Completed in 1932 to provide a high-level crossing to the western neighbourhoods, Burrard Bridge is a triumph of civic architecture and a key gateway structure.
Architects Sharp & Thompson, conscious of the bridge’s ceremonial function, embellished the utilitarian steel superstructure with imposing concrete towers, art deco sculptural details, and torch-like entrance pylons that are a silent war memorial. Heavy concrete railings, originally topped by decorative street lamps, unify the parts.
Since the 1990s, the Engineering Department has brought forward repeated schemes — despite ferocious public opposition — to increase the capacity of the bridge. Over 15 years later, the pot still boils: in late 2006, the current Council voted to kill a proposed lane re-allocation trial to test an alternate solution. Instead this Council seems hell-bent on intrusive, expensive schemes favouring the single-occupancy car. Yet another consultant team is presently doing a detailed design of sidewalk expansion of this iconic Art Deco landmark.
The ill-conceived plans to widen the bridge’s sidewalks require — for support — massive cantilevered outrigger structures that would radically alter the bridge’s appearance by adding bulky appendages slicing horizontally across the bridge’s architectural features. The existing railings would be demolished to make way for new railings pushed out to the edges of the new sidewalks. Without its original railings, the bridge would lose its strong edges, and its defining architectural features would be isolated in a broad expanse of pavement.
For HVS, the issues remain the same: how to accommodate increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians without compromising the heritage architecture and iconic status of the bridge. We are extremely disappointed that other, equally viable options are not being considered. We continue to urge Council to consider carefully the alternatives before rushing to implement a solution that will permanently disfigure this civic landmark.
We continue to ask: “What will we show the world in 2010? A quick-fix hatchet job or a restored world-class gateway?”