore, rebuild or replan to a similar scale and purpose as the original to maintain what is now heritage character. South False Creek, it can be argued, is one of the best examples of Seventies design in North America, and it is still largely intact in every respect.
So where is new development to go on a scale that reflects the housing emergency? How could opportunity be forgone in order to protect (a) the scale and character of the existing housing, mostly below the treeline, (b) the expansive flow of open spaces and landscaping, (c) the views from Fairview Slopes above and the corridors which cross the site.
Something’s got to give.