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Old May 28th, 2011, 06:31 AM   #1
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ELLE DECOR Goes to Vancouver

ELLE DECOR Goes to Vancouver
Dramatic architecture meets diverse cultural riches in this stunning seaside city

Written by Claire Dederer

The light—gray and northern and surprisingly abundant—pours between tall, slender towers that look so new they might not even be built yet. The buildings cluster in elegant forests along the water’s edge; at their feet sit the vibrant, brick-lined neighborhoods of Gastown, Yaletown, and the West End. To walk through Vancouver—and make no mistake, this is one of the great walking cities of North America—is to travel continuously between old and new.

The old isn’t terribly old in Vancouver: The city’s history, at any rate its European history, is fairly brief. The Spanish came first; the English didn’t show up until the late 18th century. During the next hundred years, trappers, miners, and loggers—the holy trinity of Northwest pioneer life—settled on the land and incorporated the city.

Over the last three decades, Vancouver has grown from a bit of a backwater to a favored destination for moneyed newcomers from all over Canada—and the world. Some credit the Expo ’86 World’s Fair with putting Vancouver on the map. The handover of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese in 1997 sped things up, as wealthy Hong Kong nationals looked for somewhere new to live and found in Vancouver a Pacific Rim city with temperate weather, excellent schools, and room to grow.

By any account, Vancouver is growing fast. In terms of city planning, it appears to be uniquely graceful growth. The beauty and elegance of Vancouver’s downtown can be traced to one simple thing: setbacks. Yes, there are the spectacular mountain views, the balmy sea breezes coming in from all sides of the peninsula, the cosmopolitan mix of cultures, and the food, always the food. But it’s a humble building regulation, introduced in the 1950s and sustained through a major construction boom in the 1990s and the 2000s, that gives this compact, dense city its sense of spaciousness. New high-rise residences in the city core must be built with an apron of space at street level. Gardens and playgrounds and café seating and little lawns spread over these open spaces, making sidewalks feel uncrowded and welcoming. More important, the setbacks decrease the footprint of the buildings, giving them a narrow and light appearance and leaving wide corridors of space (and views) between the structures. Here in the Northwest, where gray skies can grow oppressive and rain can feel like an omnipresent hat that you’d really like to remove, these setbacks do something very important: They let the light in.

While Vancouver’s buildings have space at their feet, they in no way resemble the modernist ideal of a glass box standing in a field. These towers are linked by mews and paths and pedestrian alleyways, luring walkers from the street into the built environment.

And it’s good to be lured into walking in Vancouver. If you have an especially excellent pair of shoes, you could spend the whole day looping the city—from Gastown and its bars and design shops, down the shopping promenade of Robson Street to the funky, beachy West End. Stanley Park, with its complex ecology and incredible beaches, lies beyond. Head back up along the waterfront, lined with well-funded and intelligent public art (we are, after all, in Canada), and into Yaletown, a redeveloped industrial district that strikes the perfect Vancouver balance between the past (Hamilton Street and its gritty brick façades) and the present (the towers and marinas and parks at the water’s edge).

Walking in the evening is almost as lively as walking during the day—Vancouver is a nocturnal creature. Says food writer Nancy Leson, “Unlike a lot of West Coast cities, Vancouver’s downtown doesn’t roll up the sidewalks at night. There’s a huge concentration of people downtown, and that’s by design. People are out shopping, eating, and drinking until all hours because they live there.”

Chinatown, just east of downtown proper, is emerging as a nighttime star. Like the rest of Vancouver, the neighborhood encompasses two worlds: It’s both a traditional, working Chinatown and a newly happening (though occasionally sketchy) nightlife destination. These two poles are reflected at the Keefer, the suites Hollywood types use as a home away from home when they’re shooting in Vancouver; it also serves as a hotel for us lesser mortals. Housed in a repurposed industrial building, the three suites and penthouse at the Keefer are as spare and chic as lofts and are filled with colorful installations by artist/clothing designer/Generation X author Douglas Coupland. Says Keefer general manager Maria Verdicchio, “Chinatown isn’t for the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. It’s for people who want an authentic experience.” Though it must be said this is very luxurious authenticity. (For more authenticity, take a trip to the nearby exurb Richmond, where Chinese-language malls abound.) The Keefer’s bar, modeled on a vintage Chinese apothecary and serving charmingly medicinal drinks, is worth a visit too.

If all this walking is making your feet sore just reading about it, you can achieve the same windswept vistas sitting comfortably on a boat. Ridiculously cute passenger ferries crisscross False Creek, affording great views of downtown. Use them to explore Granville Island, one of the most popular destinations for tourists, crowded with buskers, colorful shops, festivals, and lots and lots of noise. Children will find this place irresistible; others might want to move along more quickly. From there, head over to the shops, galleries, and restaurants of South Granville or Kitsilano, with its laid-back, beach-town vibe.

Farther afield—far enough to require a car—lies the quintessential Vancouver destination: the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The building itself is unarguably the masterwork of Arthur Erickson, Vancouver’s most celebrated modernist architect. The powerful-yet-airy concrete structure was inspired by the post-and-beam construction of First Nations buildings, and the exterior alone is breathtaking. Totem poles stand like exclamation points on the grassy berm in front of the museum; Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia glimmer beyond. On a misty day, there’s a feeling of timelessness that sets the stage for the riches within the museum.


full article: http://www.elledecor.com/entertainin...goes-vancouver
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Old March 27th, 2014, 07:53 PM   #2
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I liked that article! Great advertising for the city!
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