All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

St-Paul’s Hospital moving? Hamburg’s Quartier 21 may be a model.

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St. Paul's Hospital in the 30s

St. Paul’s Hospital in the 30s

One the bigger projects in Vancouver is the move of St-Paul’s. The core of the downtown hospital on Burrard street is a historic brick building dating from 1913. But the building does not have a heritage designation, and that has many worried (details here, here, here, here, and here).

The hospital is to be moved to the False Creek flats at Main and Terminal, but what is become of the old buildings? Razing everything and building anew has been proposed.

I think this would be, frankly, an error and a shame. It’s true that historic buildings are expensive to renovate, but they are called historic for a reason.
This proposal made me think of a very similar project, Quartier 21, that I visited in Hamburg. This project involved turning an old brown-brick hospital, built in the 1900s, into a residential and commercial complex.

The main building of the old hospital of Quartier 21

The main building of the old hospital of Quartier 21

In this case, the hospital buildings (seven pavilions) were kept intact and renovated into 102 condos and rental units. Added to this, since the grounds were quite large (think Riverview), seven five-story brand new buildings were added to the complex, for a total of 50,000 square meters for 271 suites. Commerical or functional space is nearly as important: 45,000 square meters for office and retail space, and educational, community and healthcare facilities.

Quartier 21: new buildings on the left, heritage behind and left

Quartier 21: new buildings on the left, heritage behind and left

The buildings, new and renovated, were subject to the usual demanding environmental performance (EnEV07 or EnEV09, which means roughly half-way to PassivHaus standard). The new buildings all have green roofs as well. And this being Hamburg, the complex is walking distance to an urban train station.




Quartier 21 heritage buildings

Quartier 21 heritage buildings

Sigh. I love old brick buildings. Hamburg puts a lot of care on preserving its heritage (so much was lost in the war). This wasn’t always the case; many priceless buildings were torn down in the nineteenth century. Now the city has learned its lesson and ensures that heritage buildings are renovated into energy efficient buildings without loss of character. I expect Vancouver to grow and develop, and I welcome the prospect. But not if we’re blind to our own heritage.




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