A Ribbon Winning Performance Fails To Crack Vancouver’s Royal Glass Ceiling

546 W 13th Ave
It’s hard to complain about being able to work from home when others are on the front lines of the pandemic, out of work, or don’t even have a home. Yet, I think we can all sympathize with one city staff member’s fear that their kids would burst into their bedroom/office, and disrupt this Urban Design Panel review. Had that happened, Hannah would have likely attended this meeting instead of me, as her prospective is arguably more valuable than mine.

That’s because these homes for women, and families are being designed by an all women team. Of course, they’re still governed by rules put in place by mostly men from decades past, so it’s no wonder it’s trapped beneath a metaphorical glass ceiling caused by the Queen Elizabeth Park view cone. City staff were blunt that only the Broadway Plan could possibly ease that hard limit, and were more concerned whether it made this building too thick to fit in.

This is only one of the many concerns raised by the neighbouring homeowners, but as these non-market homes are badly needed, the planning department was willing to consider it. Granted, they didn’t help when they mistakenly claimed these curvy balconies are part of the concrete structure, forcing the applicant to clarify they were actually thermally broken, and only have two alternating forms. The majority agreed these ribbons successfully hid the extra size, though they sought some alterations.

The recommendation for continued design development to the balcony banding reflected desires that ranged from wanting a differing rhythm, some colour, or a more pronounced expression at level 13. As the aforementioned view cone prevents elevator access to the roof, the amenity deck fell to this floor, at the expense of roughly 33% of its homes. That didn’t stop it from providing the same mix of accessible, seniors, family and women’s workforce housing found throughout the building.

No matter their background, it was agreed all residents would prefer more afternoon sun, resulting in a recommendation to consider the orientation of rooftop amenity. The design team admitted they were already thinking the same, and eagerly embraced the suggestion for more landscaping in the driveway leading to the underground parking and loading area. These volunteers went further, as they believed these posed a fundamental challenge to the quiet of the “Zen zone,” and this “amazing” tree-lined block.

In a normal area, there would be a laneway behind this lot, but instead it’s bracketed by the 36 year old Cambridge Place strata building. For this reason, the panel recommended design development to the drive access, and loading area to provide green buffering to this western neighbour, the Zen garden, and to the overlooking suites. They wanted those living here to feel safe too, whether they watched their kids from the laundry room or enjoyed the rear amenity area themselves.

Rather than a group of Ferengi wanting to protect their property, it was a group of female professionals that formulated the recommendation to review the CPTED to east connector that leads to this space. Nor were they afraid to demanded equal treatment, as they claimed homes for men are often larger than those for women. That led to a last minute recommendation to review the livability of these “units,” as a second review at the development application stage was deemed unnecessary.

When it came to the motion to support this project, there was no gender divide as it won this body’s unanimous support. That means under the SHORT Program, this should come before city council relatively soon, and may relieve those who claim they’re opposed to the BC Housing project near the future Arbutus SkyTrain Station as there’s a shortage of women-focused housing. However, no matter how you identify, your opinion is always welcome, so long as you express it here.

You can view more images from this meeting here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:
Developer Partnership –  Soroptimist International of Vancouver, & Purpose Driven Development & Planning
Architects – GBL Architects Inc
Landscape Architects – PFS Studio

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