By focussing on the quality of the city life for several decades, Vancouver has become one of the most liveable cities in the world. An overview of the lessons learned from a tour in Vancouver, guided by Larry Beasley.



Vancouver has revived its old city quarters by the use of strategic and in time defined measurements. The renewal of the public space was organised together with specific “archipuncture” and the renovation of historic houses, activated by temporary allowances.

Next to the old city quarters, Vancouver has developed a new waterfront on a former harbour area. The area has an interesting mix of high-density urban housing and green, suburban like, streets. Larry Beasley: “I have been accused of suburbanising the city. But if you want to attract people, mainly grown up in the suburbs, to live in the city, you have to create a familiar surrounding. And as you can see, it works!”

The buildings at the waterfront combine different housing typologies: a plinth of ground orientated family houses and above the plinth: towers with different urban apartments. The towers are put back on the plinth so they are hardly visible from the wooded streets. The roofs of the plinth are green roofs or roof gardens, which gives more quality to the views from the above apartments.



suburbanising the city


The facades of the towers are mainly glassed, allowing light into the apartments (the weather in Vancouver can be dark and grey) and creating optimal views on the impressive landscape surrounding the city. At night, when the apartments are illuminated, the glass towers seem to become transparent.

The shape and place of the different towers was defined in the masterplan. The towers are familiar in materials but different in height and shape. A playful skyline is the result.



shape and place of the different towers




In these new housing areas, the amenities, (drug-, food and liquor store and sport fields) are at walking distance. Amenities produce reasons for the inhabitants to leave their house and give opportunities to meet others in the street. Because of the high density, the amenities are profitable.

Together with the new riverfronts, the nearby older city quarters were redeveloped, making them amplifying each other.



a new waterfront



amplifying old and new



By the redevelopment of the city, the community of Vancouver was consulted various times, asking how they wanted to live in the future city. From the resulting knowledge a masterplan was made. The community was frequently consulted but the planning department made the final decision.

This consulting took time and energy in the beginning but it has been rewarding in the end. By being a part of the process, the inhabitants of Vancouver feel stronger related to the city. In the process they learned about urban design, making them critical consumers towards the final buildings companies. The consulting also produced a strong public awareness of the importance of the project, making it less mouldable for changes due to, for example, elections.

The redevelopment of the waterfront has taken place in different phases, lessons learned and remarks of the inhabitants from former phases have been input for the later phases. Creating a specific urban design signature for Vancouver over time.