I have really enjoyed my week on Price Tags and I hope you have too! For my last article as guest editor I have been weighing some thoughts about the form and material of architecture in our city. I have noticed that certain forms and materials breed a sense of attachment to Vancouver and the West Coast. Consider how you feel when you sense cedar, old growth timbers, salmon, local granite or sandstone, copper roofs (sorry, the Sun Tower is just teal paint!), rain, or a long house. What similarities do these have with each other? Can we learn anything that we can apply to architectural design?

A recent book, titled Vancouver Matters edited by Christa Min, James Eidse, Lori Kiessling, and Joey Giaimo, investigates a collection of materials and moments novel to Vancouver in “a study of the city’s urban discourse to see how it can be changed to help Vancouver live up to its legend”. I highly recommend that local designers should read this book. City of Glass by Douglas Coupland follows a similar trajectory: identifying important and intangible aspects of the city.

I have continued the themes of these books with my own research. As part of my exploration I made a series of “cognitive maps” in an attempt to identify what captures the essence of our city. I have attached a few related images from my work below:

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In an extension of this research, I attempted to map some of these moments onto two unsolicited, speculative designs for the Vancouver Art Gallery (with the assumption that the project will go forward at Larwill Park). My first design was inspired by the work of architect Alvar Aalto, a master of evoking a shared memory in his home country of Finland. The design included local andesite and copper (inspired by the Hotel Vancouver and Marine Building), with cedar interiors and sandstone floors, logs, tall conifers, and dappled forest light.

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The second design was a challenge to the weakest characteristics of the city. A tower with minimal glass, artists-in-residence sharing floors with market units, no poor doors, a shared lobby, a penthouse dedicated to the art gallery, a diverse public realm electrified by the arts scene, and most importantly (for me) an institution well positioned to highlight a progressive urban agenda through the medium of art.

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I hope some of my writing has got you thinking about our architectural scene in Vancouver and its prospective future. Best,

James AV Bligh