Joe Wai needs no introduction to Vancouverites-this extraordinary advocate, citizen and architect has shaped how we think about place, culture and our responsibilities to our city. If Joe saw you walking by on the street he would run across to say hello, shake your hand, and ask you how you and your family were doing. He quite simply personified all that was good in community and neighbourhood, and worked hard to make good things even better.
If you were to check Joe’s “Linked In” profile, he has written very simply “I have been around for a while“. That is typical Joe Wai and also a very typical understatement. Joe received his bachelor’s and master’s in architecture from the University of British Columbia and worked for iconic architects in Vancouver and in London England before setting up his own practice in 1978. Joe was involved with the Strathcona Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA) who successfully challenged the expropriation of housing for the creation of a public housing project and a freeway that would have carved into Chinatown.
Joe’s energies and interests were legendary. As The Tyee notes “Joe has been involved with senior/social housing and a volunteer in Chinatown community issues for over 40 years. He is also the architect of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the Chinatown Millennium Gate, the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, the Chinatown Parkade and Plaza, and the Commemoration of Block 17 as well as many restorations of the early Chinatown Society buildings.”
Henry Yu has written a memory of Joe Wai that describes more of Joe’s work and philosophy. You may also want to leave your own thoughts and stories about this extraordinary Vancouverite below. He will be greatly missed.