Vancouver Islands

Team: Jessie Andjelic, Albert Dijk and Philip Vandermey

At the end of July the City of Vancouver accepted proposals for the ideas competition Re:think Housing. Rethink was an ideas competition initiated in order to “generate a broader discussion of possibilities for Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis.” With this goal in mind, Meta Vancouverism and Vancouver Islands were submitted by Jessie Andjelic, Albert Dijk and Philip Vandermey as grenade projects in response to perceived contradictions within dominant themes of Vancouver urban planning – affordability, sustainability, nature, speculative urbanism, sprawl and the condo rush.

Vancouver – Immaculate Holy City of Nature
Vancouver is energetically and creatively marketed as a city surrounded by untouched raw natural beauty. Clean, green and invariably livable, Vancouver isn’t recognizable for its urban space and civic monuments as much as for its panoramic views towards towering mountains, impenetrable forests and glistening bays. Yet, although dense in comparison with other Western North American cities, Vancouver’s suburbs are creeping inexhaustibly over irreplaceable farmland and ecosystems. The resulting commutes and extended infrastructures are highly wasteful, reducing the quality of life of Vancouverites who cannot afford or prefer not to live in the inner city, and creating enormous amounts of waste while using huge amounts of energy and material. Although the Board of the Greater Vancouver Regional District is attempting to enforce an “Urban Containment Boundary”, allowable development outside of The Boundary includes “low density residential development, small scale commercial, industrial and institutional uses […], recreation areas, ski hills and other tourist recreation areas”. It is clear that some types of nature count more than others – specifically those that provide expansive and exclusive views to the North from the downtown and inner city suburbs.

Vancouver Islands
Rugged mountains and pristine bodies of water surround a metropolis that boasts diverse cultures and industries. These endearing natural qualities are part of the equation that ensures Vancouver remains consistently at or near the top of livability ranking lists. But the very qualities that draw tourists and new residents have limited Vancouver’s capacity for spatial growth. As a result,Vancouver’s density is high for North America and the region. The results are mostly positive; spatially constrained cities tend to be more dense and walkable, which is the case in parts Vancouver. Yet, Vancouver also has the most expensive housing market in North America; it’s cheaper to live in New York City. The question is, how to maintain the quality of life Vancouver offers while finding possibilities to grow and cool the housing market? Vancouver’s original boroughs began near the water and expanded inland over time. Since the center is located near the water, those Vancouverites living at the perimeter have to commute for more than an hour each way if they work downtown. What if we considered expanding the city in the other direction?

Artificial islands could provide new space for development directly adjacent to the center, including affordable housing schemes, while also providing new connections between neighborhoods. Such schemes have been proposed and realized in cities with spatial growth constraints around the globe. In fact,Vancouver has already reclaimed space for growth from the sea. Granville Island was formed by adding 760 000 cubic meters of fill dredged from False Creek. Sustainable strategies including renewable energy generation and on site waste processing, as well as providing a growth alternative to sprawl, can make Vancouver a world leading innovational city. Further, by relocating port activities from their existing location to optimized shipping islands, 16.7 kilometers of coastline around Vancouver Harbour, some of the most expensive real estate in the city, can be reclaimed for housing, clean industries, recreation spaces, educational and cultural institutions.

© 2013 Buro A.D.