UBC Graduate Research

Chinatown Collective : Conversations between the intangible and tangible heritage of Vancouver’s Chinatown Lo, Cecilia Hiu Tung


This thesis seeks to represent the relationships between culture, heritage and identity. As a first generation Chinese-Canadian settler immigrant, I look to investigate the forces of the built environment that has shaped my personal identity and the forces that are shaping others perception of my identity. I situate my investigation in the context of North American Chinatowns, one of the most glaring examples of a Chinese-Canadian space. It is through storytelling that I explore how heritage can be spatialized and how its representation reframes culture and identity. Heritage has become a commodity through heritage conservation methods and regulation. Naturally changing spaces have been forced into stagnation because of competing pressures of nationalism and consumerism. They’ve become representations of an ideal that is imposed on by designers, politicians, and government. I argue that heritage is not an asset to be protected and conserved. Heritage must be sustained and defined by the everyday lived experiences of people in order to result in the creation of resilient cultural spaces. Through storytelling, I speculate on the narratives of these people and ask the question: What do these places become when they are created, designed, and inhabited by the community living there? Where do designers stand in this process of identity building and placemaking?

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International