William Mercer’s #1 rated city is an architectural blowout
Having recently returned from Barcelona, I found it felt somewhat like a time warp stepping off the plane back onto North American soil. That may sound strange out of context, given that Vancouver is of course a much younger city than Barcelona, but what I mean is that the Barcelona environment feels like 2009, while Vancouver feels more like 1989. Now, I’m not usually one to bad-mouth the place I live, but I think Vancouver gets more than enough positive attention, what with being voted “the most livable city” and all.
Below are a series of shots from Barcelona (and not even one Gaudi is shown).
I’m not sure whether it’s a general lack of interest in design that plagues us here, or if it’s simply a lack of quality architects, but I found myself thinking how I have come to accept the sub-par architecture as the norm. What do we have here in Vancouver that we have to be proud of? (And don’t say the mountains, cuz we didn’t make those!) The Harbour Centre? The Steam Clock? The Vancouver Specials? There seems to be a whole lot of kinda old or kinda average, but nothing really old or really cool (besides our office). Sure, the really old we can’t do much about, so that’s out, but the really cool, we can do something about. It’s not like good design has to cost more. It just has to be good design.
As I sat on the Barcelona hop on hop off bus, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the hoards of people who jump on Vancouver’s hop on hop off bus to do the city tour, only to find themselves overwhelmed by wall to wall cookie cutter leaky condos. Science World is perhaps the only deviation from blah we have, and even that isn’t great. Is it that we are so preoccupied with nature in Vancouver that we forget to create new things? Barcelona is a coastal city surrounded by nature, and yet it manages to decorate the coastline with brilliant man-made structures bridging the worlds of style and functionality. Yes, it has a rich history, and amazing classical architecture too, but works of the last 20 years alone are stunning.
The first Monday back at work from my holiday, I walked by the two Barcelona chairs we have adorning the second floor landing of the office, and caught myself wondering, “What would a Vancouver chair look like?”