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A CRITICAL GEOGRAPHY OF ARCHITECTURE: THE CASE OF AN ERSATZ COLOSSEUM

Loretta Lees
This paper argues that an architectural geography should be about more than just representation. For both as a practice and a product architecture is performative in the sense that it involves ongoing social practices through which space is continually shaped and inhabited. I examine previous geographies of architecture from the Berkeley School to political semiotics, and argue that geographers have had relatively little to say about the practical and affective or nonrepresentational import of architecture. I use the controversy over Vancouvers new Public Library building as a springboard for considering how we might conceive of a more critical and politically progressive geography of architecture. The librarys Colosseum design recalls the origins of western civilization, and is seen by some Vancouverites to be an insensitive representation of a multicultural city of the Pacic. I seek to push geographers beyond this contemplative framing of architectural form towards a more active and embodied engagement with the lived building.

TOWARDS

. . . [A]rchitecture, even when pluralistic, is never enough. It is no answer to the lack of effective political pluralism . . . Architecture can accomplish much by accepting and celebrating heterogeneity, but it is no substitute for a better politics, economic opportunities and community cohesion.1

ven before its huge glass doors opened to the public in June 1995, E Vancouvers newest civic landmark was embroiled in public debate. In planning the new Vancouver Public Library building, city ofcials intended the $110 million complex to be a proud symbol of Vancouvers self-proclaimed status as a global city.2 The city is changing fast. Thirty years ago it was a broad-shouldered resource centre dominated by the docks, saw mills and factories through which the raw materials of Canadas interior passed on their way to world (and especially US) markets. Now the city is a nancial services centre and Canadas
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multicultural gateway to the Pacic Rim, and what many believe will be a new Pacic century.3 In this time of change Vancouvers leading architectural critic Robin Ward was not alone in hoping that the construction of a new public library was an opportunity to design a landmark for the twenty-rst-century future of a progressive, environmentally sensitive and cosmopolitan Pacic Rim metropolis.4 The City Council chose a peculiar design for the task: a nine-storey swirl of glass and reddish-brown granite (Figure 1) that resembles the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome. Its oval shape, open, see-through arcade at the top of the building, paired columns on the facade, arched openings, buff-coloured sandstone-like concrete and monumental scale all mark the resemblance. The visual effect is stunning: an oval ruin from antiquity in a sea of glistening towers framed by mountains and the Pacic.5 Whether you love it or hate it, theres no mistaking it, noted a columnist for the Vancouver sun. When you go in, straightaway, you give the big building a once-over. You cant help it. Its a monument, a landmark, an event. So huge and distinctive with its Colosseum-like tiers of columns that you cant ignore it.6 As a symbol and civic landmark the public library has sparked extensive discussion and debate. Local architectural critic Robin Ward cheered its architect Moshe Safdie for understanding Vancouvers essentially wacky personality and sens[ing] that the local political climate would favour his brash billboard style of design.7 In contrast to Wards upbeat response, others have objected stridently to the symbolism of the Colosseum design. Take, for example, this comment from a letter to the Vancouver sun: that the Colosseum design recalls the origins of Western civilization is an insensitive, retrogressive view of a city of the Pacic and its multicultural mix.8 While some charged Eurocentrism, others complained about the inauthenticity of a design not obviously rooted in

Figure 1 ~ The Colosseum-like facade of Vancouvers newest civic landmark


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the local traditions of the city, and even that the playful style and shopping malllike interior arcade turned an important civic institution into a Disneyesque theme park. In this essay, I use the controversy over Vancouvers new public library building as a springboard for considering how we might conceive of a more critical and politically progressive geography of architecture. A dozen years ago, Jon Goss claimed that geography has generally failed to come to terms with the complexity of architectural form and meaning.9 Since Gosss manifesto there has been an explosion of new work by cultural geographers interpreting the meanings of the built environment and of landscapes more generally. In a world of rapidly accelerating global ows, architecture is an important way of anchoring identities and of constructing, in the most literal sense, a material connection between people and places, often through appeals to history. Recent work in cultural geography has concerned itself, in particular, with the contested meaning of history and its representation in the built environment. As the debate over the symbolism of the public library design demonstrates, the cultural and symbolic are also deeply political, and a critical geography of architecture must be sensitive to their contested meanings. In the pages that follow I pay considerable attention to the politics of architectural interpretation surrounding Vancouvers newest civic landmark. The public debate over the library design opens important questions about the proper form, function and meaning of civic architecture in a multicultural city. But I want to argue that, while this attention to meaning is clearly necessary, it is by no means sufcient for a truly critical geography of architecture. Architecture is about more than just representation. Both as a practice and a product, it is performative, in the sense that it involves ongoing social practices through which space is continually shaped and inhabited. Indeed, as the urban historian Dolores Hayden argues, the use and occupancy of the built environment is as important as its form and guration.10 And yet in their focus on the symbolic meaning of landscape as sign or as text, geographers have had relatively little to say about the practical and affective, or what Nigel Thrift calls the non-representational import of architecture.11 As I discuss below, attention to the embodied practices through which architecture is lived requires some new approaches, just as it opens up some new concerns for a critical geography of architecture.

Geographies of architecture: from the Berkeley School to political semiotics


The roots of architectural geography, if indeed we can talk of such a subdiscipline, can be found in the rural landscape tradition of (largely American) cultural and historical geography.12 The study of architecture initially attracted those geographers interested in the uniqueness of landscapes and their peoples. The specic focus on vernacular architecture, Goss notes, was seen as counteracting the architects overemphasis on the monumental, the unique and the urban.13 Buildings were treated as artefacts that reected cultural values and a
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societys level of technological development. This tradition in cultural geography suffered from a relative lack of theoretical sophistication that allowed (now seemingly) naive correlations to be made between architectural types and cultural ones.14 Early cultural geographers tended not to interpret architecture per se; rather, they described and mapped geographical patterns of architectural styles, and as a consequence their interpretations of culture were later perceived to be thin rather than thick.15 For instance, Holdsworth has complained that geographers put an undue emphasis on form and type at the expense of other factors that tease out social and economic meanings.16 Partly in response to these perceived interpretive and theoretical shortcomings, Goss and so-called new cultural geographers, inspired by social theory and interested in contemporary urban as well as historical and rural landscapes, have advanced new approaches to understanding architecture and its geographies.17 At the risk of some oversimplication, one might identify two broad strands. First, there were those, such as Cosgrove and Daniels, who took inspiration from Marxism, especially the maverick cultural materialist Raymond Williams, and tried to understand architecture as a social product that both reected and legitimated underlying social relations.18 Secondly, there were those like Ley and Duncan who looked to semiotics and the cultural anthropology of Clifford Geertz to read the built environment as a text in which social relations are inscribed.19 These two broad theoretical approaches were not as exclusive as my categorization may suggest. Indeed, Goss, in his 1988 manifesto for an architectural geography called for an interpretive framework that combined Marxism with semiotics and structuration theory. Giddenss structuration theory taught architectural geographers that practices of power in the spaces of the built environment enabled and constrained the relations between structure and agency, and analyses and critiques of semiotics were taken on board by urban geographers interested in analysing landscape as a form of language.20 As the bitter debates of the 1980s over Marxism and geography have faded (and with them much of the emancipatory ambition of social theory), differences between these two broad theoretical wellsprings of new cultural geography have been attenuated as well.21 While recent work by those who are explicitly hostile to Marxism, like Duncan and Ley, has settled into what might be called a political semiotic approach to the built environment in which landscapes are read for the cultural politics of their symbolic meaning, the attachment to political economy as an approach to interpreting landscape and architecture is barely apparent in more recent books by Cosgrove and Daniels. For example, in Danielss most recent book, Humphry Repton: landscape gardening and the geography of Georgian England, his formal interpretation of landscape gardening displaces the critical concern with cultural politics that animated his earlier work on the iconography of landscape.22 There is clearly an important place for this kind of exhaustive scholarly work, but it is important also that the critical impulses that once made new cultural geography so politically vital not be evacuated altogether. The result will be a politically anaemic cultural geography practised purely for its own sake. The very best work in the eld remains in touch with the connections between the cultural and the political, in the very broadEcumene 2001 8 (1)

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est sense of those words; but arguably there are signs of exhaustion within this political semiotic approach to landscape and the built environment as the search for novel sites and signs reaches the point of diminishing returns.23 The problems are theoretical as much as political. Insisting upon the importance of social context to the meaning of landscape texts, new cultural geographers like Holdsworth insist that we cannot simply read; but reading, albeit practiced in more theoretically self-aware ways, is exactly what they are doing.24 The new cultural geography of landscape, like the old cultural geography of vernacular landscape, has tended to see buildings as signs or symptoms of something else be it class, culture, capitalism, or resistance to them.25 For instance, in her recent Invented cities, Mona Domosh reads the cultural landscape of the city as a form of self-representation in which the middle and upper classes of Boston and New York inscribed their visions of social order . . . and in so doing produce[d] visible representations of their individual and group beliefs.26 While those of postcolonial inclinations have complained that this semiotic conceit of distant (in time and space) landscapes being inscribed with meanings available for us to read radically effaces cultural, historical and other differences separating geographers from their objects of inquiry environmental critics argue that this interpretive approach to landscape as a meaningful social construction ignores the agency of nature.27 While I share these concerns, the point I want to make here is somewhat different. This political semiotic approach to reading landscape in terms of the social and economic context of its production tends to discount questions about how ordinary people engage with and inhabit the spaces that architects design. Thus, for example, Hopkins, in his study of the West Edmonton Mall, argued that the owners spatial strategy of a simulated elsewhere contributed to consumerism an ideology by which the domination of corporate capital was legitimized and reproduced. As Bondi has warned, this interpretation strips the built environment of the meaning it is given by the people who live in it and of the transformations, however modest, that they make.28 While there has been a great deal of recent work in geography on the cultural production of the built environment, much less attention has been given to its consumption. Contemporary architectural geographies do not emphasize enough the fact that urban meaning is not immanent to architectural form and space, but changes according to the social interaction of city dwellers.29 In exploring how architectural spaces are inhabited and consumed, geographers of architecture might take a page from developments in the new consumption literature.30 Geographers now argue that consumption should be seen as a productive activity through which social relations and identities are forged. Such a perspective on consumption as an active, embodied and productive practice dispels the sharp production/consumption distinction, and with it those tired debates about resistance to versus domination by the inauthentic consumerism of more or less duped consumers. The new geography of consumption recognizes the creativity of ordinary consumers in actively shaping the meanings of the goods they consume in various local settings, while insisting also that the commodities themselves, the processes of their production and the identities of
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their consumers cannot be thought of as xed and essential but instead must be theorized as what Harvey calls structured coherences, or what Latour calls actants that emerge as such through networks of inter-related practices.31 By adopting such a perspective on the consumption and use of architecture, critical geographers would be able to explore the ways that the built environment is shaped and given meaning through the active and embodied practices by which it is produced, appropriated and inhabited. Such an approach to understanding the built environment unsettles the sharp public/private boundary between the production and consumption of architecture and its meaning(s), and opens up the question of its dwelling as a politicized practice through which social identities, environments, and their interrelations are performed and transformed. But a critical geography of architecture must go a step further and acknowledge that much in the world is not discursive. Thrift has been the most strident advocate of this view. He insists that the consumption of commodities is not just about the production of (symbolic) meaning.32 In what he calls, somewhat grandiosely, nonrepresentational theory he seeks to move geography away from an emphasis on representation and interpretation towards theories of practice. His idea of non-representational theory demonstrates a progressive sense of place that is embodied and performative: This is not, then, a project concerned with representation and meaning, but with the performative presentations, showings, and manifestations of everyday life.33 From a different perspective, Don Mitchell makes a similar plea for us to see how culturalism operates in social practice.34 If we are to take seriously this suggestion that an architectural geography must address itself to something beyond the symbolic to questions of use, process, and social practice important methodological implications follow. Traditionally, architectural geography has been practised by putting architectural symbols into their social (and especially historical) contexts to tease out their meaning. But if we are to concern ourselves with the inhabitation of architectural space as much as its signication, then we must engage practically and actively with the situated and everyday practices through which built environments are used. In this regard, ethnography provides one way to explore how built environments produce and are produced by the social practices performed within them.35 Those pursuing such a project, Thrift argues, must be observant participants rather than participant observers.36 Informative as it is, however, ethnography by itself is no more sufcient than the political semiotics of old. It is important to guard against criticisms such as those recently made by Goss: the ethnographic approach risks banality by reproducing the obvious nding that consumers make their own meanings, without engaging in positive or negative critique of the politics of meaning.37 Thus, adopting an ethnographic approach to understanding architecture should not mean abandoning questions about the meaning of built environments. Rather, it means approaching them differently, as an active and engaged process of understanding rather than as a product to be read off retrospectively from its social and historical context. As Bernstein suggests, meaning is not self-conEcumene 2001 8 (1)

