Text by Hadani Ditmars (Phaidon Press, 2019)
A tightly edited, discreetly packaged selection of city highlights for the design-conscious visitor. Each Wallpaper City Guide unearths the most happening restaurants and nightlife, the buzziest hotels, the most influential art galleries and enticing retail, the very best in local design, and the historical styles and contemporary architecture that define a destination. Local writers have delved deep into the urban psyche to enable you to come away from your trip, however brief, with a real flavour of the creative scene and the satisfaction you’ve seen all that you should.
In this fourth edition of Vancouver’s inclusion in this popular travel guide series, local writer and regular Wallpaper contributor Hadani Ditmars has provided some notable updates from the 2014 edition. In its near two decades of running, the series has now expanded to include over 100 cities, each offering up must-see alongside the lesser-known attractions, whether one is staying for 48 hours or a week.
I purchased my first Wallpaper* book for a trip to Barcelona in 2010, and along with a few other travel guides I took along with me at the time, it confirmed needing to see such obvious landmarks as the Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera, but also provided info on popular markets and tapas bars. The book’s format is the same for all the cities featured in the series, with tabs providing for popular landmarks, hotels, shops, and escapes.
Maps at the back of the book provide an overview of each city with an aerial photograph of the city provided in the opening pages. Each book starts with a smorgasbord of essential info, including phone numbers of travel bureaus and emergency services, as well as post office locations, followed by a map showing the city’s location in the world, its land size, and population, currency and annual temperatures.
It is a commentary on the host city when it comes to providing such information as the cost of living in a particular city, also included in each book’s essential info section. Using the cost of a pack of cigarettes ($10) and a bottle of champagne ($70) as a datum, these have likely been chosen as cultural staples (along with a cup of coffee and newspaper) as their cost will remain mostly unchanged in the time it takes to update each edition of the book.
In this latest Vancouver City Guide, the bones of the book have remained for the most part unchanged since its 2014 edition, with several notable new entries included among the usual suspects. With an opening salvo that introduces readers to both the notion of Vancouverism alongside Douglas Coupland’s City of Glass, Ditmars’ text offers observations around the impact of such local happenings as the recent foreign buyer’s tax, even going so far as to comment on the impact this has had on the local Vancouver art scene.
Included among the new landmarks in the book, BC Place has been replaced by Vancouver House, with Arthur Erickson’s former Macmillan Bloedel building moved into this section of the book to be featured side-by-side with Bjarke Ingels Group’s new addition to the Vancouver skyline. Unchanged in this edition is Wallpaper’s take on the Vancouver high-rise, represented by the curious pairing of One Wall Centre and Harbour Centre, both of which have had their photographs updated for this latest edition.
One notable change in the fourth edition is the absence of the Sports and Spas section, now replaced by an Arts/Design tab, allowing the author and editors to include such previous notable absences as the Contemporary Art Gallery—with a call out to architects Noel Best and Martin Lewis—along with the new Audain Gallery in Whistler. Canada Place, Robson Square, Erickson and Massey’s SFU campus, along with such notable towers as the Electra and Marine building all remain in the Architours tab of the book, with new entries including the recently completed Exchange Tower and Polygon Gallery at the Lonsdale Quay, a quick Seabus ride from the downtown core.
It is always interesting to see which regularly visited attractions have remained in the book and which have been retired, as Granville Island is gone from this new edition, while the south plaza of the downtown public library has appeared for the first time. The Museum of Anthropology remains in both editions, with the notable update of Ditmars’ text now including that the building is built on unceded Musqueam territory. The next edition will have to explain that the great hall is closed for the next few years as it undergoes seismic upgrades.
Ditmars deserves credit for her anonymous contribution to the series, as each city understandably has its own local correspondent offering boots-on-the-ground, up-to-the-minute commentary. It is a thankless task, to say the least, to have to provide 200 words on each piece of a city’s zeitgeist, and Ditmars has done an admirable job to include current commentary here on such issues as truth and reconciliation alongside climate change and money laundering.
Future editions of this book will need to include such new landmarks as Kengo Kuma’s Alberni as well as Ole Scheeren’s Fifteen Fifteen, along with the latest on the MST and Senakw development. In the meantime, this fourth edition is a fitting guidebook for our current state of armchair traveling, as we look forward to welcoming the world back to this city by the sea, and when we ourselves can use these guidebooks again in the first person.
Sean Ruthen is a Metro Vancouver-based architect and the current RAIC regional director for BC and Yukon.