Imagine if the West End had never been zoned for highrises. Imagine, instead, if through the 1940s and ’50s, we rebuilt the square mile west of Burrard with apartment buildings like this:
So from the 1940s on, it would continue to look like this:
And eventually, with replacement of the original houses by three- to five-storey apartment blocks on small lots, look like this:
That’s the White City of Tel Aviv – after the great expansion of the city to the north based on the 1925 Geddes Plan. (For the UNESCO description of the Geddes Plan, go here. For insight on its architecture, go here.) In a couple of decades, TLV built over four thousand International or ‘Bauhaus’ style apartment blocks in an area somewhat the same as the West End: dense and mixed use, as well as walkable, well-located and with even better beaches.
Whether West End walk-up or Tel Aviv flat, its urbanism reflects a global style after the Second World War at a time of intense housing demand: simple boxes, clean lines, cheap to construct, maximized density, and, without elevators, no more than five storeys.
Here’s a mix of West End and TLV apartment blocks:
The West End’s commercial streets (Robson, Davie, Denman) were laid out with the same 66-foot right-of-way as all its residential streets – but after the arrival of the streetcar, were lined with one or two-storey commercial frontages. The White City’s arterial streets are wider but built out with the same style apartments as its residential streets.
This is what many urbanists like Patrick Condon call for along all our arterials: mid-rise rather than highrise buildings. It is what TLV did from the beginning of its urban expansion.
Today, by the way, the West End appears to be about double the population density of the White City.