Building An Idea

“This is no demure Canadian exhibition. This is architecture as performance art.”
- The Guardian, London, June 2008

“In terms of dynamic urbanism and architecture, Vancouver is in North America’s avant-garde, its influence spreading from Dallas to Dubai.”
- Architectures a Vivre, Paris, Nov 2008

After showings in London and Paris, the Vancouverism exhibition comes home in time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games – a mirror for our most innovative design and city-building, a catalyst for debate and reflection. With photographs, drawings, videos, scale models, and full size building details, it will show in Woodwards’ Atrium, East Cordova Street between Cambie and Abbott.

Look for the opening dates/hours for this free public exhibition, plus booking information for our special program of talks and “City Salons” co-sponsored with SFU Woodwards, including “Arthur Erickson’s Vancouver.”

Trevor Boddy
Vancouverism Curator and Producer
September 2009

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"Vancouverism is characterized by tall, but widely separated, slender towers interspersed with low-rise buildings, public spaces, small parks and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and facades to minimize the impact of a high density population."
-The New York Times, December 28, 2005

The word first entered the argot of American architects and city planners over the past decade, who began speaking of "Vancouverizing" their under-populated, un-loved urban cores, seeking inspiration from Canada's Pacific portal's re-development successes. Our city has become first a verb, and now, an ideology promoting an urbanism of density and public amenity. Vancouverism at its best brings together a deep respect for the natural environment with high concentrations of residents. Within condominium residential towers downtown and courtyard and boulevard-edging mid-rise buildings elsewhere in the city, Vancouverites are learning to live tightly together; a healthy, engaging - even thrilling place.

Not Asia, not Europe, not even North America, but a new kind of city living with elements from all of these - a hybrid that now demands to be taken on its own terms. In the language of city-building, "Vancouverism" is fast replacing "Manhattanism" as the maximum power setting for shaping the humane mixed-use city, important ideas for a new era of scarce energy and diminished natural resources.

The architecture of Vancouverism begins with a single sketch by a young design professor whose entire built career to date consisted of but one small house for an artist. Arthur Erickson's pencil sketch for "Plan 56" imagines a downtown Vancouver of soaring residential towers - a hyper-concentration of buildings and people imagined for this then-sleepy outpost - and unthinkable by anyone but him.

Over his next half century of architecture and civic public commentary, Arthur Erickson has constantly pushed Vancouver into its new status as Pacific metropolis, a world city in the making. Architects Bing Thom and James Cheng, plus engineers Paul Fast and Gerry Epp are longtime Erickson associates who have extended, improved and tested these ideas - with dense and lively new hearts for suburbs or multi-ethnic neighbourhoods, new configurations of housing and building uses found no-where else. New ideas, new forms, new designs: welcome to Vancouver.

Dennis Sharp and Trevor Boddy
Vancouverism Co-Curators
June 24, 2008