Vancouver Especially, at 271 Union St.

221a overview shot(photo: mcminsen)

"221A is a non-profit artist-run centre that presents exhibitions, talks, publications and special projects that explore the role of design in the shaping of contemporary societies."

Confession time:  I had never heard of 221A, an organization founded in 2005, and devoted to "achieving meaningful public dialogue on the lived experience of design."  But they certainly have my attention now, as their latest exhibition (an outdoor display at 271 Union St.) is a Vancouver Special.  

East Van Cross  Paul Krueger
(photo: Paul Krueger)

Artist Ken Lum (best known for his East Van Cross, pictured above), has created a scale model of a Vancouver Special.  Originally, after receiving a $45,000 grant, and realizing that in 1970, a Vancouver special would have cost about the same, he thought he would create a special of the size which $45,000 would buy today.  He realized, though, that creating one to that scale would be tiny.  So he created ""A Vancouver Special scaled to its property value in 1973, then increased by 8 fold".  The result is still small, but fills the small lot belonging to 221A, at 271 Union St.  

221a with scale model

A cut out in the foundation shows how large the actually property value scale would make the special.  (Photo: micminsen)

I encourage you to check out the exhibit, which will be in place for the next year.  It's an interesting comment on how much the market really has inflated over the past 40 years, but also interesting when you ponder what's happened - an artist has created a house, which was built with the purpose of being uniform, and unartistic.  While the motivation for the specials was originally maximizing use of space, they grew to popularity because of the simplistic, easy nature of building one - no architect was harmed in the creation of these houses.  Why did this form flourish, in a city so surrounded by natural beauty, but seemingly un-obsessed with architectural beauty, at the time? 

For more information, visit the website for the exhibition, at  Or, just go check it out!  

This entry was posted in Buildings, Downtown, East, Heritage, History, Main St, News, Vancouver, Vancouver Specials. Bookmark the permalink.

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