Debate recap: Build more towers?
This past Wednesday, the Urbanarium Society, in collaboration with the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, hosted their second City Debate at Robson Square. The sold-out event, entitled ‘Build Fewer Towers,’ saw two teams take a stance (pro or con) on the role of high-rise towers in Vancouver.
Arguing for the motion (and against building more towers):
- Lance Berelowitz – Principal of Urban Forum Associates
- Oliver Lang – Principal of Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture
And arguing against the motion (and for building more towers):
- Dave Ramslie – Principal and Head of Planning Research, & Sustainability, Integral Group LLC
- Christopher Vollan – VP Development for Rize Development
In tackling the issue, each side took turns responding to questions about the viability of the tower model of development that we are familiar with in the city. In particular:
- Is Vancouver and the surrounding region too quick or too slow to build towers?
- Are towers good or bad for supporting goals of livability and sustainability?
- Are towers the way of the future, or are they past their prime?
As with the first debate a few weeks back, the ‘tower’ event was moderated by David Beers, founder of the Tyee.
An initial polling of the room revealed that audience members were split 51/49 in favour of the motion. From there, debaters went head-to-head arguing their positions.
While the ‘less towers’ side acknowledged that high-rises were a necessary and effective building typology, they argued that alternative types of medium-scale development (e.g. mid-rise forms) could and should be adopted in favour of towers – and that these could work to accommodate the growing demand for housing in the city. They suggested that we are ‘missing the middle’ in terms of scale of development and must look to fill this in to provide a greater diversity of housing types.
The ‘more towers’ side argued that the tower should remain the preferred model of development in order to meet the housing and affordability crisis in the city. Citing the economic efficiency, limited footprint and high consumer demand of towers, they suggested that the “missing middle” forms of development would prove too costly and insufficient to satisfy the future demands for housing.
When the bell rung and the post debate audience poll was taken, the audience’s favour had shifted 52/48 against the motion. Despite this, the nearly split audience suggests that this issue is not yet settled and that this debate will no doubt continue in board rooms and dining rooms alike across the city.
Story by Shane Oleksiuk – who also reminds us that the debate series will continue on March 9th when a new debaters will tussle over a motion to ‘Legislate housing affordability’. Tickets for this event are available now.