A Tale of Two Cites
Its a tale of two cities and two ways of designing them Seattle and Vancouver are both considered to be good urban models, each with their own issues, but overall they are design and planning styles that many other cities seek to emulate. In this addition of neighbourhood news we take a look a a set of media where spokespeople from either city spoke out in favour of the other.
The Great Vancouver vs. Seattle Debate
Is the civic grass greener on the other side of the border? Two urban experts each make the case for the others’ home town.
Two of the region’s civic heavyweights squared off at the Seattle Public Library on June 18 to settle the issue about which of Cascadia’s two biggest cities has the best built environment, Seattle or Vancouver, BC. It was a rematch of a debate conducted earlier in the week in Vancouver, sponsored by VIA Architecture, which has offices in both cities.
Making the pro-Vancouver case was Seattle’s Peter Steinbrueck; arguing for Seattle, Vancouver’s Gordon Price. Both are devoted sustainability advocates, both have spent years on their respective city councils. Steinbrueck is an architect who has taught at the University of Washington; Price heads up Simon Fraser University’s City Program and writes and lectures about urban planning. The shorthand introduction that Seattleites could relate to: “Gordon Price is the Peter Steinbrueck of Vancouver,” said moderator C.R. Douglas. Let’s just say the debate was between two apples arguing about which town had better oranges.
The debates focused on the positives of each city, and tended to prove the adage that the grass is always greener on the other side of your neighbor’s fence. Instead of rehashing (you can find one or both debates on Twitter feeds, a webcast and the Seattle Channel), I thought I would digest it by providing a list of the “pros” for each city that came up, with Steinbrueck mostly speaking for the Vancouver side of the equation and Price for the Seattle side. And then a couple of summary “con” comments on major downsides.
The gist for architects, planners, policy-makers, and citizens is that, as Robert Burns said, seeing ourselves as other see us is a gift that helps us question cherished assumptions.
Seattle urbanophiles, for example, love to tout Vancouver’s skinny towers as the end-all of downtown living and something to emulate. Price, on the other hand, found much to envy in Seattle’s risk-taking architecture and individualistic neighborhoods, and much mediocrity in Vancouver’s look-alike high-rises. READ MORE