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tained simply there to be discovered; meaning comes to realization only in and through the happening of understanding.38 The happening of understanding is something performed by investigators engaging actively with the world around them and in the process changing them both. Thrift provides a useful explication in answering the question: what is place? He argues that cultural geographers have looked at place as something to be animated by culture, as if place is made before it is lived in. Thrift prefers to see place simply as there as a part of us, something that we constantly produce, with others as we go along.39 Thrift also uses the case of dance to illustrate nonrepresentational theory, quoting Isadora Duncan: If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.40 In getting to grips with the happening of architectural understanding, critical geographers might also draw fruitfully from the planning literature. Drawing on postmodern, post-structuralist, feminist and postcolonial critiques Leone Sandercock confronts planning with its anti-democratic, race and gender-blind, and culturally homogenizing practices.41 She constructs a normative cosmopolis multicultural city one which can never be realised, but must always be in the making.42 In postmodern fashion, her thesis is deliberately ambiguous. She outlines those principles through which the cosmopolis might emerge: social justice, difference, citizenship, community and civic culture. This requires a more politicized and bottom-up style of planning (insurgent or radical) that resists closures and incorporates protest, civil disobedience and the mobilizing of different constituencies without exclusion. Sandercock provides planners with an epistemology of cosmopolis and an ontology of multiplicity that engages directly with the embodied practices of making those cultural and political differences (multiethnic coalitions, neighbourhood groups, womens activism and so on).43 If the aim and object of a more critical geography of architecture must be to engage with those embodied and socially negotiated practices through which architecture is inhabited, its understandings cannot be produced through abstract and a priori theorizing. Rather, understanding comes out of active and embodied engagement with particular places and spaces. Accordingly, I would like to try to esh out my somewhat programmatic comments about a critical architectural geography by reecting on a number of experiences of the spaces of Vancouvers new Public Library.44

Exploring the building of Vancouvers newest civic landmark


When I rst moved to Vancouver in April 1995 the new library was not yet open, but the Colosseum design was already materializing on the building site. As a newcomer to the city I spent a lot of time that summer walking and cycling around the city, in the double role of both tourist and geographer trying to get a feel for the city. On a tour of Granville Island and False Creek, I remember saying to David Ley that I thought Vancouver was unreal, too perfect, a chocolate box city. I thought it resembled a city on Prozac. It was the image of Vancouver that struck me initially, but I had much more to learn.
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Vancouver is a city conscious of the reawakening of First Nations peoples and of changes due to an inux of capital and people from the Pacic Rim.45 During the period 199095 the immigrant population of Vancouver had increased to nearly 35 per cent of the citys total, the second highest in Canada after Toronto. In 1996 the number of international immigrants in British Columbia exceeded 50 000 for the rst time since 1912, and for the rst time ever Britain ceased to be the leading origin of the foreign-born. In recent years 80 per cent of immigrants to British Columbia have originated from Asia, led by Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the British contribution has now fallen to 2 per cent.46 I became increasingly interested in the urban politics of what I immediately realized was a rapidly changing multicultural city. On reading David Leys paper on Vancouvers monster houses and visiting Kerrisdale, I also became cognizant of the cultural politics of race and identity as they were reected by, and built into, the architectural fabric of the city. 47 The debates over the library design raging in local newspapers and magazines fuelled my curiosity about these issues still further. Vancouvers new Public Library, funded through a publicprivate partnership, was and still is the largest municipal capital project to have been undertaken in the citys history. The project was to be the anchor for a planned redevelopment of the eastern section of downtown. Insofar as the issues were similar to those in gentrication work that I had previously done, I was attracted to them but wanted to do something different from the standard rent gap and political semiotic readings of gentrifying landscapes.48 It was against this background that I began a detailed study of the controversy over the new library, which seemed like the perfect vehicle both to get acquainted with a new city and to explore in a different (for me at least) way some wider concerns about representation, multiculturalism, and the cultural politics of urban change.49 To explore these issues I followed up on the media coverage of the library by interviewing library ofcials and examining the results of their public consultation exercises, as well as by talking to library users and other members of the public, and reading up on the architectural history of the city. Since I was interested in the cultural-political assumptions about history and identity implicit in the debates over the library design, I found that the most useful sources were not the formal submissions to City Council but the op-ed pieces and letters written into the Vancouver sun, the Georgia Strait, and the Globe and mail. These I read as symptomatic of the underlying fault-lines of difference surfacing in the context of debate over the appropriateness of the design for the citys newest civic landmark. I have struggled with this paper for the last ve years, occasionally turning back to it in between other research projects. Each time I thought I had understood the library and its meaning, further reection sapped my condence in my ability to represent fully the political semiotics of the building. What follows is not really an analysis of the library per se, but rather the story of how, in wrestling to represent its meaning, I have felt the inadequacies of an approach to understanding the built environment and the need for a different kind of architectural geography.
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I begin with a cultural reading of the main criticisms that have been mounted against the symbolism of the design. Then I recount a series of gradual steps I have taken away from this conception of architectural space as something with identiable and relatively stable, if also contested, meanings to be read. First, by reecting on the ambiguity of design intention and then on the play of hybrid histories I consider the difculties of xing the meanings represented by architectural forms in terms of determinate contexts. This is a fairly familiar deconstructive move, and my intention in executing it is not to make the stridently post-structural claim about the ultimate undecidability, and thus, in some sense, the political irrelevance, of the architectural sign. Rather, I want to suggest the importance of remaining open to the ongoing enactment of architecture and thus of the dangers of reading too much politically into the signs and symbols of architecture, to discounting the ongoing practices through which meanings are performed. Thus, my third step away from political semiotics is to follow the suggestions of Sandercock and explore the processes of public involvement in the architectural competition through which understandings of the library were articulated and produced. But since the meaning (and politics) of the library space is not something dead and xed only ever to be re-presented, my nal step beyond the political semiotic approach to architecture is to engage critically with the embodied and nonrepresentational practices through which library spaces are actually being used, appropriated, and inhabited. Relaying a series of brief vignettes taken from my ethnographic notebooks I demonstrate how the meaning of the library is continually produced through the daily activities of its users. I conclude by outlining some general principles of a more lively and critical geography of architecture. Criticisms of the symbolism of the Colosseum design
a larger drama facing every city is a commercial force that undermines all cultural landscapes. Symbolic meanings are eroded as steeples are overtopped by ofce buildings, and as high-rise apartments are designed without ethnicity, post ofces without nationality, corporate logos without language. Cities become stage sets for the plastic identities of international banks and hotel chains. If indeed money dissolves culture, the determination of all Canadians to preserve their several identities is a defence of values deeper than the dollar.50

Criticisms of the library design fell into three main sectors of concern about the political meanings it implied. First, many complained that the design was racist and Eurocentric. For example, a planning consultant to the Vancouver Public Library Board complained:
What does an ethnocentric archaeological image say to Vancouverites, Native Canadians, Asian Canadians? What does it say about Canadian identity at all? What does it say about our future on the Pacic Rim? Successful buildings are usually deferential neighbours, not visitors from another culture, continent and time.51

This critique reects contemporary liberal anxieties about race relations in Vancouver and Canada more generally. Over the past three decades, changes in
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Canadian immigration policy have brought substantial increases in immigration. In contrast to previous, predominantly European waves of immigration to Canada, contemporary migrants have come predominantly from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Central and South America, and the presence of these heterogeneous allophones has disrupted the founding myths of Canadian national identity as a contract between two founding peoples one English and the other French. British Columbia was a latecomer to Confederation, and its colonial settlement history has meant that it always tted rather uncomfortably into this founding myth, but recent immigration has been no less disruptive to the longstanding sense of British Columbia. Vancouver has become a particular magnet for Chinese immigrants from the mainland and the former British colony of Hong Kong. One striking and well-publicized indication of the changing demographics of Vancouver is the fact that now over 50 per cent of schoolchildren in Vancouver have a mother tongue that is not English. While immigration is one major source of the recent concern with race and identity in the city, relations with Canadas First Nations are another. The legal rights, status and situation of Native Canadians are higher on the public agenda in British Columbia than ever before, both because of the provinces large population of Native peoples and because the peculiar history of land policy in the province means that legal rights to its territory and the very land on which the city of Vancouver and its public library now sit is being contested in the courts by Native Canadians.52 These colonial legacies make the alleged Eurocentrism of the design a particularly sensitive issue in a city struggling to come to terms with a more vocal and multicultural population. Another letter writer picked up on this same theme:
Its gratifying to see that Vancouver has nally caught up with 300 BC. We can only guess what design theyll pick to replace it 200 years from now, Windsor Castle perhaps?53

