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Ken Lum

Vancouver Especially (A Vancouver Special scaled to its property value in 1973, then increased by 8 fold)

Winter 2015 – Winter 2018

Vancouver Especially (A Vancouver Special scaled to its property value in 1973, then increased by 8 fold) by Canadian artist Ken Lum is the first commissioned work presented at Semi-Public. The installation is a 1:3 scale replica of a mass-produced, Vancouver architectural style of homes known as the “Vancouver Special”, popularized from 1965 to 1985 with an estimated 10,000 homes built.

The scale of the artwork is determined by the $45,000 artwork production budget, comparable to the value of a Vancouver Special in the 1970s. Buying a Vancouver Special with that budget today would be tiny in size (a small relief in the front of the platform shows the actual scale), thus the artwork was multiplied eightfold. Therefore, the artwork would be most appropriately considered an ‘enlargement’ of accepted value. 

As a housing typology, the Vancouver Special is unique not simply because of its characteristically ‘box-like’ structure, low-pitched roofs and balconies that cut across the house, but also because they were designed and built without architects. What does it mean to make a city without architects?

In the 1980s, Vancouver’s city council implemented a socio-economic policy called Living First, putting in place measures to slow the construction of Vancouver Specials and turn towards urban densification, primarily through condominiums—thin 25 to 35-storey concrete-and-glass residential towers atop a base of commercial storefronts. In contrast to the gradual proliferation of individual Vancouver Specials (which offered homeowners a certain amount of control through the application of ad-hoc embellishments to individualize their homes), the podium-style towers, now ubiquitous in Vancouver, were largely precipitated by a single sale of 8 million square feet of city land to Hong Kong-based billionaire Li Ka Shing, after Expo ‘86, in exchange for the promise of a regulated urban master plan.

Increasing the downtown core’s population from 20,000 to over 100,000, the master planning efforts managed to reverse the sub-urban sprawl common in North American cities. The new density coupled with a hyperactive real estate market resulted in accelerated increases in property value. Living First, with its podium-style towers and heavy design restrictions, galvanized enough world interest to earn the moniker ‘Vancouverism’. While lauded as a global model, local architectural critics regard the towers as banal, vertical, ‘gated communities’ devoid of architectural variation or contextual awareness. Like the Vancouver Special, the podium tower model isn’t designed by architects, but by urban planners and developers that arc towards an ideology of globalization, where notions of ‘livability’ are flattened into a global metric. Vancouver is consistently listed as one of the most livable places and one of the most unaffordable places in the world—a perverse marker of success for investors who make money from the struggles of affordability.

Urban planners used the masterplan as a functionalist approach to the city; modelled on the ‘average’ human, where the mathematics of density in relation to social-good was highly considered, employing deterministic formulas of percentage for allowable commercial space, leisure space, social housing, child-care facilities, public art and even including well-calibrated sight lines to maximize on the view of the mountains. But the city’s adoption of Living First, and the legacy of its socioeconomic mathematics, has led Vancouver, an impressively multi-ethnic city into a monocultural architectural logic of investment. The de-centering of the the city from a well-meaning (although Eurocentric) functionalism towards the excesses of an investment market has given wealthy visible minorities an opportunity to amass capital in Vancouver, bringing about renewed anti-Asian sentiment and Canadian-European claims to dominance.

Here in Vancouver we remember Eurocentric histories, an open wound stemming from settlers in the late 19th century (whose validity is still popularly glorified and falsely granted), who violently took this land from pre-existing communities of the indigenous Squamish (Sḵwxwú7mesh) people. We also remember an ethnically-diverse community—often identified as the largest African-Canadian community in Vancouver, located just across the street from 271 Union St—destroyed in 1972 to make room for the Georgia Viaduct off-ramp. And we can easily remember the new developments in the neighbourhood, which have proudly misappropriated Chinese motifs and sayings—such as the ‘Ginger’ condominium’s grammatically charged marketing tag-line “Some like it hot. You like it spicy”, or the Westbank development, which during its pre-sales marketing dwarfed the neighbourhood by covering a half-city-block with massive red letters reading “Ni Hao” (‘Hello’ in Mandarin Pinyin), welcoming only those with money. The pressure on Vancouver’s development industry to deliver third-party social-good has little bearing on the the lived experience of the people who will soon be displaced, and instead exacerbates an unqualified and highly problematic ‘soft’ preservation of Chinatown.

