Architecture
December 2, 2020

White Supremacy

Daily Scot checking out the massive tech complex by Westbank, going up at 5th and Quebec:

Scot’s excited by the built-in alley, giving its name to the whole project: MainAlley.

But as we’ve asked before: why no colour?  Why, like the sea-green glass that covers almost every highrise since the ’80s, do developers, architects and the city’s urban designers, stick so conservatively with such a limited pallet, with one or two small exceptions?  There must be an architectural rationale, but mostly we hear supposition and speculation.

Further, the brutalist brick block (originally a data processing centre) at the corner of 5th and Quebec is coming down (or covered), so there will a net loss of colour and texture.

This is a three-block project; its impact on this part of the Main Street tech district will be substantial.  And it won’t be the green roofs we see from the street.

 

 

 

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Bloomberg’s Feargus O’Sullivan has been writing an interesting series on housing in world cities. He took a look at Brussels Belgium where instead of opting for tall apartment buildings as a 19th century solution to housing many in the downtown, stone and masonry decorated single family homes were adopted. These houses are tall, thin, and all have entranceways directly onto the street frontage.

These houses are fittingly called “maison de maitre”  or master’s house, for their size and facade splendour and were built and lived in by the “wealthy bourgeois”. Like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, these houses are not grand mansions for the truly rich aristocrat, nor were they as plonky as a standard townhouse. The main floor had three large reception rooms with dividing doors that could open, an open space concept way before its time.

 “The result is an interesting hybrid, combining floor plans reminiscent of London townhouses, plot sizes similar to old Amsterdam and servants attics like in Paris — all brought together with an elaborate, unmistakably Belgian decorative style.”

There’s a lot of ornamentation on the front facade of these structures which can be kindly called a “baroque streak” but were largely influenced by the aesthetic movement.

While Brussels did try a Paris redevelopment plan in their downtown similar to Baron Haussmann’s in the 1860’s, the locals hated “Haussmann-style” apartment living.

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In 2015, Toronto-based developer Cadillac Fairview attempted to get approval for a 26=storey office building at 555 Cordova, shoe-horned up against the east side of Waterfront Station in Vancouver. (Cadillac Fairview owns Waterfront Station, and the proposed building site has been the eastern access and parking lot for the Station since it opened in 1914.)

The building, dubbed the Icepick, was withdrawn in 2015, following wide-spread concerns expressed by the Urban Design Panel and the public.  The proposed site is not a separate building lot and far too small to accommodate a giant office building.

Now Cadillac Fairview is back with Icepick 2, a slightly revised version of the original. Responding to design objections, the developer rotated and pushed the building a little further west and north, slightly reduced its footprint, and made it possible to see and walk through the ground floor.

With these changes, the developer seems intent on getting approval at a Development Permit Board Meeting scheduled for March 22, 2021.

It’s important to know that that in 2009, Council-endorsed Central Waterfront Hub Framework to deal comprehensively with the many issues in this part of the city – our most important transportation hub and a last remaining part of the waterfront still to be connected to the publicly accessible

Because the proposed building is not consistent the Hub Framework, in October 2017, Council approved a program to update the Framework and resolve implementation issues. This work is in progress.

The proposal does not conform to planning guidelines for the area. The most recent proposed building is more than twice the suggested height of 11 stories, and six times the recommended floor space. It overwhelms heritage buildings on either side and provides an uninviting gateway to Historic Gastown.

The Hub Framework requires removing the top of the garage at the end of Granville to provide views of the ocean, mountains, cruise ships and access to a public walkway along the north side of the city.  Cadillac Fairview owns the parkade at the foot of Granville but has not agreed to an extension of Granville Street to the waterfront.

Removing part of the parkade’s top level was a central concept of the original Hub Framework. It would open the street to the waterfront, and provide an opportunity to build a public walkway connecting Stanley Park, the waterfront, Gastown, Chinatown and False Creek. This space at the entrance to Gastown would also make a splendid public plaza.  As the most important transportation hub in the region, this site is critical to the future of the city.

Approving Cadillac Fairview’s latest proposal will preclude the current planning process and seriously undermine future options for the City’s waterfront.  Does it make sense to put approvals before planning? Should a private developer be able to sabotage a public planning and design process?

You can send your views to the Mayor and Council, and to the Development Permit Board through kaveh.imani@vancouver.ca.  And you can send your comments to https://shapeyourcity.ca/555-w-cordova-st.

From notes provided by the Downtown Waterfront Working Group

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Last week I wrote about finding a Vancouver treasure 5,700 kilometres away in Prince Edward Island. It was a post card size photo taken around 1914 of a couple with their son and dog in front of a very handsome craftsman cottage on Clark Drive.