This is a relatively new sensitivity in Vancouver. After all, when Vancouvers rst public library, the Carnegie Public Library, was built in 1903, the building was also controversial, but not for its Eurocentrism. Rather, the design of prominent Vancouver architect George Grant was widely criticized for its ostentatious decoration and the free mixing of domed Ionic portico with Romanesque rustication and a mansard roof.54 Times are different now, and the question of heritage is on the lips of Vancouverites as perhaps never before. Arguably this concern with the past has been intensied as the pace of social and demographic change in the city has accelerated. Even before the construction of the library, Vancouver residents were sensitized to the intersections between heritage, race, and the built environment through controversies over the construction of what the media has termed monster houses (Figure 2). These large, opulent, modernist-style houses were built for the wealthy overseas Chinese immigrants moving into Vancouver in the late 1980s and 1990s. To make room for their newly built homes, older homes in the dominant Tudor revival and Arts and Crafts styles of Vancouvers old AngloCanadian elites were razed, and their destruction to make way for ugly new
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Figure 2 ~ A Vancouver monster house

monster houses was often resented. When the wealthy and largely white residents of the Shaughnessy Heights and Kerrisdale neighbourhoods tried to ban monster homes and the relatively unvegetated style of landscaping often favoured by Chinese immigrants, they became embroiled in a heated public controversy about the planning system, the preservation of Vancouvers architectural heritage and some deeper and more uncomfortable questions about race and the cultural hegemony of Anglo-Canadians in a multicultural society.55 The debates over the design of Vancouvers new library echoed these recent conicts. One critic charged: Youve created the most un-Asian of buildings in North Americas most Asian city.56 For many, of course, this would have been high praise. The tender issues of racism and ethnocentrism are a reection of the birth of Vancouver as a multicultural city. These local concerns are also inected by, as indeed they helped inuence, wider debates about Canadian identity in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the longrunning saga over the secession of Quebec. Canada is ofcially bilingual and yet also multicultural. As Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau explained, although there are two ofcial languages, there is no ofcial culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over another.57 Canadian policy on multiculturalism aims to foster a society that respects and reects the diversity of cultures and develops civic participation amongst Canadas diverse population. In recent years, though, many have criticized Canadian multicultural policy for being too concerned with celebrating and expressing different cultures rather than developing intercultural dialogue, for constructing an image of ethnic harmony rather than paying attention to ethnic fault-lines.58
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The reality of a multicultural city is directly related to a second criticism frequently made of the library design: its placelessness and inauthenticity. Editorialists complained:
Why did ofcials select a design from long time dead people? Why not something that speaks of our times and ourselves . . . The City went to the four corners of the Earth, like modern day Argonauts in search of an original design . . . and whimpered back with a copy.59

For this critic, a civic landmark for contemporary Vancouver must be original, authentic, something that speaks of our times and ourselves. This is a hard task for a city that is itself increasingly disembedded from any single place such that its identity is determined by global movements of money, information and people, what Appadurai calls mobile ethnoscapes.60 Local architectural critic Trevor Boddy expressed an all too typical elitist contempt for the citys architecture:
Vancouvers sense of its own history is largely borrowed or invented in the most personalised manner imaginable, making it ripe for the instant identi-kit of PoMo. It is no accident that the consumer-packaged historicism of the Post-Modern has its greatest successes in the US sunbelt and Canadian west coast, places neurotically missing a sense of history and wanting to invent one by architectural means.61

Without a sense of its own history, rooted in and represented by an authentic local style, Vancouver, Boddy suggests, can have no sense of itself. Though David Ley is more approving of the human scale of many postmodern styled developments, he too detects in these complexes a symbol of modern anomie, detached from any authentic sense of place.62 From such a perspective the monumental scale, Colosseum-like form and promiscuously borrowed style of the new library building was frequently condemned as a sign of the essential rootlessness and inauthenticity of globalization, through which the face of Vancouver was coming to resemble so many other business-friendly Pacic Rim cities. Finally, other critics connected the apparent inauthenticity of the library design to a dystopic Disney thesis.63 For these critics, the resemblance of the library to the Roman Colosseum was a symbol of the wider process by which the displacement of public spaces was being concealed through elaborate bread-andcircuses variety dis(at)tractions staged within shopping malls, theme parks and other ersatz public spaces. To this view, the Colosseum design is an architecture of deception, one which substitutes an essentially false image of both past and present for the more authentic city.64 The Colosseum design, with its commercial arcade of shops and cafes, is a contrived and ersatz architecture, devoid of any geographical specicity, that substitutes the placebo experience of consumption in a shopping mall-type environment for the truly democratic public space of the public library.65 One indignant letter-writer complained:
Of what possible relevance to Vancouver, the Pacic Northwest, its people and environment, could an imitation Roman Colosseum be? I would say its about equal to that of the values of panen et circensis to those of a library. Some good may come of it. Our childrens children will be able to tell how a bunch of culturally foggy city
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fathers had a ring slipped through their noses without even becoming aware of it. On with the creation of Disneyland North!66

The Disneyland reference then, speaks not only to anxieties about the apparent Americanization of Vancouver and of Canada in the wake of NAFTA, and with it the loss of local identity, but also to deeper concerns about the library as a symbol of decline in the civic quality of the city.67 Insofar as critics of the library design responded in these three very different ways, the debate over the library design demonstrates the ambiguity of the architectural sign. This interpretative exibility and the continuous possibility of making out still other ways of reading the library problematizes critiques of the library design as a straightforward symbol of Eurocentrism or as placeless inauthenticity, or of the creeping Disneycation of the city. Indeed, I found that the ambiguous nature of the library design itself made any denitive reading of the librarys meaning difcult to sustain. The ambiguity of intention
Most people are able to read an image, a landmark quality they can absorb and react to, even before its built. . . . The city has changed a lot since I spent a bit of time here. The tranquil little town by English Bay became a thriving Pacic Rim commercial centre with hundreds of towers. Green glass, blue glass, pink glass, granite and metal. The city glistening in a kind of crass commercial modernity in the most beautiful physical setting. Now in the midst of all that . . . Im asked to create a civic place with a sense of civic identity. (Moshe Safdie)68

Hoping to provide a thicker and more intertextual reading of the library design, I turned to the writings of its architect, Moshe Safdie, for some clues as to what it might represent. This was an approach to interpreting landscape recommended both by Domosh and by Duncan and Duncan, but as I pursued it I found that, far from providing a secure context for my own semiotic interpretation, my reading of Safdies reading(s) of the library left me feeling confused.69 Indeed, the experience seemed to suggest the difculty of pinning down denitively what the library signied. In a series of interviews and other writings, Safdie has responded to public criticisms of his library design and expressed his own rather idiosyncratic and contradictory views of architecture. Responding specically to the charge of Eurocentrism, he asserted that as many people have seen hanging gardens or a Greek temple in the library design as have seen the Roman Colosseum. What people call it is their business, he offered, but insisted that people need to get past the image of it as Colosseum-like.70 On another occasion, however, Safdie claimed to have settled on a Roman expression for the library design by accident: When I began working on Vancouver, the idea came forward to centralize the stacks . . . and create a reading gallery around them . . . We ended up with a rectangular block, surrounded by an ellipse . . . At this point we recognised the similarity to the Coliseum [sic], both dimensional and proportional. And we actually were amused, as it appeared completely unconsciously.71 Such inconsistency is typical of Safdies writings. His written texts often seem
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to speak in riddles, and my difculty deciphering Safdie made me increasingly uneasy about the contextualization method proposed by Domosh and other cultural geographers for interpreting the meaning of landscape and other nontext texts.72 With so many confusing and contradictory claims, it did not seem possible to tease out Safdies original intentions of what he had meant it to represent. The logical corollary of this unsettling realization was that a structural context on which to ground architectural interpretations might prove just as elusive as an individual one, because any given context could itself be viewed as a text in a never-ending chain of signication.73 A look at Vancouvers new library is not a straightforward peek into Moshe Safdies thoughts, and even if it were Im not sure that it would necessarily be any less ambivalent! Safdie has long criticized postmodern architecture for its narcissism, its pointless hungering for novelty and its lack of commitment to social and community issues. For him, Postmodernist doctrine confuses genuine universal symbols, ones that are immediately meaningful to people from a particular culture, with ironic metaphors symbols that are in and familiar to a particular group, while totally meaningless to the public at large. Safdie has argued that the duty of architecture is to serve the community rather than the ego of the architect a comment that seems strange in light of the postmodern monumentalism of his design for the Vancouver Public Library.74 Indeed, Safdies friend and fellow architect Frank Gehry has said of Safdie: For a guy whos put down postmodernism, and then designs a library that apparently looks like the Colosseum, maybe its time to write another article saying Im sorry.75 The play of hybridity The library design exploits the contrasts between a classical exterior and a modern interior (Figure 3; compare Figures 1 and 4).76 Its round shape, tiers of columns and sandstone coloured concrete all echo the classical form of the Roman ruin. But when you enter the library, the feeling is very different: sleek, modern and high-tech. Looking up through seven spectacular oors of glistening glass protecting library stacks and reading-tables from the noisy interior arcade below (Figure 4), you soon forget its classical and Colosseum-like echoes, so impressive is the display of the buildings high-tech innards: air ducts, pipes and wires.77 I often puzzled over this juxtaposition of self-consciously old and new, and what the re-emergence of classicism in postmodern architecture might mean.78 I began to wonder if the return to classical forms might signify an espousal of the values of the classical tradition, and whether this historical context could provide me with a grounding for my reading of what the library meant. As I delved deeper into the histories of architecture and of ancient Greece and Rome, I turned up some interesting arguments that problematize the claims of critics who argue that the classical tradition is simply Eurocentric and thus inappropriate for a multicultural Vancouver. For instance, Galinsky argues that it is inaccurate to conceive of Greek and Roman societies as monocultural and monoethnic.79 The notion of pure culture, he claims, is an invention of nineEcumene 2001 8 (1)

