24 Hours column: What happened to Vancouver House?

Post by Mike Klassen in


vancouver-house-vplThe artist rendering (right) supplied by the City of Vancouver a year ago shows the original concept for Vancouver House, the city's showcase pavilion. According to Vancouver Public Library board meeting minutes from last April, Vancouver House would overtake the Central Library promenade, and it would be "an inclusive, interactive experience".

We know now that this didn't happen, and I write about the "political meddling, last minute changes and wasted tax payer dollars" involved in creating Vancouver House in my latest 24 Hours column.

The approval of the location at the VPL Central Branch by city council in February 2009 was a curious one, given that it's next to a key Federal government building. While it would have been amazing to see Vancouver celebrated in this iconic structure, all adorned with unique lighting and video displays outside, one wonders how they would have pulled it off without disrupting library services during the Games.

The saga of Vancouver House includes many strange twists, such as last summer's decision to move it from the Central Library to LiveCity Downtown, the secure site on West Georgia & Cambie. Of course, the marketing brochure for Gregor Robertson's "Green Capital" concept ended up at LiveCity Yaletown. As I said in the 24 Hours article, one disappointment about the house was "there was no reference to what really makes Vancouver great – its history, its neighbourhoods, or its people."

However, this council report from last spring proves that there was a much more proud and robust representation of the city planned for the pavilion:

Vancouver House will provide the City of Vancouver with an outstanding venue to promote Vancouver’s assets to the world – our people, our community and our vibrant local economy. It will do so within the context of the magnificent indoor and outdoor public spaces at the Library Square.

Located steps away from the downtown live site celebration site and the two Olympic venues (Canada Place and BC Place) – Vancouver House will showcase our City’s leadership in the areas of new media innovation and sustainability; to business and industry leaders, the world’s media and our own community.

The report goes on to describe what would have been an amazing display of what makes Vancouver great:

The Vancouver House will be an immersive, interactive experience, set in the dramatic atrium of the downtown central library. It will be open to the public daily, from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, February 12 to 28, 2010 and free to all.

The Vancouver House will be about Vancouver’s heart and soul, as defined through the expressions of our people, art and culture: from our First Nations beginnings, through our multicultural evolution, to a vibrant cosmopolitan city of creativity and vision, driven by a sustainable ethos. It will combine discovery and interaction with an immersive lightmedia experience.

Not only will our House showcase the latest successes in Vancouver’s digital business community, it will also demonstrate our commitment to inclusiveness and creativity, by providing a world-class experience while retaining the essential function of the host environment as an accessible library and public space. Library patrons will continue to have unrestricted access and normal library operating hours and services will be maintained.

On the east side of the venue, the areas leased to the existing businesses will be delineated by a flowing light wall, allowing for their continued operation.

The themes were in place to show off a city that is diverse, and innovative. They titled it "The World Lives Here" and "The World Creates Here". I think of those 2 guys from Punxsutawney, PA that I met on the Aquabus who had fallen in love with Vancouver. I wonder what they would have felt if they had seen a Vancouver House that really reflected my city.

Of course, it's all woulda, coulda, shoulda now. Vancouver House would have been more suitably named Gregor's Green House, and not after our city. As I state in the 24 Hours column today, perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this story is that the city will not even have a representative pavilion during the Paralympic Games. We're the Host City – how does that make sense?


Gregor's green house. LOL. That one had me splitting a gut.

another example of wasted dollars in a time when the city budget is out of control - sigh. How much money went into the garbage with the change in plans?

One of Vancouver's biggest assets, it's diverse neighbourhoods were left in the dust as a result of these changes. Now,Vancouver begins and ends to the world at Robson Square and Whistler Village. What a wasted opportunity.

So much for showing Vancouver to the world.

In my opinion, this new city government doesn't do very well including the elderly and the disabled.
Ironically Vancouver is the most disabled friendly city.It was this way before VISION.(they can't take credit for that one).
The disabled travel, spend money, eat, go to concerts,own businesses,are interested in going Green etc, etc,.Seems shortsighted on the city's part, and perhaps more opportunity lost.
Thankfully the world remembers Sam Sullivan gracefully, and graciously waving the flag in Turin...welcoming everyone in the world to come to Vancouver, because we are so inclusive.

The mayor might want to consider sticking to selling fruit drinks. I love this city, however it's hard to include any of the recent administrations at City Hall. What a waste of a truly valuable opportunity to present Vancouver in a meaningful way to the World.

You said it... considering how it's now hosting the Paralympic Games, it's ironic how unfriendly the City can be for the disabled.

When Granville street was getting renovated, there were quite a few open pits left unattended and unmarked for weeks on end. Any vision-impaired citizens (or anyone else for that sake!) could have easily fallen into one of them. Pedestrians also had no choice but to walk right into oncoming traffic to in order cross the street. Scary stuff.

So let me get this. No Vancouver House during the Paralympic Games... Hmm...and when it was open to the "public" during the Games it was in fact closed for private "functions" (read, business gatherings of the Hollyhock kind). Have anyone noticed the massive advertising on radio and TV from London 2012 pushers? Sir Balloon Boy was in town for promoting himself two years from now (not for the love of this city)...to the World and not to Vancouver. He'll be cashing in handsomely in London on home turf. Our boy at the City on the other hand is thinking ahead too, beyond not being the mayor anymore, come November 2011. Maybe selling more overpriced juice in London two years from now or pushing carts of little HP cartons aboard one or two Virgin airplanes would alienate the pain. Hallelujah!

What a shame that the host city shut down their pavilion to the disabled. What message does that send about vancouver being an inclusive city. Mike, thank you for writing about this. We appreicate it.

Epic. Fail.

Oh, well. They did get the memo:

"No more wire hangers!!"

This would have been a wonderful addition to the list of free venues to explore during the Winter Olympics.

A "Library Square Live Site" would have had space for exhibitions, entertainment, and recognition of Vancouver's most recent landmark.

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