History & Heritage
October 28, 2010

Carl Elefante: the Heritage and Sustainability Nexus

Carl Elefante is the guy who coined the phrase: “The greenest building is the one that is already built.”   He is Director of Sustainable Design at Qunin Evans Architects, Washington, D.C.

At an upcoming lecture at SFU, he’ll be asking (and answering) the question: “What is the cultural, economic, environmental sustainability of older buildings”

FREE public lecture: Renewal + Transformation – Heritage conservation practice integrated with the quest for a sustainable way of life.   7 pm – Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 – SFU Harbour Centre    More here.  Register here.   _____________________________________________________   Also, there’s this symposium: THE HERITAGE & SUSTAINABILITY NEXUS AGENDA   Opening address by Carl Elefante: Valuing our Built Heritage’ addressing environmental, economic, and social sustainability.  
  • Dan Roberts:  Existing Buildings and Green Up
  • Three new Vancouver case studies demonstrating best practices in sustainable rehabilitation of older buildings with poster exhibit
  • Greenest City 2020, Andrea Reimer, COV Councillor
  • Presentation of NOW house, Lorraine Gauthier, CMHC

    November 5, 9 am- 5 pm – Wosk Centre for Dialogue

    Register Online at: http://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org/

    Heritage and Sustainability Nexus is organized by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.

    Read more »

    It’s back!


    The 2009 inaugural tour was sold out and saw over 600 ticket holders visit five homes open on tour. Feedback was so positive that the Vancouver Heritage Foundation has committed to holding this event annually.

    Saturday, September 25th, 2010 – 12-5 pm

    Register here.

    PRE-TOUR LECTURE Tuesday, September 21st, 7 pm

    Unitarian Church, 949 West 49th Avenue (@ Oak Street)

    (included in the price of your ticket when purchased in August*)

    Architect Stephanie Robb of Pechet and Robb Art & Architecture will present her perspective on 10 years of work on Vancouver Specials including a preview of one of the houses on tour. Coupled with the presentation of Robb’s latest project will also be the story of a Do-It-Yourself Special renovation on E 22nd Avenue by homeowner and photographer Scott Massey.


    *Pre-tour lecture is $10 if purchased without a tour ticket

    Sign up for the pre-tour lecture here
    or by calling 604.264.9642

    Don’t know what a ‘Vancouver Special’ is?  Now you will:

    The ubiquitous Vancouver Special is a fixture in our city’s landscape, predominantly an east side phenomenon. With their flat fronts, boxy shapes, and low pitched roofs, these homes are regionally unique as they were designed to optimize the use of a 33 ft. wide city lot under the RS-1 District Zoning Schedule in the 1960s and 1970s.

    The Specials first appeared circa 1965 and multiplied to over 10,000 (est.) examples by 1985. The original stock-plan design, probably drafted in collaboration with local builders and often adjusted to adapt to various lot sizes or client needs, maximized the floor space the City’s zoning would allow at the time and was sold in vast numbers.

    In the late 1970s, a house plan for a Special could be bought at a stock plan office for about $65. In those days, all the information required for a building permit (including elevations) could fit onto one sheet. Given the regularity this design was submitted at City Hall, permits were issued in no time. In the 1960s and 70s it was not unusual for a Special to be built in just a few weeks.

     More here.     Read more »

    This is impressive:

    Sharing the honour with the Smithsonian Institute, the City of Burnaby Archives is the winner of ArchivesNext’s “Best Re-purposing of Descriptive Data” award for “Charting Change:” An Interactive Atlas of Burnaby’s Heritage” initiative.

    Go ahead, click here.  It’s Friday afternoon; kill an hour.  And find out something new about something old.

    Read more »

    John Atkin, civic historian and author, writes:

    After having so much fun with Velopalooza this summer, I’ve added a bike tour to my usual Wednesday Night Heritage walks schedule on August 25th. We’re biking the Hastings Townsite from the Burrard Waterfront to the Grandview Highway. It starts at 7:00pm til dusk at 9:00pm and it will be a gentle pace, nothing too strenuous. Details here

    As well I’ve been asked by Mountain View to do a bike tour on the 22nd. of the cemetery, here’s the text from their press release:

    Join us for a bike tour of Mountain View Cemetery. It’s a chance to wheel through 124 years of history and take in all of the cemetery’s 106 acres.

     $10pp. 15 yrs and under = free!

    August 22nd, 10:00am

    Meet at Celebration Hall in the cemetery

    Read more »

    An update from James Johnstone:

    This past Monday I made a presentation at the City of Vancouver Archives, a virtual walking tour of the old West End, using 260 of the City of Vancouver  Archives and Vancouver Public Library’s archival images. 45 people attended and as a result of that show I have been asked to re-present the talk sometime in August for the West End Neighbours group. Time and place TBA.

    As a follow up to the presentation, I will be debuting my West End Neighbourhood History Walking Tour this Saturday, July 24th at 10 am and 2 pm. I will be using quite a few (but not all 260) images I used at my presentation during the tour.

    It costs $20 per person for about a 2 – 2.5 hour tour.

