Loading articles...

New book looks at how a local design firm uses architecture to affect social change

Last Updated Aug 21, 2016 at 2:09 pm PDT

(Source: Henriquez Partners)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Architecture can be more than designing buildings, it can be about shaping communities, hopefully for the better according to a new book.

Citizen City, Vancouver’s Henriquez Partners Challenges Architects to Engage in Partnerships that Advance Cultural Sustainability looks at the social impact of 10 projects by the local firm.

Some of them never made it off the drawing board, including a proposed “passerelle” over False Creek.

“So, the idea was to design a bike bridge,” explains co-author Gregory Henriquez, “which would be right beside the Burrard Bridge and be something that could actually alleviate some of this traffic congestion and at the same time be safer for cyclists and connect into the Seawall on both sides.”

Ultimately, the city decided it was less expensive to add bike lanes to the Burrard Bridge itself than to go through with the “passerelle” scheme, but Henriquez still feels it was an instructive exercise.

“It was part of a civic dialogue that I think architects should participate in,” he says.

Henriquez is probably most proud of 250 Powell Street, an old remand centre on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that has since been converted into social housing.

“Because if there’s one message you could send to future generations about the present is that we’re turning jails into community housing, he explains. “Instead of incarcerating people, we’re housing them. So, I think it’s a really good news story.”

The book doesn’t just cover the successes though, but some of the challenges too, including The Lauren building at Comox and Broughton.

“Unfortunately, the West End, having not seen very much change over the course of the last 30 years became very concerned that somehow this was the beginning of something much larger,” Henriquez recalls. “So we ended up with a 10,000 signature petition asking for a West End plan. They got their West End plan but we also got the project approved as well, so I think the right thing happened all the way around.”

So what’s next for the Citizen City? Henriquez says increasing engagement among all stakeholders, from policymakers to ordinary people.

“So, we have to make sure that all voices are heard so the city doesn’t become only for the wealthy, nor does it become a walled city where different nationalities from around the world aren’t embraced and welcomed.”

Look for Citizen City, available in stores and online now.