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Figure 3 ~ The contrast between a classical exterior and a modern interior

teenth-century romanticism. As such, Galinsky implies that if a return to classical forms does signify an espousal of the values of the classical tradition, the classical values we need to recover are those of its actual multicultural history and not those of the Romantics classical revival.80 Architectural writer Abel argues that in fact there are very few examples of indigenous architecture in the world. Most of the worlds architecture has been inuenced by cross-cultural contact. Even the Islamic empires typical hypostyle mosque owes much to Roman building types. Thus, he says there is much to be learned from colonial architecture, for the colonists home architecture was not simply duplicated in a different environment; its relocation involved the transformation of the colonists cultural baggage: for both monumental and non-monumental architecture generally, the critical measure of historical import is not the individual work taken separately, but the whole linked series of precedents and later variants, with all their transformations over time, each of which in turn becomes a potential model which can beget still more transformations.81 The Tudor revival mansions of Vancouver provide such an example, yet most of the geographical writing on this Anglo-Canadian architectural style has tended
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Figure 4 ~ Inside the Colosseum facade a high tech building with a taut glass skin

to treat it as a straightforward reection of the late Victorian values of middleclass England, without much discussion of the transformations involved in its dislocation and relocation to British Columbia.82 By way of contrast, David Leys discussion of Vancouvers monster houses goes some way towards an understanding of the continuities and discontinuities involved.83 Anthony King also offers a superb analysis of the global cultural production of the bungalow, another characteristic feature of Vancouvers vernacular architecture.84 In reecting on the ambiguity and hybridity of the library design, I began to wonder if those who have criticized the ersatz Colosseum, and even perhaps Safdie himself at times, have missed the postmodern play. The Colosseum design is ambiguous: it reects no singular engagement and can be read as multiperspectival.85 Users can locate their own places in and through the different memories and images that the design throws up for them.86 These readings are structured and do adhere to certain patterns, but, as some published letters illustrate, the library is liable to many different, and some quite wacky, readings. For example, one person repatriated the circular design as a landmark of New Age
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spirituality: Far from being ethnocentric, the circle has had mystical signicance for cultures as diverse as the ancient Celts and the aboriginals of the North American plains. What better shape for such an important building as a library?87 Lowenthal suggests these multiple readings are the results of different memories. He argues that ideas of identity and heritage swim in a swamp of collective memory.88 Likewise Boyer, in her City of collective memory, argues that there is a need for an architecture of collective memory that allows for difference drawing absences into the present. But how is this effect produced? My gut feeling was that Safdies Colosseum had such potential. The ambiguities of its hybrid form seemed capable of drawing out different memories and bringing them together, but I had difculty imagining the concrete social process through which the built environment could help us, as Boyer put it, to recall, reexamine, and recontextualize memory images from the past until they awaken within us a new path to the future.89 The architectural competition and the public articulation of meaning
There is a strong sense of collective responsibility . . . There is, too, a strong sense of local citizenship which is informed by the context of cosmopolis, that is, by an awareness of the need for a new kind of enlarged thinking, the need for connection to the cultural Other . . . in the multipli/cities of the postmodern age.90

I struggled with these questions for some time. Upon reading Sandercocks Towards Cosmopolis, I decided once again to go back to my notes and drafts of this essay to think some more about the public process of articulating and contesting the meaning of Vancouvers new library building. Sandercock emphasizes the importance of public participation in planning for a multicultural city.91 In order to achieve a planning process that is sensitive to community and cultural diversity, planners need to listen to the voices of difference, to the multiplicity of publics, before they can imagine togetherness in difference. Reading Sandercock prompted me to think again about the consultation process that was associated with the choice of architectural design for Vancouvers newest civic landmark. Previously, I had simply mined the commentaries for quotations that struck me as symptomatic of the underlying cultural politics reected in the library debate. But having read Sandercock I began to wonder if I didnt need to think much more about the public process, for its meaning was contested. In a new spirit of participatory government, city ofcials made an effort to consult the public about the choice of the design for the new public library building. Councillor Price from the library selection panel explained: This is a monument I think a monument is something that has to be loved by the people, and one of the ways of creating that bond from the beginning is by involving them in the choice.92 Under the aegis of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, the city held a formal architectural competition. The competition stirred up more public interest in architecture in Vancouver than there had been for some years,
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but it also produced certain tensions and contradictions.93 Only two of the competition entrants were local: the world-famous Arthur Erickson and Richard Henriquez.94 Neither passed the initial selection, and the elimination of the only Vancouver-based architects from the competition to design the Vancouver Public Library sparked heated debate among the citys architectural connoisseurs. Andrew Gruff, Professor of Design at the University of British Columbia, howled in protest:
Its bloody ridiculous you cant argue that there was nobody here who could do the project. Its an undermining of local culture if all you do is allow outsiders to compete for what is probably the most important public building of the decade.95

His view was echoed by Canadian architectural critic Trevor Boddy:


A society which chooses not to listen to its best architects as Canada has over the past decade or two risks the loss of a sense of the past and the future in equal measure, with potentially disastrous results.96

Signicantly, both these critics appealed to notions of heritage. For Gruft, local culture was being undermined by the selection of non-Canadian architects as nalists in the competition, while Boddy worried that as a result a Canadian and specically Vancouver sense of place would be lost. The past and the local were integral to their sense of Vancouvers identity and indeed of its future. Yet the library design was supposed to represent the present, more global Vancouver, a city into which there has been a signicant immigration of Asians, South and Central Americans, Caribbeans, East Europeans, and so on. In these circumstances the Northwest European traditions harkened to by these aesthetic nationalists are problematic. The three nalists were announced in December 1991 and given $100 000 to develop a concept and model. The three groups came up with very different design proposals. As we have seen, the eventual winners, the Boston-based Safdie consortium (with local partners Downs/Archambault), proposed a Colosseum design, a ourish of elliptical colonnades and ersatz classical moulding (see Figure 5). Los Angeles-based Hardy Holzer Pfeifer proposed a modernist-style half-moon model that some compared unatteringly to a multi-storey car park, and the Toronto rm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg proposed a Bauhausstyle model reminiscent of the old public library (a classic modernist design) but with echoes also of a Chinese pagoda. The city then approached Vancouver residents to nd out which of the three designs they preferred. This new style of participatory urban politics has been taken on board by the relatively liberal planning community in Vancouver. Public meetings were held in response to the monster house conict in Kerrisdale, and the city of Vancouver has gone out of its way in recent years to solicit the viewpoints of the Vancouver public to inform the production of new planning documents.97 In February 1992 the three anonymous models went on display at City Hall, several community centres and shopping malls, as well as the central library for public inspection. Along with the models there was also a single-page questionnaire, The Library Square Design Competition questionnaire for the public, with phoEcumene 2001 8 (1)

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Figure 5 ~ Architect Moshe Safdies model for the design competition

tographs of the three models and a comments sheet, to be lled out by interested members of the public. Over 7000 people lled out the questionnaire, of whom 70 per cent chose Safdies Colosseum model. The representativeness of this sample cannot be gauged with any certainty, but it probably did not include a cross-section of Vancouvers many social classes and ethnic groups.98 The questionaire asked: Does the proposal convey an appropriate image as one of Vancouvers most important public buildings? Most of the responses were little more than one-liners about the designs, but some were more substantial. Some people even went so far as to attach seven or eight typewritten pages of comments. The general view was that the Safdie model was fun and had panache. The other two models were seen as too conventional, too much like ordinary downtown ofce blocks or parkades. Safdie seems to have won because he had a strong vision. As Vancouver Public Library director Madge Aalto later told me, The AIBC had printed 500 sheets to start with and were astonished at the feedback over a three week period and kept reprinting the sheets to
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meet demand. Public interest was high. Safdie apparently found the public vote quite a traumatic experience.99 He would have preferred not to have taken part in a public competition, for he argues that a public vote can often preclude more avant-garde designs. However, to what extent the publics comments inuenced the nal judgement it is difcult to say, because the nal deliberation of the committee was closed to the public. But given the strong support for the Colosseum design, it would have been awkward (to say the least) for the competition committee to contravene the results of the public consultation exercise. Andrew Gruft argued that the Colosseum design was popular because it was splashy, easy to read, made the biggest gesture, but he felt that the public didnt know enough of the technicalities to make an informed choice.100 There is something to this criticism. Lay publics do not generally have the technical knowledge necessary to make informed choices about, for example, building materials, costs, and the feasibility of structures. This critique of the publics understanding of expert systems is frequently made in, for example, environmental debates, where defenders of expert discretion argue such decisions should be left to the professionals or experts. The issue is whether architecture is strictly a technical matter that only experts are qualied to decide or whether it is something that the public can judge, and how to balance expertise against democratic participation. In the case of the Vancouver Public Library the nal decision was made by a selection committee that included ve members of the library board, three professional architects (New York-based William Pederson, Fumihiro Maki from Japan and Vancouvers Gerald Rolfson) and three publicly elected ofcials (then Mayor Gordon Campbell and two councillors). The panellists evaluated reports from the technical advisory board and the urban design panel, as well as the public responses to the three nalists. This was an unusual panel of judges for an architectural competition: such competitions are customarily more heavily weighted towards professional architects.101 We can perhaps assume, therefore, that the nal decision in this case was popularly and politically driven as much as professionally.102 Indeed, although Safdies model won the contract, it was not technically feasible, at least not within the allotted budget. As a result the ofce building had to be relocated, one of the lower oors eliminated, the overall oor space of the library reduced, all but one of the atria lled in (compare Figure 1 with Figure 5), and the rooftop public garden, one of the biggest selling-points of Safdies design, was left for future redevelopment.103 These changes reinforced the scorn of critics who charged that he had won the contract through misrepresentation and ersatz history, the obvious Colosseum form playing to the gallery, the bread-and circuses crowd which was crucial to the mock democratic architect selection, models being displayed in shopping malls, then collecting votes.104 This conclusion bothered me until reading Sandercock reminded me of the importance of the process through which the design and its meaning had been articulated. Perhaps the very fact that there has been so much public debate and controversy over the library design represented a success, albeit partial, for Sandercocks vision of cosmopolis. The building has generated great public
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interest and excitement about the library. As city councillor and member of the competition panel Gordon Price put it, At least this building provokes passion and opinion. The worst thing we could have done would have been to have chosen something bland and safe.105 Though the design itself is clearly provocative, much of this passion and public feeling was generated through the public consultation process itself, and the way in which different constituencies engaged with the library design. Turning to consumption: ethnographies of use
Local architects have never accepted the design, saying that it does not reect our west coast architecture and in that they are correct. It does, however, provide the client and the user with a signature building that functions well for the patron and which has become a major tourist attraction, as well as an immensely successful library attracting 6,000 to 8,000 people a day year round.106

