Summer vacation found me in Vancouver this year. It is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and interwoven with water. Yet, my first impression was of something amiss. It took me a minute to realize I was sensing a lack of historic context.
As a preservationist and cultural geographer, I am trained to “read” the built environment, to discern the history of place from the landscape and buildings. The overwhelming newness of Vancouver was disconcerting. So much glass and steel. It is heaven for lovers of late-Modern and post-Modern design.
After some exploring and learning about the forces that shaped Vancouver I had my eureka moment. It finally dawned how significant the 1980s and 90s were to the history of this place. Just like smaller, older buildings, the dense and dominating late-modern built environment reflects important stories of immigration, economic prosperity, and community development. Vancouver wasn’t lacking historic context, it just wasn’t the context I expected to find.