Changing Vancouver just posted a particularly graphic example of possibly the worst transition from good to bad architectural and urban design in the city’s history. It happened in the West End after the zoning changes of 1956.
Here’s a house in 1956, the year before it was redeveloped. The building that replaced it is an 80 unit rental building designed by Peter Kaffka, called Barracca Court when it was built in 1957.
The home was the work of Parr and Fee, seemingly the architects to the upper middle class in the city who favoured that Queen Anne elegance in their wooden ‘mansions.’ And then, in the decade after the ’56 rezoning, it and hundreds of others would be bulldozed for the concrete towers, of which Kaffka was the architect of many – essentially simple concrete boxes with punched windows, surrounded by parking lots, a bit of grass and minimal landscaping. Modernism used to justify the least design and the highest return.
The real mansions, of course, would be built in Shaughnessy, to where the rich fled from the West End after 1909, after which their homes would be transformed into boarding houses.
… by 1940 it was listed … as ‘rooms’, a role it retained until it was demolished. … in 1956 it was known as The Pillars, split into 7 apartments.
Here, of course, is the irony. The houses of the rich became the homes of the poor, providing critical accommodation during the Depression and War, after which the concrete highrises provided accommodation for the new class of service and corporate workers in the post-war boom. Today, the West End is still home for lower-middle-class renters, despite the rising pressures of affordability.
That wouldn’t have happened if it had been declared a heritage neighbourhood, its original housing stock preserved and renovated, and its population kept to a fraction of the 40,000 it now accommodates.