Sense of Belonging Through Architecture | 8th August 2011 | 11:48 PDT

Looking at north towards Downtown from False Creek, you can't help but think to yourself... What a truly uninspiring skyline. There are a few buildings that are an exception to the rule and if you look very very carefully you can notice subtle changes in order to keep these towers “unique”.

False Creek (via

You can vaguely read a storyline that goes along with the skyline in general, however its storyline has appeared to have gotten lost and lazy, like the film from Dusk til Dawn, where only half the film was written and they 'winged' the rest.

Once upon a time, initially sturdy tall brick buildings with presence, character and creativity were developed, this was a beacon for Vancouver and its existence to separate it from neighbouring cities, Seattle and Victoria.

People noticed, they and industry flocked here in great volumes, so appalling grey (with some cases hints of colour) concrete residential blocks that were quick to erected were built to cope with demand, office buildings with strong design nods of the time, that were also erected with a bit more panache and care than their residential counterparts, due to their obvious reasons that they would represent a company for many years to come.

Marine Building (via

Time rolled on in this fashion, and somewhere along the line a forest of grey/blue tinted glass nonsense started to appear and spread like wildfire around the city without any care to placement, story, purpose, as if the council just gave up caring for the city and instead started to throw glass at a map of Downtown to decide their next build project.

My issue with these new buildings, other than being so grey in a city that appears to be constantly shaded by grey clouds on a daily basis due to its rain forest location, and that is something that is increasingly becoming more common in modern architecture. It's just that it doesn't mean anything, I find they really dilute what lies beneath Vancouver's proud skin as a city where cultures combine and come together and work well together (from what I've seen).

This is a city full of lost souls, there's around 90% of the population of Vancouver that are not from here, all looking for a new start within familiar territory and at 125 years old, still in an feet-finding transition to define them, but the city holds them back. To me it seems there needs to be that man-made structure/sculpture to inspire, focus and motivate people.

This lack of focus and definition is probably the reason why people are so rude, and people instantly think it's a boring city, they have no purpose or focus in the world, there's nothing that represents them to everyone else and says “I'm here and mean businesses”

The trees, mountains and water is a great unique feature for any city to have, but they don't represent the people who pour sweat into this metropolis in order to make it functioning – that's all mother nature's doing. Saying that, this city does require this new structure to be sympathetic to its surroundings of beautiful natural landscaping.

For me, the tallest building (in most cases) define a city and its people or at least that one signature building that defines a city. The tallest building here the Shangri-La Hotel, could be thrown into any city and disappear, it's a heavy duty block blotting the landscape with this weird cubed wart hanging off the top of it... At the moment the only new building of any creativity is the Harbour Centre, which looks like a poor man's Space Needle in Seattle.

Harbour Centre (via

Why didn't the architects, when designing the Shangri-La, take into account the natural landscape of trees, and mountains and create a building to reflect that and that Vancouver is a melting pot of different cultures that within its city limits to create something unique to Vancouverites as supposed to something safe and plain.

In my opinion, something like London's Shard would be perfect for the city as a new beacon of it's up and coming power within North America, yet staying true to the mountainous and forest filled backdrop. Unfortunately this will never happen due to rich residents loving their mountain view too much, Hong Kong seemed to have intertwined high rises and natural beauty together, so why can't Vancouver?

London Shard in Vancouver by day

London Shard in Vancouver by night

I did however have a chance meeting in Starbucks chat with one of city's urban planner, I said my piece about the uninspiring skyline and the mass expanse of grey and the cities lack of focal points and something that represents the city.

I was shocked to hear that he actually agreed with me on these issues and he went on to say about the highrises, there's nothing in the budget (not sure who's - the council's or architectural firm's) to create beautiful buildings in Vancouver, as nearly all of the budget goes on "Marketecture" - making the each residential apartment look nice in order to sell them.

He said their research results showed that people have very little interest/care in the exterior looks of buildings in Vancouver. His final statement was "But the city does need more colour and dynamism. So, the first architect to put forward a big red building, it'll will get instant approval" - I told him he missed the point ever so slightly but seemed happy with his red building idea.

So, there you go Vancouver, look forward to your big red building coming on a block near you!

Big red Trump tower on False Creek (looking forward to seeing this...)

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