Once I realized that the public process of deliberating on the library design was the very means through which its contested meanings were produced, I began wondering why this process of enacting meaning should be imagined as something nished only continually to be re-presented. This led me to think more about the public consumption of architecture and to reconsider the ongoing uses of the library and its spaces. Drawing on Deleuze and Foucault, I had written previously about how the intellectual spaces of the library proffered a contestatory countersite and thus acted in the terms of the heterotopia.107 Somehow, though, I had always distinguished in my mind between the actual functions and uses of the library and the cultural-political symbolism represented by its design. True to the political semiotic approach, I had conceived the latter only in terms of a (mis)representation of the former, and thus conceived the task of a critical geography of architecture as one of simply diagnosing the political semiotics of mystication and legitimation in the library design. Acknowledging the ongoing uses and inhabitation of the library took me a nal step beyond this political semiotic approach to the built environment and its concern with architecture only as representation. Concern for the habitual (and nonhabitual) use and consumption of the library throws open important new questions of everyday practice, embodiment and performance. Instead of asking what the library means, I began also to consider what it does. What takes place within (and without) the library? How are dominant (and not so dominant) social practices and relations performed? Such questions about the different social experiences and uses of modern architectural spaces have been explored by Borden et al., who have begun the critical task of understanding how the architectures of modern life are actually lived by differently positioned individuals.108 In moving towards a critical geography of architecture I do likewise. This interest in the nonrepresentational and embodied practices enacted within the library treats the spaces in which practice takes place much more seriously. No longer just a passive stage for the rehearsal and re-presentation of predetermined social scripts, space becomes alive and integral, inextricably connected
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to and mutually constitutive of the meanings and cultural politics being worked out within it.109 With this new understanding of the importance of the embodied consumption and practical inhabitation of space, I went back over my eld notes with a new eye and revised my discussion of the library yet again. I now recognize that, while architecture and the meanings it represents are clearly important and demand our critical attention, so too are the ways in which they are enacted, performed and often subverted. Indeed, I now realize the two are inseparable and not usefully thought of in terms of those familiar representational dualisms signier/signied, form/content in which I had originally organized my discussion. It is through the ongoing and practical appropriation and use of the librarys spaces that its social meanings become sedimented. In an effort to lay bare the happenings of architectural space, their embodied and creative consumption, and their meaningful understanding, I want to present several vignettes drawn from my notes taken during eighteen months of my own intermittent study at, and of, the library. I have selected these fragments to show how the library and its spaces and meanings were produced through everyday (and not so everyday) practices of use, including my own.110 During this time I went on library tours, talked to a number of library users and of course used the library.111 I read and borrowed books, looked at promotional materials and browsed through the library web site (http:// www.vpl.vancouver.bc.ca). I also ate and shopped in the librarys retail street and interviewed the librarys director, librarians, retail staff and security guards. I had originally produced these ethnographic eld notes to provide empirical data for the work I was doing at the time on the privatization of public space and the public space of the Vancouver public library.112 In retrospect, however, I have also found them useful in reecting back on my own experiences of the library and in changing my understanding of it. Of course, the richness and diversity of library user experiences cannot be represented fully here. The Vancouver Public Library is the second largest public library in Canada, with 395 000 card-holders and over 8 million items borrowed annually. My hope is that disclosing a selection of vignettes will convince you, as it has me, of the importance of the librarys ongoing appropriation and use. My rst vignette takes place over a cup of coffee whilst sitting outside Blenz Coffee in the librarys commercial arcade. I often took a coffee break whilst working in the library. On this particular day I happened to sit at a table next to a young couple, a white man with leather jacket and ponytail and a welldressed Japanese woman, talking intently. Sipping my latte I listened to their conversation. In his laconic west coast accent he was telling her how to be Canadian. You have to be more assertive, he said. That comment pricked up my ears, as it wasnt how I thought of Canadians. It soon became apparent that the pair werent a couple at all, but had only just met, perhaps in the library arcade. The woman had trouble understanding the comment and acted coy. Soon the conversation drifted beyond what it meant to be Canadian and into a discussion of attracting the opposite sex. Before leaving the man gave the Asian
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woman his telephone number and said that she could telephone him if she wanted to talk further. In this case the couple used the space of the library for their own purposes. The library was transformed into a site in which cultural values were being worked through while playing out the mating game or, depending on how you read it, sexual harrassment. The library became a site for the process through which their sociability was getting worked out. This interaction to a considerable degree makes a nonsense of dystopic theses on the demise of public space, for the arcade became an amenity, a stage, for public interaction rather than a symbol or example of the privatization of public space. The tables and chairs and coffee shop in the library arcade were fundamental to the nature of the interaction. In another context, for example at work, where the couple may have known each other, or in a bar where they didnt know each other, the interaction would have been quite different. My second vignette is situated in the newspaper and magazine section of the library. The library has made a real effort to further its principles of openness, appreciation for difference, and cultural inclusiveness.113 For the multicultural population, some of the librarians are required to have different language skills, and the library has a special language laboratory, as well as a selection of foreign newspapers and magazines. During the day the newspaper and magazine section gets a lot of use. Particularly noticeable are the number of elderly immigrants whose age and dress mark them out from the students and business people who also make heavy use of this section of the library. Many are regulars who come to the library every day. Indeed this section of the library seems to act as a kind of gathering-place a home away from home. A social and cultural cross-section of Vancouvers elderly population can be found reading foreign newspapers from around the world. I often spent time there reading British newspapers and sometimes struck up conversations with other users. I remember an elderly English gentleman said to me, as he rattled The Times, Foreign newspapers are expensive, so with time on my hands, Im retired, I come here to nd out about back home. An elderly German gentleman said to me, Its quiet here and cosy and I can catch up on events back in Germany in peace. A Chinese woman walked around the reading-tables searching for a particular Chinese newspaper, as if someone had stolen it from her. Through their reading these users transform the library into a place of connection in which everyday horizons are extended back or forward from contemporary Vancouver to imagined elsewheres, perhaps mother countries or homelands of distant relations. These connections and the meanings they give the space of the library are not pregiven but continually (re)shaped and (re)produced. The public library, with its access to foreign newspapers and magazines, becomes a space in-between, in-between Canada and their country of birth, a space in which ideas about home and nation and encounters with Others, real and imagined, are played out. From talking to these old folk, I discovered that for them the library became temporarily a place/space of not here nor there, of indeterminacy; as one woman said to me, Sitting here reading news from home I feel like Im not there [i.e., Hong Kong, her place of birth] but Im not
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here either its strange. Some said that they felt like strangers in a strange city, but that the library gave them a kind of life line to home . Another said that he was glad that he wasnt at home. Although their reading was located in the newspaper and magazine section their reading eluded the library building as the space became home. In this way the space of the library was incorporated into processes of identity formation and reproduction. My third story takes place in the library toilets (that is in the ladies toilets). Due to a lack of public facilities on the streets, many people come into the library simply to use its toilets. After a coffee break and before sitting down to do some more work I decided to go to the toilet. On entering I came across a homeless woman looking under the door of one of the cubicles. I have commented on the design of the librarys toilets elsewhere114 with wide gaps below the doors for surveillance purposes. Perturbed, I went into the adjacent cubicle. When I came out the woman was staring at a young woman who had been in the cubicle but was now washing her hands. The young woman left, and I started to wash my hands. At the same time the homeless woman began to undress and to ll the sink with soapy water. I did not stay and watch, but the woman began to wash herself as I left. The library, that is the library toilets, became a site in which bodily cleansing was negotiated. The woman, I assume, was checking to see if anyone was in the cubicle before undressing to wash herself. This homeless woman appropriated the library for her own purposes to bathe. She used a public space to undertake a private activity. She made a public space temporarily a private one, as evidenced by my uncomfortableness I felt like I was intruding in her space. Critically, she ignored the surveillance of the toilets (as I have mentioned elsewhere they were patrolled regularly); Big Brother watching (the Panopticon) had little impact on her behaviour. Attention to the geography of this womans embodiment points to the expressive power of embodiment. There was a sense that cleanliness and public propriety was important to this woman even though she lacked access to facilities for it. Her use of the toilets, her bathing, signied a social exclusion that she was perhaps trying to cover up. This capacity to take up and transform the space of the library (toilets) alludes to the myriad of possibilities (politics of the moment) that can be taken up in the built environment. One activity that I saw over and over again was schoolkids playing on the library escalators, running up the moving escalators to see if they could get to the librarys fth oor and back down again before their friends did. As they ran up the escalators they would push other users out of the way, laughing and panting. Here the kids, to many peoples annoyance, were appropriating the library as an indoor playground, as a site of physical performance, even as a site of disrespect (as one adult on the escalator said to me) for their elders. This use points to the inadequacies of reading the library as pure symbol. For these kids, what the library means is largely irrelevant. Rather, theyre interested in what it does and in what they can do there. While their use of the library as a play space and site of homework production may be particular, their shaping of its spaces through bodily inhabitation is not. In focusing so much attention on
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what meanings the built environment might represent, cultural geographers have failed to pay enough attention to questions of practice and to the lived politics of architectural use opened up by these brief vignettes of the library as dwelling.

Moves towards a critical architectural geography


Every serious cultural analysis starts from a sheer beginning and ends where it manages to get before exhausting its intellectual impulse.115 My moves towards a critical architectural geography pivot around the argument that [w]e do not act within spatial segments on the one hand and read meanings on the other.116 The built form frames both representation and social practices simultaneously.117 As Barthes says:
If I am a woodcutter . . . The tree is not an image for me, it is simply the meaning of my action. But if I am not a woodcutter . . . this tree is no longer the meaning of reality as human action, it is an image-at-ones-disposal.118