With city plans underway for the replacement of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts across the street for what will likely continue Vancouver’s monocultural trajectory, Lum’s Vancouver Especially gives us the ability to imagine an insubordinate architecture of the future by looking to the past.

Photo Documentation

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2015年2月21曰 – 2016年2月19日




這間照著3對1的比例而複製的房屋源於1965至1985年裡在溫哥華興建了超過10,000間的「溫特屋」。由於本藝術品的$45,000制作費相等於一間建設於70年代溫特屋的價格,因此這比例就被用作品的建築比例 。再者此制作費在現今的地產市場內只能換到一間很微型的溫特屋(請參考在平台前小牌子上的實際比例),這作品的體積就公然地被增長了八倍。作為一個房屋類形的象徵,溫特屋的特處不僅於它本身有著如箱子般的結構、緩緩傾斜的屋頂、和被放在屋外正中的陽台。它更獨特在有著一個無需要由建築師去監督的設計。可想一個不是由建築師去建設的城市會是怎樣的?

溫哥華市議會在80年代實施了一個名為「居住優先」的社會經濟政策。此政策針對了溫特屋的建設,企圖邁向高密度化的共管式公寓 : 一棟棟在商戶樓上由混凝土和玻璃所構成25-35層的大廈。相對於獨特地建設的溫特屋 (溫特屋都供給了房主們不少為屋內與外而特設裝飾的選擇),這些現時普及在溫哥華的高樓大廈大多數都是在香港富豪李嘉誠在86年世博會後用了一個為了城市規劃而落下的承諾而買下了的8百萬平方英尺土地上促成的。

Mario Gaviria – 城市建設者

這城市規劃成功地讓市中心的居住人口由20,000增至100,000,故此減少了普遍在北美洲城市外郊市鎮的擴展。人口密度的增長促進了本地房格的上漲,快速地推動了本地樓市。「居住優先」政策為溫市帶來了在設計上有所限制的樓宇,此建築風格更得到了「溫哥華主義」這個國際認可的綽號。這些被譽為是全球模式的高樓大廈,都被在本地建築評論家們看作為一些公式化和缺乏背景意式的封閉社區。正如溫特屋一樣,這些大廈的模式也不是出自建築師的設計,它們都是由對全球化意識有所立場的城市規劃者和發展商們攜手醞釀出來的。溫哥華一向都被列舉為全球最宜居卻又最昂貴的都市, 此列舉貼切地成就了投資者們從增長的房價和買家的負擔中拿到的利益。


城市建設者們採取了功能主義的途徑來把總體規劃應用在城市內;跟據著一個 「普通人」的所需來計算和分配商業空間、休閒空間、社會屋、託兒設施、公共藝術、甚至是城內景觀綫的定制。可是溫市所採納的「居住優先」政策,又逐漸地引導著這本擁有著多元族裔的城市邁向到一個單元文化的投資地點。當總體規劃偏離了這用意雖好 (卻是以歐洲主義為中心)的功能後,過度的投資給予了富裕的少數族裔在溫哥華裡能夠積累資本的機會,繼而喚起了一種以加拿大 / 歐洲主義為中心的霸主立場與及反亞洲的觀點。

