If you haven’t already been enjoying the television programming on BC’s public funded Knowledge Network, I have a reason for urban aficionados to tune in.

Among the great docs Knowledge features, one of note for PT readers is Waterfront Cities of the World, a Gemini award-winning program of ports from Marseille to Cape Town, and Vancouver to Dakar, produced by Quebec’s DBcom Media.

So what’s the best episode?  There are many great cities profiled, and the show’s format is superb, but for planners, architects, and urban designers in Metro Vancouver, I would start with the episode of Hamburg (Season 3, Episode 8), where the massive HafenCity redevelopment is profiled.

Developed over the past 12 years and still evolving, HafenCity (Harbour City) is the conversion of 155 hectares of abandoned industrial land into a well-programmed mix of roughly 60% commercial, 30% high density dwellings, and the remaining institutional use.

The City of Hamburg owns the land, selling parcels to developers through a Crown Corporation. Developers compete for the right to build, following strict design guidelines.

Of note to Vancouver: for the residential component, no speculation is allowed. The city sells the land to homeowners who intend to live/work in the community for a low entry price, with a contract mandating they cannot flip the property.

Take note of the architectural typologies, integration of historic industry, the materials used both on the ground and in the sky, and the successful public space.  Inspiration for another rainy northern climate city, Vancouver.

HafenCity broke ground around the same time as Vancouver’s Olympic Village, and the differences between the developments are notable.  Perhaps there are some lessons here for NE False Creek, if it’s not too late…

Canadian residents can watch all five seasons by setting up a free account with the Knowledge Network, and viewing here.

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