Architecture professor Kim Dovey nds clues for this framing in Heideggers contemplative (Vorhandenheit) and active (Zuhandenheit) modes of dwelling.119 The meaning of both architectural form and behaviour in space are processual and based in everyday life, in dwelling. Whilst we may need different methodological tools to understand these framings, they are nevertheless integrated. There remains in this integration a theoretical and methodological tension between deconstruction and communicative practices. To remain open to the lessons of deconstruction but to move towards a social and communicative justice and democracy, Bernstein argues that we need to grasp (the tensions between) both of these elements.120 In moving from a political semiotic reading of the Vancouver public library building towards a nonrepresentational approach open to ongoing social practices, I have moved from an abstract contemplation of architecture as representation to a more active and embodied engagement with the lived building. I do not suggest that behaviour in space is more important than architectural form, only that the meaning of both is based in everyday life, in dwelling. It follows that representations are not simply read, but are constructed through interaction.121 This interactionist approach no longer privileges architect (or producer) and form over function. It recognizes that meaning is not something xed but is ongoing and continually produced through practice, for human action itself is forever unnished.122 In this approach, power over and empowerment become one, for [a]ll questions about power as mediated in built form come back to those of empowerment.123 Contrary to Gerecke, who argues that connecting architecture and the emerging philosophy of empowerment may seem like mixing oil and water,124 in that architecture is usually about power over rather than empowerment, a consideration of social practices enables us to appreciate the embodiment of gestures of emancipation within the formal imagery of a building. The connection between built form and human action is kept alive. As such, radical
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and/or emancipatory possibilities are drawn back into the equation. Such an approach recognizes the multiple connections of power to built form. It recognizes the spatialized entanglements of power.125 Political engagement is important in a critical geography of architecture, so perhaps it is time to think about it more broadly. Architectural geographers have sought to engage politically with the built environment (primarily in terms of the contested meanings it represents).126 As demonstrated by the debates over the meanings represented by the Vancouver Public Library, this is clearly necessary for a critical geography of architecture, but not sufcient. For in uncovering embodied geographies of practices and performances, these may be recast as resistant acts. For example, the homeless woman bathing in the library could be read as a form of resistance to the surveillance (and thus control) of the librarys toilets. However, as Cresswell argues, there is a danger in geography that the resistance currently being found in all areas of social life could lead to resistance being a meaningless and theoretically unhelpful term.127 Indeed, Thrift argues that it is time to move beyond a geography in which often the generative aspects of space are shoehorned into negative theoretical formats as resistance and to acknowledge, following Perec, all the different species of spaces.128 Thrift seeks to broaden his analysis of space(s) by emphasizing everyday practices in/of those spaces: These are unreective, lived, culturally specic, bodily reactions to events which cannot be explained by causal theories (accurate representations) or by hermeneutical means (interpretations).129 But maybe he goes too far. By considering the everyday social practices of the consumers/users of architecture, identity and its formation become a central theme in this critical geography of architecture. This ties into the work of contemporary urban planners, such as Sandercock, who emphasize a practical engagement with multiplicity and difference in post-modern planning, as well as architects who now argue that architecture as identity rivals architecture as a language and architecture as space as one of the main themes and metaphors in architectural discourse.130 In the Vancouver library identity formation for the elderly immigrants in the newspaper section was about occupying many places on different maps simultaneously it was about the species and pieces of spaces. Finally, I want to urge architectural geographers to learn from developments in critical geography more generally.131 For researching and writing this paper has taught me that architectural geographers need to become more open to developments in disciplines outside of geography, in for example architecture and urban planning. These two disciplines in particular (along with recent debates in critical geography) have made me realize the importance of making academic work more public, and of linking up with urban practitioners.132 To close, I quote from Borden et al., who outline the kind of critical architectural geography that I would like to see:
a cultural and educational initiative aiming to explore, understand and communicate the complex intersection of architecture, cities and urban living. It does so in three ways: publicly, by presenting and promoting new ideas about architecture and cities to the general public; professionally, by presenting to architects and other urban
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design professionals new ideas about cities and urban living; and academically, through interdisciplinary enquiries involving architectural history, art history, cultural studies, feminism, planning, sociology and urban geography.133

Acknowledgements I would like to thank Don Mitchell, David Demeritt, an anonymous referee and David Ley for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Research for this paper was undertaken during a two-year research period at the University of British Columbia, Canada, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, UK. Finally, thanks to the Director of Vancouver Public Library, Madge Aalto, for answering my questions on the design and public consultation phases of the library competition, and to all my interviewees. Notes
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C. Jencks, Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the riots and the strange beauty of hetero-architecture (London, Academy Editions, 1993), p. 77. The library complex includes the central public library and a 22-storey federal ofce tower, a two-storey retail and service corner, and underground parking for 700 cars. L. Lees, The Pacic Northwest: rural backwater to urban ecotopia, in F. Boal and S. Royle, eds, North America: a geographical mosaic (London, Arnold, 1999), pp. 23948; L. Lees, ed., Special issue, Vancouver: a portfolio, Urban geography 19 (1998)4; K. Mitchell, Visions of Vancouver: ideology, democracy, and the future of urban development, Urban geography 17 (1996), pp. 478501. D. Ley; Styles of the times: liberal and neo-conservative landscapes in inner Vancouver, 1968-1986, Journal of historical geography 13 (1987), pp. 4056. R. Ward, Roamin the ruins, Vancouver sun (3 June 1995), p. D8. A superb selection of photographs of the Vancouver Public Library can be found in W. Kohn, ed., Moshe Safdie (London, Academy Group, 1996), pp. 284301. Alternatively you can tour the librarys architectural features by clicking on the icons on the library tour map found at http://www.vpl.vancouver.bc.ca D. Ward, Your new library, Vancouver sun (24 May 1995), p. F1. R. Ward, Roamin the ruins, p. D8. Letter to Vancouver sun, 29 Apr. 1992. J. Goss, The built environment and social theory: towards an architectural geography, Professional geographer 40 (1988), p. 392. D. Hayden, The power of place: urban landscapes as public history (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1995). N. Thrift, Spatial formations (London, Sage, 1996); N. Thrift, The still point: resistance, expressive embodiment and dance, in S. Pile and M. Keith, eds. Geographies of resistance (London, Routledge, 1997), pp. 12451; N. Thrift, Entanglements of power: shadows?, in J. Sharp, P. Routledge, C. Philo and R. Paddison, eds, Entanglements of power: geographies of domination/resistance (London, Routledge, 2000), pp. 26978. Particularly inuential in establishing this tradition was the work of: F. Kniffen, Folk housing: key to diffusion, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 55 (1965), pp. 54977; F. Kniffen and H. Glassie, Building in wood in the eastern United States: a time-place perspective, Geographical review 56 (1966), pp. 4066; P. Lewis, Common houses, cultural spoor, Landscape 19 (1975), pp. 122; and J.B. Jackson, Discovering
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the vernacular landscape (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1984). Goss, The built environment and social theory, p. 393. Similar concerns were expressed by L. Ford, Architecture and geography: toward a mutual concern for space and place Yearbook of the Association of Pacic Coast Geographers 46 (1984), pp. 733. See e.g. Kniffen, Folk housing: key to diffusion?; W. Zelinsky, Cultural geography of the United States (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1973). This distinction between thin and thick description comes from C. Geertz, The interpretation of cultures (London, Fontana, 1993, original edn 1973). D. Holdsworth, Revaluing the house, in J. Duncan and D. Ley, eds, Place/culture/representation (London, Routledge, 1993). p. 95. Similar critiques are made in D. Cosgrove and P. Jackson, New directions in cultural geography, Area 19 (1987), pp. 95101; D. Gregory and D. Ley, Cultures geographies, Environment and planning D: society and space 6 (1988), pp. 1556; K. Anderson and F. Gale, Introduction, in Anderson and Gale, eds, Inventing places: studies in cultural geography (Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1992), pp. 112. Those geographies of architecture informed by social theory have tended to focus on macro-scale built environments/landscapes, such as cities, theme parks, housing and urban communities: Ley, Styles of the times; D. Ley, Co-operative housing as a moral landscape: re-examining the postmodern city , in Duncan and Ley, Place/culture/representation, pp. 12848; M. Domosh, Invented cities: the creation of landscape in nineteeth-century New York and Boston (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1996); D. Mitchell, Public housing in single industry towns: changing landscapes of paternalism, in Duncan and Ley, Place/culture/representation, pp. 11027; K. Till, Neotraditional towns and urban villages: the cultural production of a geography of otherness , Environment and planning D: society and space 11 (1993), pp. 70932. However, there has also been some important work on megastructures, skyscrapers and the home/house: E. Relph, The modern urban landscape (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); M. Domosh, A method for interpreting landscape: a case study of the New York World Building, Area 21 (1989), pp. 34755. This essay by Domosh stands out in its interpretation of a single building. For a very different tradition of interpretation, see D. Harvey, Monument and myth, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69 (1979), pp. 36281. Architectural geographers need to look more closely at individual buildings. Duncan has shown the interpretive rewards to be had from the close scrutiny of a single building; see J. Duncan, The city as text: the politics of landscape interpretation in the Kandyan kingdom (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990). In her Invented cities Domosh also argues that detailed description of single buildings can provide for a much richer reading than an examination of the aggregate. With their expertise on scale and space, geographers should be at the forefront of attempts to link cultural artefacts, individual buildings, with cultural and political practices. As Ford has argued, geographers have tended to study housing but not houses, retailing but not department stores, quaternary functions but not skyscrapers . . . [I want] cities to be explained through a thicker, more real discourse: L. Ford, Cities and buildings: skyscrapers, skid rows, and suburbs (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), p. xii. D. Cosgrove, Social formation and symbolic landscape (London, Croom Helm, 1984); S. Daniels, Marxism, culture, and the duplicity of landscape, in R. Peet and N. Thrift, eds, New models in geography II (London, Unwin Hyman, 1989), pp. 196220. In addition to the Marxism of Raymond Williams the iconography of Erwin Panofsky was

