Apparently, plans are circulating inside the provincial cabinet to build up a giant wooden roof over downtown’s Robson Square.
According to a Vancouver Sun article, the wooden “clamshell” should convert the square into a public gathering place for visitors during the 2010 Olympics. It might be kept permanently, and change the nature of one of Vancouver’s most prominent places forever.
The roof would spread from the Art Gallery to the waterfall on the other side of Robson street. Detailed information is not available at the moment. Just a handful of government employees and insiders seem to have seen drawings so far.
Beside the wooden roof, the project includes completion of an Asian-Pacific trade centre and the renovation of some parts of Robson Square. Costs will mount up to approximately $87 million.
Opposition is mainly centered around urban design issues, as well as the fear that a sheltered place could be a magnet for homeless people, and the question if the setting up of a temporary tent would not serve the purpose just the same while being more economic.
Another Sun article says that “even more important than cost overruns is to figure out whether or not this is even good urban design”, but to think about the overwhelming figure of $87 million might raise intriguing thoughts as well.
$87 million is a ten years permanent residency at the Bridge Suite of the Bahamian Atlantis Hotel, the world’s most expensive hotel, or one-tenth of Eritrea’s GNP in 2005, or – for to get back to a local level – the construction of 400 to 600 social housing units, which is about half of the amount of units needed in Vancouver for to reduce homelessness over the next four years, according to the latest housing report of the Impact on Community Coalition (IOCC) .
The question if a roof should be built over Robson Square is a matter of urban design, but it might also touch a broader topic, one that is raised in sociologist Harvey Molotch’s famous essay “The City as a Growth Machine”: For Whom should politics be made for? Small elites or the residents of a certain locality?