在這地方我們思想到以歐洲主義為中心的一些歷史,和一道在19世紀末期被打開了的傷口。這就是當時殖民者用暴力的手法而奪取了土著史高米殊 (Sḵwxwú7mesh) 民族國土的根據。我們也可在這兒懷緬一個擁有多元族裔的地方。這個曾經位於這條街對面,被稱為在溫市内最大的黑人社區 ,是一個在1972年為了興建喬治亞高架橋出口匝道而被遷徙的社區。我們更可在此想到近年在這區內的新建築,和被它們盗用了的中國式設計和標語。例如一棟自稱為 「薑」的住所就應用了「有些人愛熱,而你愛辣」這個把文法誇大了的廣告標語;又例如西岸置業集團在預售新樓盤時用了巨型和紅色的字體把「你好」的拼音字母蓋在半條街道上,直接地向有資本的銷售對象招手。溫市地產業所承擔的社會責任對華埠居民來說並沒有太大意義,原因是地產商們只能夠用市場營銷的手法來呈現所謂對華埠文化的維護。


本展覽由 Brian McBay 先生策展。
「半公開」 展覽空間由加拿大註冊慈善組織221A策劃。


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About Semi-Public

Semi-Public is a public art site operated by non-profit organization 221A. Located at 271 Union Street, the 3,000 square-foot site invites the public to visit commissioned installations and processes by contemporary artists. Semi-Public’s programming is informed by the contested spatial politics of its location on traditional ancestral and Unceded Territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, in the neighbourhood of Chinatown, adjacent to what was the largest civic concentration of African-Canadians families and businesses before their displacement for a major automobile corridor in the 1970s, and within one of the most speculative and expensive real estate markets in the world.


12–5pm, Tuesday–Saturday
Outdoors (Likely Cold, Hot or Rainy)
Except during periods of the most miserable kind of rain
271 Union Street
Vancouver, BC Canada


+1 604 568 0812

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We gratefully acknowledge the major financial support of the City of Vancouver Public Art Program and in-kind land-use support from Pacific Crown Corporation Ltd. We also acknowledge the project-based support of the City of Vancouver Cultural Infrastructure Grants, Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, BC Gaming, British Columbia Arts Council, The Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, Lafarge Canada Inc. and our founding donors: Anonymous, Chan Family Foundation and Sarah Todd & Aaron Gray. Additional monthly assistance for Semi-Public is generously provided by individual donors to support the ongoing operation of the site. As each commission is developed, new funding and resources are sought in order to fulfill commissioning requirements. Please help us. Find out how, here.

Land Use Lease

The 271 Union Street site is owned by Pacific Crown Corporation Ltd. and is leased for $1 per year to 221A for a period of 10 years until 2025. In exchange for the use of the land, the property owner benefits from a reduction in annual property taxes as a result of the reclassification of the property to charitable use.

Live Stream

Semi-Public has two live-stream cameras that are active 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This stream complicates the viewership of and participation within public and private space, and also operates as a security camera in the event of vandalism.

Hot keys:
Ctrl + F = Fullscreen;
Ctrl + S = Auto Feed Switch On/Off;
Shift + S = Toggle Feed


半公開是由非營利組職221A策劃的公共藝術展覽空間,地點位於華埠聯合街271號。在這面積三千平方呎的空間內大眾能夠體驗到由不同藝術家特地製作的當代裝置藝術作品與及有關項目。聯合街一帶的空間政治對半公開的規劃方案有着深厚的影響。卑斯省原住民Sto:lo, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm(馬斯琴), Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw(史高米殊)以及 Tsleil-Waututh(塔斯里尔—沃特斯)部族的地區就是華人聚集的唐人街。這一帶亦是以前在溫市最多非洲裔居民和商人的落腳之地,然後於七十年代一個主要行車大橋的興建令這個社區分解。隨着時代蛻變這地段現今被視為全世界最昂貴的房地產市場之一。 


聯合街271號的地址是由Pacific Crown有限公司持有,並和221A組職以慈善捐助的名義定下了每年只收取一元租金的十年契約。這個條件促以供給了該有限公司一個能被豁免大部分地稅的資格。



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