The Emblematic Nature Of Your Neighbourhood’s Architecture

June 1, 2011.

by Scott Daniel | The City is inviting Vancouverites to submit ideas for neighbourhood emblems. Or, to use the intensely urban verbiage the current council is known for, they want you to “Tag Your Hood“. This is all well and good, but when you travel east to west through this “city of neighbourhoods,” it seems there are already some pretty distinct architectural emblems that leave no doubt as to where you are…

Shaughnessy: Rounded Mansard Roof

I’d never noticed these peculiar roof adornments before…if you cycle the Cypress/Angus St. bike route through Shaughnessy, they’re everywhere. An understated, elegant type of opulence. Just like, I imagine, the residents of this neighbourhood perceive themselves. And they let in some light to refract through the chandeliers. Duh.

Kits: Put a Peak On It!

According to Exploring Vancouver, Kitsilano developed as a, “less expensive suburban alternative to the West End…with gabled roofs picturesque and not boring.”

In the 90’s, builders who wanted/needed their developments to conform to the neighbourhood character went overboard. They ran with the Put.A.Peak.On.It! approach. Some of them do fit, but more often than not the peaks add a lot of visual clutter and almost distract from the picturesque bungalow next door.

South Granville: A Cozy Pile of Bricks

South Granville has a bunch of warm brick apartment blocks. You can imagine the unique smell of the corridors even from outside. I always wanted to live in one, but at the same time, what’s with the No Balconies policy that they all seem to have? I know the weather can suck here, but gimme at least a juliet or something!

Fairview: Post-Tarp Pastel

The leaky condo craze that swept the city seemed to impact Fairview more than anywhere else. It’s said people would live and die by the phrase, “tarpé diem.” Now that the tarps are gone, we can re-join the 90’s nostalgia fetish that seems to be taking over at Urban Outfitters.

Yaletown: Shoebox City

People will pay almost any price to live in a shoebox if it’s close to the beautiful, the creative, the professional-hockey playing set. And it used to be the place to be!

The West End: Deco Apartments

Photo by Crankspanker

The West End is teeming with great examples of Art Deco apartment design. The colourful adornments, curved facades, chrome stoops, and focus on all that is horizontal make it a great place to walk and admire on your way to the pitch-n-putt.

Strathcona: Artist in Residence

The annual Culture Crawl invites Vancouverites to walk among the bohemian residents of Strathcona in their expressive habitats. Ancient grains soaking in the kitchen, surrealist sculptures in the workshop. All in a community-oriented, working class neighbourhood close to downtown.

East Van: Special

East Vancouver is experiencing a renaissance, and that’s a good thing. Stuff like This Is East Van and The revitalised Waldorf (and a million things besides) point to a fresh, vibrant art scene. But it can also get kind of annoying, what with all the sanctimonious East-Van-is-so-much-more-“real”-than-wherever-you-live chatter. Still, there are worse things than sanctimony.

What is more iconic than the East Van Special? Modern. Utilitarian. Real. Designers are starting to do some really interesting things with them. It’s such a great emblem…heck, there’s even an East Van Specials hockey team! And I can assure you, most of the players are quite sanctimonious.

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