The one clue to the identity of this family was in the inscription on the back of the card which read

“2825 Clark Drive E. Vancouver B.C. A glimpse of us and our new home with units. Kind love and best wishes for a very happy Xmas and New Year to you all. Edie, Arthur, Willie”.

The house is still standing, hidden by a bushy tree, with pink stucco covering the formerly handsome exterior.

I asked readers whether anyone could help identify who Edie, Arthur and Willie were, and whether I could return the image to their family.

What a response I received. Within 24 hours  I knew all about this family and their story, and had found another story of this family  that should be retold for Remembrance Day.

Meet the Millachip Family. The family  came to Vancouver in 1912 from England, and had their son’s christening in London.

Arthur Herriot Millachip  and Edith Eliza Moore had one son, William who was born in  1904 in London United Kingdom. Arthur was a house decorator, a trade he also had in London.  They moved into 2025 Clark Drive in 1913 and lived the rest of their lives in Vancouver. Edith passed away in 1935. Arthur died in North Vancouver in 1959.

Sadly, their son William died in Tranquille British Columbia at the time the facility was a tuberculosis hospital. Arthur did have a brother John who also came to Canada. His story is tragic as well. John signed up with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in 1914 and died in France at the battle of Somme in 1916. I will be writing up the remarkable story of John, and how the men in this  extended family were decimated in war.

The house at 2825 Clark Drive was built around 1909 to 1910, and Frank D. Gore who was a butcher was the first home owner. This information came from @VanalogueYVR who also established that Arthur Millachip was the owner by 1914.

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Several years ago when I was visiting family in Prince Edward Island I saw a Vancouver postcard in a rummage sale. It seemed completely out of context and it was encased in a plastic envelope and it was expensive.

I bought it and held onto it, without doing any research.

The postcard had a surprising subject~there is a house with a craftsman styled front door, ionic columns, stained glass upper windows and a family posed in front of it.

The family is dressed in Edwardian dress, with the mother holding a hand muffler and wearing a scarf. The father has a hat and wears a long suit with a stiff starched shirt collar. The child is in a sailor suit, the type that was very popular in the 1910 to 1920 period. At the family’s feet is a dog that looks like a brittany spaniel.

The card was a custom one, created for this family, showing off their prized asset, their house. And on the back of the card, there was a handwritten inscription:

“2825 Clark Drive E. Vancouver B.C. A glimpse of us and our new home with units. Kind love and best wishes for a very happy Xmas and New Year to you all. Edie, Arthur, Willie”

When I started to research the house I feared that it would be demolished. But it wasn’t. It is still there, near 13th Avenue on the west side of Clark Drive.

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There are two kinds of towns in the Okanagan (and most of BC).

It depends on the provincial roads that connect them.  Some, as in Osoyoos, have a highway that divides the centre-right through its heart.


Very often the highway, like Crowsnest, is literally Main Street – a ‘stroad’ that has looked essentially the same for more than half a century: broad, muscular, low-slung and unambiguous.  Mid-century motordom, which even today, despite attempts to make them more friendly for people not in cars (which is the way most of them got there), are still car dominant.

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This gem provides a ten minute vignette of the 1976 office life of Chicago’s Prudential Building which was built in 1965. At just over 40 storeys it was the first skyscraper built in Chicago after World War Two. This movie introduced by director David Hoffman recalls a time fifty-five years ago when spoken diction was different, job roles more defined, and you could not carry a cell phone loaded with information with you.

People appear to be more softly spoken and you could smoke in an elevator. The telephone is the major communicative currency of this decade’s office, as well as the computer, which the video says is in two million offices in the United States.  A quarter century later,  it was estimated that 68.4 million computers were in offices and in homes, dramatically challenging  the concept of the  office as the one place to “get work done”.

Take a look at the YouTube video below.

 

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Portland’s BLM protests may capture the news, but the Sightline Institute summarizes what their city council is likely to approve today: “the most pro-housing reform to low-density zones in US history.”

Portland’s new rules will also offer a “deeper affordability” option: four to six homes on any lot if at least half are available to low-income Portlanders at regulated, affordable prices. The measure will make it viable for nonprofits to intersperse below-market housing anywhere in the city for the first time in a century.

And among other things it will remove all parking mandates from three quarters of the city’s residential land, combining with a recent reform of apartment zones to essentially make home driveways optional citywide for the first time since 1973.

Portland’s reform will build on similar actions in Vancouver and Minneapolis, whose leaders voted in 2018 to re-legalize duplexes and triplexes, respectively; in Seattle, where a 2019 reform to accessory cottages resulted in something very close to citywide triplex legalization; and in Austin, whose council passed a very similar sixplex-with-affordability proposal in 2019.

But Portland’s changes are likely to gradually result in more actual homes than any of those milestone reforms.

Full story here.

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