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also an inuential source for this neo-Marxist strand of new cultural geography. See D. Cosgrove and S. Daniels, eds, The iconography of landscape: essays on symbolic representation, design and use of past environments (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988). J. Duncan and N. Duncan, (Re)reading the landscape, Environment and planning D: society and space, 6 (1988), p. 23. See also Ley, Styles of the times; Ley and Duncan, eds, Place/culture/representation; T. Barnes and J. Duncan, eds, Writing worlds: discourse, text and metaphor in the representation of landscape (London, Routledge, 1991); R. Schein, The place of landscape: a concepual framework for the American scene, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 87 (1997), pp. 66080; D. Matless, Landscape and Englishness (London, Reaktion Books, 1998). Goss, The built environment and social theory; C. Jencks, The language of post-modern architecture (London Academy Editions, 1978); D. Preziosi, The semiotics of the built environment (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1979); G. Broadbent, R. Bunt and C. Jencks, Signs, symbols and architecture (Chichester, John Wiley, 1980); A. Rapoport, The meaning of the built environment (Beverly Hills, Calif., Sage, 1982); M. Gottdiener and A. Lagopoulus, eds, The city and the sign (New York, Columbia University Press, 1986); J. Duncan, Review of urban imagery: urban semiotics, Urban geography 8 (1987), pp. 47383; P. Knox, The social production of the built environment: architects, architecture and the postmodern city, Progress in human geography 11 (1987), pp. 35377; R. Barthes, The semiotic challenge (New York, Hill & Wang, 1988). D. Holdsworth, Revaluing the house illustrates well the conceptual transition from traditional cultural geographys simplication of the house to a mere type to be plotted across space towards a more complex and more interpretative new cultural geography. However, P. Groth and T. Bressi, eds, Understanding ordinary landscapes (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1997) allow traditional and new cultural geographies to coexist without limiting or cancelling the importance of each other. J. Duncan and D. Ley, Structural Marxism and human geography: a critical assessment, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 72 (1982), pp. 3059; Duncan, City as text; D. Ley, Between Europe and Asia: the case of the missing sequoias, Ecumene 2 (1995), pp. 185210; D. Cosgrove, The Palladian landscape: geographical change and its cultural representations in sixteenth-century Italy (Leicester, Leicester University Press, 1993); S. Daniels, Humphry Repton: landscape gardening and the geography of Georgian England (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1999). This assessment of the political-semiotic approach is a subjective and a debatable one, but consider the ways in which the imperative of novelty and the resulting planned obsolescence of academic ideas are built into the structures of academic life. From the generational father-killing emphasized by Peter Taylor in his explanation of the quantitative revolution to the role of market forces in the globalizing publishing industry emphasized by Barnett and Lowe (which, as Berg and Kearns and I myself have noted, tends to produce its own geography of centre and periphery), the drive for novelty and with it the tendency towards diminishing returns is a structural feature of academic life: P. Taylor, An interpretation of the quantitative debate in British geography Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 1 (1976), pp. 12942; C. Barnett and M. Lowe, Speculating on theory: towards a political economy of academic publishing, Area 28 (1996), pp. 1324; L. Lees, Editorial, Vancouver: a portfolio, Urban geography 19 (1998), pp. 2836; L. Berg and R. Kearns, America unlimited, Environment and planning D: society and space 16 (1998), pp. 12832. D. Holdsworth, Landscape and archives as text, in Groth and Bressi, Understanding
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ordinary landscapes, pp. 545. Groth and Bressi, ibid provides a useful outline of both the background to, and current state of play of, both cultural landscape studies and new cultural geography. M. Domosh, Invented cities, p. 2. The book provides a more empirically substantiated example of the interpretative approach outlined in her Method for interpreting landscape. P. Groth, Living downtown: the history of residential hotels in the US (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1994) provides an interesting comparison to Domoshs focus on the bourgeois classes in Invented cities, for he analyses the different buildings designed for different social classes and the abnormal culture of having no home. D. Demeritt, The nature of metaphors in cultural geography and environmental history, Progress in human geography 18 (1994), p. 169. J. Hopkins, West Edmonton Mall: landscape of myths and elsewhereness, Canadian geographer 34 (1990), pp. 217; L. Bondi, Gender symbols and urban landscapes, Progress in human geography 16 (1992), p. 162. For other studies of shopping malls, see R. Shields, Social spatialization and the built environment: the West Edmonton Mall, Environment and planning D: society and space 7 (1989), pp. 14764; M. Sorkin, Variations on a theme park: the new American city and the end of public space (New York, Hill & Wang, 1991); J. Goss, The magic of the mall: form and function in the retail built environment, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 83 (1993), pp. 1847; J. Goss, Disquiet on the waterfront: nostalgia and utopia in the festival marketplace, Urban geography 17 (1996), pp. 22147; M. Gottdiener, The theming of America: dreams, visions and commercial spaces (Oxford, Westview Press, 1997). I. Borden, J. Kerr, A. Pivaro and J. Rendell, eds, Strangely familiar: narratives of architecture in the city (London, Routledge, 1996), p. 12. See H. Mackay, ed., Consumption and everyday life (Beverly Hills, CA, Sage, 1997); L. Crewe and N. Gregson, Tales of the unexpected: exploring car boot sales as marginal spaces of contemporary consumption, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 23 (1998), pp. 3954; D. Miller, ed., Acknowledging consumption (London, Routledge, 1995); D. Miller, P. Jackson, N. Thrift, B. Holbrook and M. Rowlands, Shopping, place and identity (London, Routledge, 1998). P. Jackson, Commodity cultures: the trafc in things, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 24 (1999), p. 95; D. Harvey, Justice, nature, and the geography of difference (Oxford, Blackwell, 1996); B. Latour, Pandoras hope: essays on the reality of science studies (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 303. Thrift, The still point; Entanglements of power. Thrift, The still point, p. 127. Thrift boldly appropriates insights from heterogeneous theoretical traditions, from actor network theory to performance studies, Judith Butlers queer theory, and various post-structuralisms, to create what he calls non-representational theory. In so doing he collapses important differences amongst them. Far from, as Thrift suggests, opening up space for something other, such inattention to difference risks creating just more of the same. Nevertheless, Thrifts approach is instructive because it wakes us up to the fact that not everything is discursive. D. Mitchell, Theres no such thing as culture, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 20 (1995), pp.10216. See Mackay, Consumption and everyday life. Thrift, Non-representational theory, in R. Johnston, D. Gregory, G. Pratt and M.

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Watts, eds, The dictionary of human geography, 4th edn (Oxford, Blackwell, 2000), p. 556. J. Goss, Once-upon-a-time in the commodity world: an unofcial guide to Mall of America, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 89 (1999), p. 48. R. Bernstein, Beyond objectivism and relativism: science, hermeneutics, and praxis (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983), p. 126. N. Thrift, Us and them: re-imagining places, reimagining identities, in Mackay, Consumption and everyday life, pp. 1967. N. Thrift, The still point, p. 139. L. Sandercock, Towards Cosmopolis: planning for multicultural cities (Chichester, John Wiley, 1998), p. 4. Ibid., p. 163. Similar ideas of multiplicity are also advocated by Hayden, The power of place. In so doing I seek to extend Larry Fords argument in Cities and buildings, p. 5, that a geography of architecture ought to be able to analytically link macro-level theory (the overriding political, economic and cultural context) with meso- (the roles of major individual decisionmakers or gatekeepers in determining urban form) and micro-level theory (how average people perceive the city and make spatial decisions about it). Lees, Vancouver: a portfolio; K. Mitchell, Conicting geographies of democracy and the public sphere in Vancouver, BC, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 22 (1997), pp. 16279; Mitchell, Visions of Vancouver. As A. King, The politics of vision, in Groth and Bressi, Understanding ordinary landscapes, notes, the revival of an interest in culture and in multiculturalism is directly related to these changes. These statistics are taken from J. Mercer, Canadian cities and their immigrants: new realities, Annals of the American Academy of Political Scientists 538 (Mar. 1995), p. 172; D. Ley, Myths and meanings of immigration and the metropolis, Canadian geographer 43 (1999), pp. 34. Ley Between Europe and Asia; Mitchell, Visions of Vancouver. I was particularly sceptical at that time of dominant representations of gentrication that had been constructed as sites of difference. See L. Lees, In the pursuit of difference: representations of gentrication, Environment and planning A 28 (1996), pp. 45370. This eventually appeared as L. Lees, Ageographia, heterotopia, and Vancouvers new Public Library, Environment and planning D: society and space 15 (1997), pp. 32147; L. Lees, Urban renaissance and the street: spaces of control and contestation, in N. Fyfe, ed., Images of the street: planning, identity and control in public space (London, Routledge,1998), pp. 23653. S. Olson and A. Kobayashi, The emerging ethnocultural mosaic, in L. Bourne and D. Ley, eds, The changing social geography of Canadian cities (Montreal, McGill-Queens University Press, 1993), pp. 13852. It is useful to keep in mind the interplay between universality and difference, for although capitalist development produces similar building forms over the world, at a secondary level buildings are marked with a particular cultural stamp: King, The politics of vision, p. 144. Quoted in A. Brown, Colossal blunder, Vancouver sun (16 May 1992), p. D6. P. Tennant, Aboriginal people and politics (Vancouver, UBC Press, 1989). For a sensitive historical geography of the present conundrum, see C. Harris, The resettlement of British Columbia (Vancouver, UBC Press, 1997). Letter to Vancouver sun, 21 Apr. (1992), p. D7.
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G. Warner, Vancouvers Carnegie Public Library, Westworld 1 (1 Apr. 1975), pp. 202, 36. The library is now a community centre. Ley, Between Europe and Asia. D. Beers, Architect of boom, Vancouver (May/June 1995), p. 78. Pierre Trudeau, 1971, cited in A. Kobayashi, Multiculturalism: representing a Canadian institution, in Duncan and Ley, Place/culture/representation, p. 205. See S. Croucher, Constructing the image of ethnic harmony in Toronto, Canada: the politics of problem denition and non-denition, Urban affairs review 32 (1997), pp. 31947; M. Quadeer, Pluralistic planning for multicultural cities: the Canadian practice, Journal of the American Planning Association 63 (1997), pp. 48194. A. Rollo, Colosseum style library branded irrelevant to our times, Vancouver sun (15 May 1992), p. C1. A. Appadurai, Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization (London, University of Minnesota Press, 1996). His ideas are applied to Vancouver by K. Olds, Globalization and urban change: tales from Vancouver via Hong Kong, Urban geography 19 (1998), pp. 36085. T. Boddy, Plastic Lions Gate: a short history of the post modern in Vancouver architecture, in P. Delany, ed., Vancouver: representing the postmodern city (Vancouver, Arsenal Pulp Press, 1994), p. 35. Ley, Styles of the times; D. Ley and C. Mills Can there be a postmodernism of resistance in the urban landscape?, in Knox, The restless urban landscape, pp. 25578. See e.g. M. Sorkin, Variations on a theme park. For a critique, see Lees, Ageographia, heterotopia, and Vancouvers new public library. L.H. Lees, Urban public space and imagined communities in the 1980s and 1990s, Journal of urban history 20 (1994), pp. 446. See Ley and Mills, Can there be a postmodernism of resistance in the urban landscape?, p. 271, which calls for a more nuanced consideration of the Disney-esque. Quoted from a letter to Vancouver sun, 23 Apr. 1992, p. D5. However as Spivak and Gunew argue, the proliferation of inauthenticity due to a multicultural shift which distances us both from the dominant ideology and from our cultural heritages has a positive aspect; it makes it harder to ignore the historical and material forces that underpin the construction of cultural identities. See G. Spivak and S. Gunew, Questions of multiculturalism, in S. During, ed., The cultural studies reader (London, Routledge, 1993), pp. 193302. Quoted in Beers, Architect of boom, p. 65. Moshe Safdie was born in Israel and educated in Canada, but his main architectural ofce is now in the United States. Safdie grew to fame with his student thesis project Habitat 67 (a cubist-looking residential apartment block) built for Montreals 67 Expo in Quebec. Subsequently his architecture developed in places such as Singapore and Israel, and later back in Canada with the Muse de la Civilisation in Quebec, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the Ballet Opera House in Toronto. In addition to the Vancouver Public Library, he has designed the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts across the street from the library. Domosh, A method for interpreting landscape; Duncan and Duncan, (Re-) reading the landscape. Beers, Architect of boom. Quoted in Kohn, Moshe Safdie, p. 34. See also Beers, Architect of boom, p. 65. One can infer Pulitzers intentions from reading about his life and studying the World Building: Domosh, A method for interpreting landscape, p. 353; see also Domosh, Invented cities.

