CBC digs into the vault to screen historical Vancouver footage

Post by Mike Klassen in


The CBC Vancouver Archives will provide a glimpse of our urban planning past

Vancouver's urbanists will coo at the program for a June 20th event co-sponsored by the Vancouver Public Library and CBC-Radio Canada. The special screening of CBC Vancouver Archives footage is being held from 7pm to 9pm at the VPL Central Branch in the Alice MacKay Room. The three short films focus on the urban landscape of Vancouver circa the 1960s.

What follows the screening is a panel discussion featuring John Atkin (civic historian), Ray Spaxman (former Director of Planning, COV), Brent Toderian (current Director of Planning, COV), and my friend Lance Berelowitz (urban planning critic). The panel will use a 1966 Arthur Erickson film as a jumping off point to discuss "failed plans" of the downtown core.

I know little about the program other than what is described above. I do know that the CBC Vancouver Archives are some of the most compelling artifacts of our city's past. I've advocated for a full-fledged Vancouver Centre for Arts & Culture + museum on this blog before, and will continue to do so given any opportunity. CBC Archivist Colin Preston currently maintains the collection, which I'm led to believe is the match of the Vancouver and UBC Archives. It's thrilling to imagine them all one day in a unique public facility, and accessible to all citizens.

It will be interesting to see what "failed plans" for Vancouver's downtown were documented in the Erickson film. While I respect the late Vancouver architect's unique vision, I'm not beholden to all of his local landmarks. I'm led to believe that his original vision for the Law Courts Building was to have it stand vertically, but it was beaten down by an anti-tower movement that took hold 40 years back. I do know that the Law Courts (lying on its side) has turned once vibrant Howe Street into a wasteland for four decades.

On June 20th I'll be in the middle of a three-day exploration of Seattle's transportation and other urban charms with my family, and unable to attend. I look forward to hearing reports from others who do get to check out the screening and discussion. And I certainly hope that there will be new opportunities to experience the CBC Vancouver Archives in the months ahead.

The Alice MacKay Room is on the Lower Level of the Central Library, 350 West Georgia St. Admission is free, however, seating is limited.

- Post by Mike Klassen. Mike is a city council candidate for the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA). If you're an elected official or candidate seeking a nomination and want to write about urban issues, please send your 450-500 word submission to CityCaucus@gmail.com.

Follow Mike on Twitter or on Facebook or visit his website at klassenforvancouver.com.



You're not quite right about Arthur wanting the Law Courts vertical. In fact it was quite the opposite.

McCarter Nairne had been retained by Wacky Bennet to design a 60 storey tower on the 3 block site with the tower at the south end and the converted Court House at the other with a civic plaza in between. Bennett gave the architects 2 givens:

1) the tower had to be 60 storeys;
2) the courts had to fit into the tower.

I was working at MacCarter Nairne just after that joint venture commission with Thompson Berwick Pratt came into the office, and knew of its progress. Anyone who knows anything about the court system can appreciate that trying to stuff the court facilities into a vertical tower with all the complexities of security, separate circulation systems, the organization of judges chambers and courtrooms, etc. is a difficult task, to say the least.

There was a Provincial election in 1972 and the NDP were elected for the 1st time. They decided they wanted a different kind of courthouse and retained Arthur. His concept was the horizontal structure we have today. The civic plaza became a series of interconnected, below grade to rooftop exterior spaces, which in themselves are pleasant, but have never worked all that well. They certainly have not provided the Downtown civic square that was originally envisioned. He also wanted to celebrate and open up the heretofore cloistered court system. Thus, the spectacular glazed terraced hall.

Perhaps we need to have a discussion in Vancouver about whether we still want / need a 'civic square' and where and what it could be. The "Howe Street wasteland" is another shortcoming. This and other bits of an otherwise wonderful complex should have a 2nd look. there are improvements that can be made. Maybe this can be sone when the VAG is relocated.

Arthur also did a bit of his own stuffing of the court functions into his concept. The judges were dead set against what they perceived that he was putting some of them below grade. There was a showdown. Arthur won.

There is much more that can be said about Arthur's concept for the Law Courts, but the horizontal form was very consistent with his own, as well as the emerging values of others at the time.

Thank You Mike and Bill

I would love to see more of this kind of content on CityCaucus. I am sure Mike is busy with his campaign, but this kind of historical memory is especially important in a city of immigrants.

And may we build a city where equality, culture and aesthetics win out over hierarchy and entitlement! "The judges were dead set against what they perceived that he was putting some of them below grade. There was a showdown. Arthur won.

sounds like a fabulous discussion. I have worked extensively with both John and Lance and they view our city through very different lenses.

I don't think you would need to be a 'planning junkie' to find the discussion fascinating.

Must try to attend.

Thanks, Bill! I've heard only anecdotes about what happened with the design process, but none as detailed as yours. Howe Street was the loser on the finished product. This is part of the reason I've asked if we should rethink the building in terms of its current use as a court. Downtown Vancouver employs many people in the legal profession, so we don't want to inconvenience them. But as the "centre" of Vancouver I think we can do better than what currently exists on Howe and at Robson Square.

just a little inconvenience with this panel of speakers...two of them cannot stand each other. I'm talking about Brent and Lance. Lance wasn't quite cozy with the 'departed' Larry either. It will be fun to watch two BIG orators at work. LOL

LOL, I know who I'd put my money on!

I would imagine Spaxman and Toderian clash too? It seems as though they have different planning philosophies ( http://themainlander.com/2010/12/20/author-of-height-study-comes-out-against-city%E2%80%99s-dtes-condo-plan/
). This panel might be a great place to discuss where Vancouver planning is going. Many people are upset with Toderian's plan-first-ask-the-public-later approach.

Your suggestion that there is a "plan first" in the current environment is most generous Sean.

This panel will indeed be a "not to be missed" event. Hopefully it will help to clarify some of today's important planning shortcomings.


Arthur did a 'horizontal period' (lots of his houses, SFU, U of Lethbridge, Law Courts), and as well a 'vertical flights' (his False Creek North towers straight into the water proposal, and the, IMO, grossly over dense at 19 or 20 FSR, 630' Georgia Street corkscrew currently in process). He also did some 'balanced' compositions (Mac Blo Building, Museum of Anthropology).

It will be interesting to see the "failed plans". An assessment of not just the what, but the why of them should be instructive about what Vancouver is about and where we've come from.

Here's some vintage footage with some classic tunage. Enjoy, my friends.

Look into outdoor pools in the Seattle area (Bellevue, Republic of Fremont, Renton, Vashon, Tacoma etc.)
You were sweating on Commercial Drive at Italy Days. Wouldn't it be nice to dive into an outdoor pool in that bright sunshine?
Shouldn't NPA rebuild the Mount Pleasant outdoor pool on 16th.

And these shower things instead of paddling, and boat sailing ponds are inexusable.
Lets recreate a form of Seattle's Mounger Pool in Magnolia (2535 32nd Ave W )
And "take down this fence, Mr. Harper" make access to Burrard inlet and all that unused harbour land to build a Colman Pool like this facility next to the inner harber as Madrona district's 2535 32nd Ave W.
Forecasts of a hotter than normal summer requires that we have more outdoor pools to save lives. We don't want a repeat of the infamous Chicago heat deaths of 1995.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement