We walk through this city, where there are regulations, where design dictates the way we should behave, we tend to walk linearly from point A to point B where the uniformity of commercial advertising and utilitarian infrastructure drowns our senses. We consequently move throughout the city without noticing its allure.

Splits are narrow spaces that exist between two buildings within a single block, each different from the others. These spaces, generally seen as empty, dirty, unproductive, are actually spaces that offer respite from the prescribed streets. They break the predictability of the retail strip through their textures, uses, and incompleteness, while their emptiness promotes latency of the imagination.

The interrelationship of these concepts is what makes the splits so valuable in understanding the undervalued conditions of the city. By taking a closer look at their qualities one can discover the universe that exists inside these overlooked spaces. These often forgotten splits loaded with memory exist outside the productive logic of the city, serving as a rupture on the inscribed behaviour and infrastructure of the urban fabric and commercial corridors.

The role of the designer is challenged, as they are often imposing order into unproductive spaces, filling voids to serve as rational and efficient spaces. These voids literally and metaphorically break the regularity of the retail street wall. They become spaces that some people have discovered and appropriated in a number of ways. Because of their ambiguous boundaries it is difficult to define their ownership and their use, therefore, their very vacancy allows them to be imbued with meaning. They are, as Foucault would argue, heterotopias. These spaces then become platforms for expression and discourse, respite, and temptation.

The unplanned, banal, un-designed spaces that I noticed during my walks, offer ruptures from our over-regulated urban fabric. In this project they are documented as one typology, analyzing how they differ in access, boundaries, and dimension. They are also explored from within, demonstrating the importance and meaning behind these spaces to re-define them as valuable assets to the civic identity of Vancouver to complement the rest of the city fabric, allowing for different ecosystems, uses, and interpretations.


Fernanda Hannah
Bill Pechet [CHAIR]
Thena Tak