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See also D. Gregory, Geographical imaginations (Oxford, Blackwell, 1994), pp. 3356. M. Safdie, Form and purpose (Boston, Houghton Mifin, 1982), pp. 10, 131. Safdie sees himself as a modernist; indeed, W. Rybczynski, Northern lights, in Kohn, Moshe Safdie, p. 33, argues that the design of the Vancouver library was inuenced by Kahns library at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire brick ring carrels around a concrete structure. Quoted in S. Godfrey, The image builder, Globe and mail, (Metro edn, 27 June, 1992), p. C1. Frank Gehry is a Canadian architect working in Los Angeles. He designed the Frances Howard Goldwyn Branch Library (1984) in north Hollywood; see M. Davis, City of quartz: excavating the future in Los Angeles (New York, Verso, 1990), pp. 23640. On the relationship between Gehrys LA and Safdies Vancouver fortressstyle library, see L. Lees, Ageographia, heterotopia and Vancouvers new public library; Lees, Urban renaissance and the street. The archetypal postmodern building, the Hotel Bonaventure in Los Angeles, exploits similar contrasts: see F. Jameson, Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism?, New left review 146 (1984), pp. 5392. The Hotel Bonaventure was also enclosed by a glass skin; Ley and Mills, Can there be a postmodernism of resistance in the urban landscape?, pp. 25960, argue that skin is one clue to its late modern pedigree in which the striving to minimalism was taken to its limit the disappearing building. Classicism re-emerged in architecture at the First International Exhibition of Architecture at the Venice Biennale of 1980. Entitled The presence of the past, it became in some quarters an international manifesto of postmodern design. The facades were designed to highlight historicism in postmodern architecture, to proclaim, in Robert Sterns words, that architecture was free again to employ Classical language on a civic scale; quoted in K. Galinsky, Classical and modern interactions: postmodern architecture, multiculturalism, decline and other issues (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1992), p. 3. Galinsky, Classical and modern interactions (ch. 5) illustrates the non-Eurocentric and multicultural nature of e.g. the time of Alexander the Great. He goes so far as to assert that calling the Greco-Roman world Eurocentric is racist (p. 116). He shows Roman society to have been mobile, to have taken a serious interest in other cultures (they even encouraged ethnography), and argues their culture to be not static but creative and adaptive. It is easy to see, Galinsky argues, why Hadrians Villa, a complex of various architectural traditions of the empire, is often an inspiration to postmodern architects (p. 147). See Gregory, Geographical imaginations, pp. 1412, on the postmodern textualization of architecture. C. Abel, Architecture and identity: towards a global eco-culture (Oxford, Architectural Press, 1997), p. 173. See e.g. J. Duncan, Shaughnessy Heights: the protection of privilege, in S. Hasson and D. Ley, eds, Neighborhood organizations and the welfare state (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1994), pp. 5882; Harris, Resettlement of British Columbia. By contrast, Holdsworth is much more attentive to changes in form. Perhaps as a consequence his reading of them is both richer in substance than Duncans and less dismissive of the older style of cultural geography, which took the changing form and pattern of vernacular architecture as its object: D. Holdsworth, House and home in Vancouver: images of west coast urbanism, 1886-1929, in G. Stelter and A. Artibise, eds, The Canadian city: essays in urban and social history (Ottawa, Carleton University Press, 1984).
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Ley, Between Europe and Asia. A. King, The bungalow: the production of a global culture (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995). Ley and Mills (Can there be a postmodernism of resistance in the urban landscape?, p. 260) reveal the modern roots of postmodern multiple perspectives. As a postmodernist building it is irreducibly plural . . . an unstable hybrid based partly on codes external to itself: Charles Jencks, cited in Abel, Architecture and identity, p. 147. Letter to Vancouver sun (25 May 1992). D. Lowenthal, Identity, heritage, and history, in J. Gillis, ed, Commemorations: the politics of national identity (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1994). Cf. Gregory, Geographical imaginations, p. 150. M. C. Boyer, The City of collective memory: its historical imagery and architectural entertainments (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1996), p.29. Sandercock, Towards Cosmopolis, pp. 1589. In this respect Sandercock reiterates a point made long ago by the urbanist J. Jacobs, who argued that a belief in the superior insight of the architect produces a self-referential design and disenfranchises the public from deciding about the look and feel of the city: The life and death of great American cities (New York, Vintage, 1961). Quoted in McKenzie, Mistake or masterpiece?, p. 42. Delany, Vancouver: representing the postmodern city, p. 20. Vancouver has a long history of public debate about its civic architecture. The Provincial Courthouse (now home of the Vancouver Art Gallery), designed by the amboyant architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury in 191113, was neoclassical, elaborately columned and embellished with a glass-domed rotunda, though nobody seemed to mind. Vancouvers City Hall (1935, architect Fred Townley), designed in the Moderne style (a sort of Art Deco without the trimmings), was built to represent an up-to-date Vancouver. It was to be a progressive symbol of an ambitious city. Its hard-edged classicism austere white walls and column-like shafts looking like 1930s government buildings in Munich or Moscow was not criticized as ethnocentric at the time of its construction. Rather, the few criticisms that arose focused on its radical modernist design. Ironically, Vancouvers modern architecture has more recently been celebrated as heritage architecture as reected in the landmark status given to the old modernist Vancouver Public Library (designed by the rm of Semmens & Simpson in the mid1950s), now the home of Virgin Records, a TV studio and the Planet Hollywood chain. Arthur Erickson is renowned for his modernist style architecture and his outspoken criticism of postmodernist architecture, which he dismisses as vulgar and inauthentic token historicism. Postmodernism, he complains, quotes history with as much veracity as Disney. Its plethora of leitmotifs of past styles, used without reference to time or place trivialize the hard won icons of history, using them as if they were cardboard cutouts: quoted in M. Wyman, ed., Vancouver forum: old powers, new forces (Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, 1992), pp. 151, 1556. Richard Henriquezs work is known for its commitment to preservation, authenticity and history. He has adopted what he calls ctional history in which narrative, invented history and historic memory are emphasized. See Boddy, Plastic Lions Gate, pp. 2549; A. Perez-Gomez, The architecture of Richard Henriquez, in Delany, Vancouver, pp. 509. McKenzie, Mistake or masterpiece?, p. 46. Boddy, Plastic Lions Gate, p. 47.

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Before leaving Vancouver I observed a number of public focus groups that set out to assess the publics response to the densication of the inner suburb of Dunbar. See L. Lees, Urban densication and the politics of livability in Vancouver, Canada, unpublished conference paper presented to the 1998 Institute of British Geographers Conference, Kingston University, UK. D. Ley and K. Olds, Landscape as spectacle: Worlds Fairs and the culture of heroic consumption, Environment and planning D: society and space 6 (1988), p. 204, followed a similar methodology. Quoted in Beers, Architect of boom, p. 78. Quoted in McKenzie, Mistake or masterpiece?, p. 47. McKenzie, Mistake or masterpiece?, pp. 4250. It has been suggested in the press that the choice of design for the library was based on some ill-dened compromise among committee members: S. Rossiter, The birth of a statement, Georgia Strait (26 May2 June 1995), p. 9. McKenzie, Mistake or masterpiece?, pp. 4250; Rossiter, The birth of a statement, p. 9. Boddy, Plastic Lions Gate, p. 48 (emphasis added). Councillor Gordon Price on the architectural competition panel, quoted in McKenzie, Mistake or masterpiece?, p. 50. E-interview with VPL Director Madge Aalto, June 1999. Lees, Ageographia, heterotopia, and Vancouvers new public library, p. 341. Borden et al., Strangely familiar. See also N. Glazer and M. Lilla, eds, The public face of architecture: civic culture and public spaces (New York, Free Press, 1987), p. ix, who call for more focus on the (public) consumption of architecture. This point has also been made in E. Soja, Thirdspace: journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined spaces (Cambridge, MA, Blackwell, 1996). I became more critical of semiotic analysis whilst undertaking a book review of M. Gottdieners Postmodern semiotics as I was about to start my participant observation. My ethnographic skills had time to develop, for I had much more time than, say, Goss to undertake extended participant observation 18 months as opposed to 10 days. Ethnographic notes were made in the period June 1995Dec. 1996. Lees, Ageographia, heterotopia, and Vancouvers new Public Library. Interview with VPL librarian, 1996. See likewise the design of a public library for the multicultural city of Hayward in California by Miers and Associates together with the California State Hayward Center for the Study of Intercultural Relations (1991). Lees, Urban renaissance and the street, p. 243. Geertz, The interpretation of cultures, p. 25. K. Dovey, Framing places: mediating power in built form (London, Routledge, 1999), p. 50. See C. Philo, More words, more worlds, in I. Cook, D. Crouch, S. Naylor and J. Ryan, eds, Cultural turns/geographical turns (London, Prentice-Hall, 2000), pp. 346, on the dematerialization and rematerialization of cultural geography. See also J. Hill, ed., Occupying architecture, (London, Routledge, 1998). Although focusing on architectural practice, this collection argues that architectural production and discourse ignore the user, and that architectural practice should focus on the relationship between design and experience. R. Barthes, Mythologies, trans. A. Lavers (London, Paladin, 1973), p.145; also cited in Dovey, Framing places, p. 50. Ibid., pp. 502.
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R. Bernstein, Postmodernism, dialogue and democracy, in J. Jones, W. Natter and T. Schatski, eds, Theory at bay (New York, Guilford, 1993). Dovey, Framing places, p. 51. L. Lerup, Building the unnished (Beverly Hills, Calif., Sage, 1977). On the problematic split between form and function, see J. Habermas, Modern and postmodern architecture, in J. Forester ed., Critical theory and public life (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1985). Dovey, Framing places, p. 52. K. Gerecke, Empowerment, architecture and city planning: is integration possible?, in Gerecke, ed., The Canadian city (Montreal, Black Rose Books, 1991), p. 258. See Sharp et al., Entanglements of power. See Goss, Once-upon-a-time in the commodity world. Gosss reading of the Mall of America is akin to Barthess writerly text, which invites the reader to subvert passive consumption and to challenge hegemonic codes of construction. Barthess text allows for jouissance the joy of undermining meaning. Jouissance is seen as a form of resistance to closed meaning, to ideology. See R. Barthes, S/Z (New York, Hill & Wang, 1974); R. Barthes, The pleasure of the text (New York, Hill & Wang, 1976); T. Adorno, Minima moralia (London, New Left Books, 1974). However, as Eagleton has written of Adorno, Goss seems to offer as a solution what is clearly part of the problem . . . sickness as cure: T. Eagleton, The ideology of the aesthetic (Oxford, Blackwell, 1990), p. 360. The Mall is made acceptable and resistance is/becomes a neutral political stance. T. Cresswell, Falling down: resistance as diagnostic, in Sharp et al., Entanglements of power, p. 259. Thrift, Entanglements of power, p. 274. See G. Perec, Species of spaces and other pieces (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1997). Thrift, Entanglements of power, p. 274. Abel, Architecture and identity, p. 166. See crit-geog-forum@mailbase.ac.uk See L. Lees, Critical geography and the opening up of the academy: lessons from real life attempts, Area 31 (1999), pp. 377383. Borden et al., Strangely familiar, pp. 89.

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