Words fail

When yesterday one of my international RSS newsfeeds delivered to me this National post article entitled "Design Exchange: Rethinking the Architecture of Canadian Cities", I got rather excited - ooh, Canadian architecture is making waves in a global pond! The premise is that "nine prominent Canadians critique the architecture of the cities they live in". And the very first one is Vancouver (not to get too excited - the article simply moves from west to east geographically) critiqued by Martha Sturdy to Sarah Bancroft.

Sturdy, of course, is a "leading designer of furniture, accessories, wall art and sculptures [...] known for her distinctive artwork that is sophisticated, minimal, and bold" and her "name is found among the design elite and her creations are shown alongside some of the world's most exclusive brands" (both quotes are www.marthasturdy.com). One of her most recent contributions to Vancouver's urban space is a sculpture in front of Vancouver General Hospital, created and donated by her in 2007 (Here's the press release).

I read it as soon as I had a chance.



But here are some excerpts ( Again, here is the link if you would like to have a bit more context for these if necessary):

Q(Bancroft) When a visitor comes to Vancouver, what's the first building you want to show them and why?

A(Sturdy) What I do is this: I pick them up at the airport and go through UBC so the first view of the city is from Spanish Banks. The city as a setting is so amazing from that angle. Then it looks more on an international level. People say to me "Where are you from?" and I say "Vancouver." Then they say, "No, where are you really from?" "Vancouver!" Because we don't think we're good enough.


Q And the last structure, i.e., what are you least proud of?

A One of the problems is that we are insecure and we always think we can copy from somewhere else and then it's good enough. My idea is you never copy. So things like Science World - it's been done and done and done. Get over it. Everybody's got that. Unless it's your idea, you don't know how to make it work. It's just like my furniture. I don't copy others. I make it myself from scratch so therefore it is what I really am.


Q What's the most important new building or urban development in the city?

A I can't even really tell you because I don't really like any of them.

Q What is the most important old building?

A The Marine Building because of its location on the axis of Hastings Street. And the design. It's the old centre of town. You can go in every direction.


Q What is the worst architectural/urban design trend to appear recently?

A These high-rise towers with what appear to be townhouses at the base. It looks like you can walk right in.

Q What's the most significant new approach to the "built environment?"

A I have been asked to submit some ideas for the old salt sheds on the waterfront that are being redeveloped - it would be white resin cubes for sitting on, which would be like salt. Resin is so great because if they scratch, you can sand it off.


Q Looking to the future, what new buildings or developments do you predict for the city?

A In South Main Street, there's a lot of artists, model making and graphic designers. It's a great area. It's low-rise, so everyone's got a view.


Q Rate the excellence of Vancouver's design and/or architecture on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being superb.

A Five. We're nowhere. It's just about having the confidence to be.

For comparison, try reading through Charlie Pachter's critique of Toronto or those of any of the other seven "prominent Canadians". The interview questions are not all that great, but reading the responses should put Sturdy's answers in a certain perspective if any such was lacking.

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