UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Chinese architectural practice and the spatial discourse of Vancouver's Chinatown Brouwers, Stephen Frans


The thesis examines Chinese architectural practice within the city of Vancouver as a means of identifying the historical extent of Chinese lived social space and to challenge the notion that Vancouver's Chinatown existed as a clear and separate spatial category. By using a definition of space that includes its temporal dimension the thesis argues that Chinatown spatially is a dynamic phenomenon that has exhibited tremendous changes over the last 130 years. The intention of the thesis is two part, first it illustrates the historical significance of early Chinese architectural practice, and secondly, it begins to construct a spatial discourse that considers the totality of Chinese lived social space and its influence on the formation of the city of Vancouver. The research specifically examines Chinese hybrid architectural practices that have been organized as a genealogy in an attempt to provide a means to identify and explain multiple points of origin from multiple sources. These practices have been placed within a series of maps defined by the Canadian Pacific Railway's subdivision of District Lot 196 and include Chinese land occupation, city zoning boundaries and major urban development proposals. The study is divided into fourteen discrete architectural cases. Although the cases are organized into three general periods the intention of the research is to identify the specific historical and contextual circumstances that produced and inform each case. The intention was to identify how hybrid architectural practices were used to negotiate space and produce new social practices. The thesis reaffirms the social, historical and cultural significance of the architecture produced around the area identified as Chinatown. The area is populated with a number of historically significant buildings, comprising a number of distinct architectural practices that have produced some unique spatial conditions. The study also clearly refutes the conceptualization of Chinatown as a coherent or accurate historical image of Chinese lived social space within the city of Vancouver. The research identifies fundamental problems in the conception and historical description of Chinatown as a discretely defined space.

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