The Canadian port city of Vancouver has entered centre stage of the global debate about future directions for cities in the sustainability era. Impressed with how increased residential density is used to create developer-funded public amenities there, American architects and urbanists first started speaking a decade ago of “Vancouverizing” their downtowns to make them more lively, sustainable and amenable. The illustrated lecture from architecture critic/curator Trevor Boddy separates the hype from the reality of the new Vancouver, also subject of his exhibition “Vancouverism: Architecture Builds the City,” shown at the London Festival of Architecture and CCC Gallery, Paris. Boddy will visually introduce his city which frames high residential density with a ring of raw nature, arguing that Vancouver is but the latest of a string of “Portal Cities” that began with Hong Kong, then continued with Miami, Dubai, Panama City and arguably, post-industrial Rotterdam. These are service sector cities that verge on resorts, enclaves of connection and distraction, breaking all the rules of conventional city-building. The talk will spark more questions than easy answers, and not just about Vancouver.

Boddy sees one of Vancouver’s most positive developments being what he has named “HybridCity,” never-before seen combinations of building functions, laminates of social classes, fusions of Asian and European notions of city-building, and so on. The Vancouver critic asserts “The traditional European city, the Modernist separation of urban functions, the nostalgic vision of the American New Urbanists, and the hyper-modernity of Koolhaas’ celebration of scale, speed and size for its own sake have all failed as strategies for city-building. The astringent singularity of all these is the problem—if we did not rely on hybrids, we would all be eating potatoes the size of cherries, so with cities.” He continues “Vancouver’s hybrids of Asia and Europe, its integration of social classes, its radical laminations of building function all point to a positive direction for the sustainable city, but one that is not without its problems.”