City In­former

is rec­tan­gle with a half-assed roof must have spo­ken to peo­ple.

Vancouver Magazine - - Contents - Stacey McLach­lan BY By­ron Eggen­schwiler IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY Got aque­s­tion for City In­former? stacey.mclach­[email protected]

Our in­trepid re­porter un­cov­ers what makes Van­cou­ver Spe­cials so spe­cial.

WITH THE ABUN­DANCE of new star­chi­tect-de­signed sky­scrapers jostling for space like so many damp B-Line pas­sen­gers, it might be easy to for­get our city’s true ar­chi­tec­tural legacy: the hum­ble, stuc­coen-crusted-Van­cou­ver Spe­cial. Though the orig­i­nal de­signer’s name has been lost to his­tory, the home is so sim­plis­tic that one as­sumes it was asec­ond­grader who sketched out a rec­tan­gle with ahalf-assed roof and called it aday.

But this rec­tan­gle with a half-assed roof must have spo­ken to peo­ple: from 1965 to 1985, over 10,000 homes were built with those same Van­cou­ver Spe­cial plans. For com­par­i­son’s sake, dur­ing that same time pe­riod, the num­ber of peo­ple who built the home I de­signed, “Mod­ern-Meets-Ro­coco-Cas­tle-with-Water­slide,” was zero. Was it be­cause In­ever “drew up blue­prints” or be­cause I wasn’t tech­ni­cally “born yet”? We may never know.

Some Van­cou­ver Spe­cials went up in just three weeks—faster than it took me to stop pro­cras­ti­nat­ing and §nish this ar­ti­cle. Th­ese two­s­torey bad boys max­i­mized square footage on the lot (with room for plenty of ex­tended family) and were built with cost-e«ec­tive ma­te­ri­als—ex­cel­lent news for new im­mi­grants, work­ing-class folks and stucco fans ev­ery­where. Plans were only $65 back then; to­day, ac­count­ing for ination, that would be the equiv­a­lent of two trips to the Whole Foods salad bar.

Be­cause they grew so fa­mil­iar with the de­sign, city hall was soon able to fast-track Van­cou­ver Spe­cial projects. Soon, South and East Van were sprin­kled with cook­iecut­ter dream homes— un­til, like most things in life, white peo­ple had to ruin all the fun. The west-side elite pre­ferred trendy Bri­tish ar­chi­tec­ture with big fancy gar­dens and saw this new hous­ing as low-class. Neigh­bours com­plained to city hall, and in 1986 zon­ing laws were changed to put an end to the Spesh—be­cause in Van­cou­ver, NIMBYism never goes out of style.

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