Architecturally speaking, Vancouver is a toddler. Lacking the historical vibrato that even the smallest of European cities boast, or the innovation of North American destinations like New York and Chicago, Vancouver and its buildings of glass can easily fade into the mountainous background.
However, all it takes to put the city’s architecture onto the mainstage is 120 minutes of history. Bringing together over 70 experts, architects, urbanists, designers, and historians, non-profit Portrait Sonore has developed a walking tour app that guides users through the city with a full audio history lesson. Already launched in Canadian cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Halifax, the organization’s “pocket documentaries” offer a faceted look at the development of cities, emphasizing a multi-discourse approach. For the Vancouver tour, Portrait Sonore teamed up with some of Vancouver’s most prominent authorities in architecture, including the late great architect/urban designer Bing Thom and University of British Columbia fine arts professor Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe.
Focusing on the modern era, the tour guides users through significant post-World War II downtown structures such as the Dal Grauer Substation, the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, and Waterfront Station. The pivotal, formative years of Vancouver’s booming growth of the ‘50s through to the ‘70s can be traced with each building. The app also includes a musical score inspired by the architecture and provided by local musicians Stephen Lyons (of Fond of Tigers), Loscil, and Leah Abramson. It’s an opportunity to see—and hear—the stories that cannot be told on their own.
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