    The starting point for both tours this Saturday is from in front of O’Doul’s (SW corner of Robson and Jervis) and the tours end up at The Sylvia Hotel on English Bay.

    Here is the link to my Walking Tour blog.

    Read more »

    A few additions to the City Hall post below.

    The Canada Line station has some cutsey public art: the always-popular cow.

    Given that it’s ‘public art,’ there must be something sardonic or ironic about it.   Escapes me, though.

    Same with this:

    While it’s a fine idea to cover the Hydro boxes, typically placed for maximum awkwardness, I don’t get the starfish reference. 

    Then there’s the wall:

    Some at City Hall preferred a totally landscaped berm along the Cambie side of the park, while others argued that this design was more consistent with the heritage of the Hall, right down to the rough-hewn look of the concrete.  About such things are many hours spent and memos written.

    Finally, the redesigned block of 10th Avenue indicates how our bikeways are evolving: a one-way single lane for cars, with separated lanes for bikes on both sides.

    Read more »

    The non-political ones, that is.  And certainly the biggest change is the Canada Line.  City Hall is now five minutes or less from downtown, and its front entrance has shifted from south on 12th Avenue to north on 11th.   Along with the reconstruction of Cambie Street, the City has built a new and welcoming entrance across from the station.

    Crossing the north lawn, two changes: angled benches now line the walkway.  And though they face north and have no view, they’re still heavily patronized on warm days.

    The second change: a community garden.  Ridiculed by those who would patronize City Hall’s commitment to a green agenda (chickens, anyone?), the garden is an indicator of a more profound change in the way we use public space.  Agriculture is returning to the city.  Urban people have historically fed themselves with local produce, and only in the last generation or two has that tradition somehow seemed exceptional.  No longer.

    The best addition to the Hall itself is a contribution of the City Archives – historic photos from their collection, capturing the attention of those waiting for the historic elevators.

    Read more »


    Join me on May 18th for a panel discussion on how to respond to West Vancouver’s changing housing needs and an exploration of new housing types…

    “Housing That Fits Us and Fits In” – A free public forum on Housing

    Tuesday, May 18th – 7:00 to 9:00pm at the Kay Meek Centre, 1700 Mathers Avenue, West Vancouver

     (Doors Open at 6:00pm with information displays in the foyer) 

     The event will be moderated by Gordon Price.  Speakers include: Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Michael Geller, Noha Sedky, Robert Brown, and Adine Mees (see attached poster for details)

     For more information about the District of West Vancouver’s Housing Pilot Program, please go to www.westvancouver.ca/housing or contact the Planning Department at 604.925.7055


    May 23, 2010 10:00 am
    $10pp – cash only please
    Meet at Celebration Hall and Courtyard – 5445 Fraser St/39th
    Come Meet the Masons – the Masonic Section: tour by John Atkin

    The two and a half acre Masonic section of Mountain View Cemetery was set aside for the use of the Masons in Vancouver in 1902 and was administered and maintained by them until the early 1960s. The Masonic Section features some of the more elaborate monuments in the cemetery and many well known Vancouver names including Ladner, Bell Irving, Horne, Blackmore, Bowser and others.

    Remember Me As You Pass By – Tour of the 1919 Addition: tour by Lorraine Irving

    “We will visit the graves of Joe Fortes and Janet Smith who both died in the 1920s. Janet Smith’s murder has never been officially solved and two books have been written about her death. When Joe Fortes died he was described as the guardian of children at English Bay. We will also visit the first Sons of Italy monument, Firemen’s Benefit Association monument, accidental deaths and another murder.”

    Read more »

    For those who like architecture and history, one  of the best places to visit in Vancouver is Mountain View Cemetary.

    Mountain View is literally a depository of Vancouver’s history – one that is breaking down the psychological barriers as it becomes a more welcoming place for both the neighbourhoods that surround it and for the city. 

    Reflecting that is the new Celebration Hall (the name says it all).  It’s a fine example of a certain style of Vancouver modernism.  Lots of concrete, of course, that creates a place for reflection and, yes, celebration.

    Even more appealing as an example of landscaping and architecture is the new columbaria:

    As it happens, there’s an event coming up on April 24, 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, for those interested in matters related to dying and death. 

    Regardless of your interests, the cemetary is one of the great green spaces of the lower mainland.   And one of the most memorable.

    Thanks to Robin Naiman.

    Read more »

    Miro Cernetig writes in today’s Sun about a rapidly changing Vancouver to come.   

    They’re working on multi-billion-dollar plans to fundamentally remake the city, a development boom that will unfold over the next few years and rival what happened after Expo 86. The skyline will never be the same.

    Really?  What surprises me about Vancouver, given its youth, is how much it stays the same. 

    Here are some shots, all taken in the 1960s (that’s half a century ago, kids), of Vancouver street scenes:

    300-block West Pender

     800-block Granville

    900-block Granville

    900-block Granville

    2000-block West 41st

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but except for the signage and the cars, not much has changed.  I’d guess that almost every building in these shots is still there.  Certainly, the overall look hasn’t changed that much – something that arguably might be true for the majority of the streets in the city.

    Read more »