The Architecture of Community: Public Space in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
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The public spaces of many low-income, inner-city neighbourhoods are fundamental in forming strong social networks, nurturing the development of community and supporting the needs of vulnerable residents. This aspect of the urban condition is rooted in the understanding of public space as social space, emphasizing the innumerable differences of individuals and their everyday patterns of inhabitation. This thesis explores Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a historically marginalized neighbourhood with a strong sense of community that has developed from an accessible and inclusive public life. However, as the neighbourhood undergoes re-development, social polarization threatens the vitality of its public space and the existing sense of acceptance and connection. To mitigate the impact of gentrification on public space, architecture is employed as a tool to support and enhance the area’s inclusive public realm. Applying principles of Everyday Urbanism, it illustrates the social importance of ‘everyday space’, emphasizing the human condition and multidimensional aspects of cities. Three distinct designs propose ‘neighbourhood places’ at strategic locations throughout the Downtown Eastside. Guided by the principles of ‘city design’ and four established design goals, each project demonstrates an attempt to anchor the existing community in place, foster a dialogue between different neighbourhood groups and promote a sense of ownership and belonging. Although this thesis concentrates on the Downtown Eastside, it outlines a set of design principles that can be applied universally, increasing community connections and support throughout our cities.