Leaving History Where It Lies
A new British Columbia housing development retains the past without preserving
By Clair Enlow
Perry + Associates
Imperial Landing, a dense, new suburban community in Richmond, just south of
Vancouver, B.C., was built around the remains of an old fishing and processing
center at the mouth of the Fraser River. Most of the old industrial complex
has been cleared away and replaced by sturdy new walkways and green space.
But unlike the usual new-over-old redevelopment, the gritty, timeworn reminders
of the past have not been obliterated. Inside a 40-acre park, a hundred years
of history are etched into the ground. A half-mile-long boardwalk that supports
strollers, fitness seekers, and picnickers steps lightly over an artificial
cove, boat basins, and foundations, heading toward an old loft building that
awaits restoration. Along the way, it passes groves of pilings—blackened and
falling gradually back into the river’s edge—that once supported a small city
of commerce. These pilings were very important to the evolution of the industry:
They held up the cannery buildings themselves and brought them into direct
contact with the boats that plied their nets in the mouth of the river, and
they have been kept as part of the visible history of the site.
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