An Enduring Monument

The Powell Street neighbourhood of Vancouver’s East Side, forcibly evacuated during the Second World War, has never recovered from the loss of community that it suffered at that time.

Fifty years later, there still remain buildings that have not been re-inhabited and which endure as reminders of the past. Where post-war renewal, modernization and transformation have occurred elsewhere, Powell Street has remained curiously unaffected and anachronistic.

The thesis speculates that the failure of Powell Street to be integrated into, and taken over by, the surrounding city fabric after the war is because the area was gradually built up by it’s former inhabitants according to an urban experience familiar to them from their home country of Japan. Their different way of living, of interacting, of social boundaries and territories of public and private, were tightly integrated with the way they built and expanded their modest homes and commercial buildings.

The thesis proposes architectural interventions in the neighbourhood that are intended to stimulate cultural understanding and awareness, not through the emulation of Japanese style or the recreation of a historical period but by the crystallization of those aspects of Powell Street which, though ephemeral and difficult to detect on the surface, nonetheless give it unique character.