Skyline by Committee

At the newly unveiled Web site Shape Vancouver 2050, users are given a digital model of the Vancouver skyline, the ability to extrude buildings upwards, and a visual gauge of the resulting effects on the city’s downtown. As the user drags the digital towers higher and population density increases, meters at the bottom of the screen go up too–energy saved, carbon use curbed, dollars added to the city coffers.

It’s a neat tool, if a bit of a one-liner: the more tall buildings you insert, the better things get; make nearly all the buildings tall and you’ve created an “Urban Paradise!” (Leave most of the buildings as low-rises and you’re chided for fostering sprawl.) It’s not entirely clear whether the site’s creators—the architecture firm Perkins +Will and the developer Concord Pacific—intended Shape Vancouver as an honest solicitation of planning input from the public, or a sneaky way to educate (or indoctrinate?) residents in the environmental benefits of high density. Either way, their message is clear: Want a better Vancouver? Build tall.

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