Waterfront Public Realm Design: Towards a Sustainable Identity Urban Projects in Vancouver and Portland

  •  Elena Lacilla    
  •  Jose Maria Ordeig    


The renovation of the waterfronts, such as those in the main public spaces of large cities, started in 1970s. Core industries had found other places to develop far from the city; thereafter key areas fell out of use and into disrepair. As a consequence, a huge number of urban areas became in urgent need of renewal. However, urban design guidelines to regenerate these open spaces have significantly changed since then. The approach towards returning these parts of the city to its inhabitants has evolved from an emphasis on building new housing in the nineties, to considering the broader aspects of sustainability in the early years of the current century and finally to searching for the areas’ identity in more recent years. Therefore, currently this identity is one of the main aspects designers are looking for. At the same time, the sustainability of the waterfront areas may be achieved through the establishment of this place´s sense of identity. In order to do this, we assess three urban actions undertaken in Portland and Vancouver -False Creek North, South Waterfront and Southeast False Creek-. The article suggests that the interplay between urban design, sustainability and identity is becoming the new driver for the design of the waterfronts.

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