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Vancouver is a large port city on the southern end of the Pacific seaboard in British Columbia, Canada.  We know this, but beyond that, what do we know about this beautiful Olympic city?  Join us now, as we explore the city of Vancouver, Canada.

Olympia: Vancouver
This is your destination for a deeper perspective on the Olympic city.  Here, learn more about the nature and history of Vancouver, and view more in-depth information on Olympic venues and locales, as well as they many notable destinations in the city.  First, a little background on Vancouver...

Vancouver (pronounced /vŠnˈkuːvər/) is a coastal city located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada.  It is named for British Captain George Vancouver, who explored the area in the 1790s.  The name Vancouver itself originates from the Dutch "van Coevorden," denoting somebody from Coevorden, a city in the Netherlands.  

The largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, Vancouver ranks third largest in the country and the city proper ranks eighth.  According to the 2006 census Vancouver had a population of just over 578,000 and its Census Metropolitan Area exceeded 2.1 million people.  Its residents are ethnically diverse, with 52% having a first language other than English.


Logging sawmills established in 1867 in the area known as Gastown became the nucleus around which the townsite grew, and Vancouver was incorporated as a city in 1886.  By 1887, the transcontinental railway was extended to the city to take advantage of its large natural seaport, which soon became a vital link in a trade route between the Orient, Eastern Canada, and London.  The Port Metro Vancouver is now the busiest and largest in Canada, as well as the fourth largest port (by tonnage) in North America.  While forestry remains its largest industry, Vancouver is well known as an urban centre surrounded by nature, making tourism its second largest industry.  It also is the third largest film production centre in North America after Los Angeles and New York City, earning it the nickname Hollywood North.


Vancouver has ranked highly in worldwide "livable city" rankings for more than a decade according to business magazine assessments.  It has hosted many international conferences and events, including the 1976 United Nations Conference on Human Settlements and the 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication.


At 5,335 people per km2 (13,817.6 people per mi2) in 2006, Vancouver has a high population density relative to most other North American cities.  Urban planning in Vancouver is characterized by high-rise residential and mixed-use development in urban centres, as an alternative to sprawl.  This has been credited in contributing to the city's high rankings in livability.


This approach originated in the late 1950s, when city planners began to encourage the building of high-rise residential towers in Vancouver's West End, subject to strict requirements for setbacks and open space to protect sight lines and preserve green space.  The success of these dense but livable neighborhoods led to the redevelopment of urban industrial sites, such as North False Creek and Coal Harbor, beginning in the mid-1980s.  The result is a compact urban core that has gained international recognition for its "high amenity and 'livable' development." More recently, the city has been debating "ecodensity"—ways in which "density, design, and land use can contribute to environmental sustainability, affordability, and livability."


Notable buildings within the city include Christ Church Cathedral, the Hotel Vancouver, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.  There are several modern buildings in the downtown area, including the Harbor Centre, Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square (designed by Arthur Erickson) and the Vancouver Library Square (designed by Moshe Safdie), reminiscent of the Coliseum in Rome.


The original BC Hydro headquarters building at Nelson and Burrard Streets is a modernist high-rise, now converted into the Electra condominiums.  Also notable is the "concrete waffle" of the MacMillan-Bloedel building on the north-east corner of the Georgia and Thurlow intersection.  A prominent addition to the city's landscape is the giant tent-frame Canada Place, the former Canada Pavilion from the 1986 World Exposition, which includes part of the Convention Centre, a Cruise Ship Terminal and the Pan-Pacific Hotel.  Two modern buildings that define the southern skyline are the city hall and the Centennial Pavilion of Vancouver Hospital, both designed by Townley and Matheson in 1936 and 1958 respectively.


A collection of Edwardian buildings in the city's old downtown core were, in their day, the tallest commercial buildings in the British Empire.  These were, in succession, the Carter-Cotton Building (former home of the Vancouver Province newspaper), the Dominion Building (1907) and the Sun Tower (1911), the former two at Cambie and Hastings Streets and the latter at Beatty and Pender Streets.  Another notable Edwardian building in the city is the Vancouver Art Gallery building, designed by Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the provincial Legislature and the highly decorated original Hotel Vancouver, which was torn down after WWII due to the completion of the new Hotel Vancouver a block away.


The Sun Tower's cupola was finally exceeded as the Empire's tallest commercial building by the elaborate Art Deco Marine Building in the 1920s.  Inspired by New York City's Chrysler Building, the Marine Building is known for its elaborate ceramic tile facings and brass-gilt doors and elevators, which make it a favorite location for movie shoots.


Topping the list of the tallest buildings in Vancouver is Living Shangri-La at 201 meters (659 ft) and 62 stories.  The second tallest building in Vancouver is One Wall Centre at 150 meters (491 ft) and 48 stories, followed closely by the Shaw Tower at 149 meters (489 ft).

Vancouver at a Glance

Downtown Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver

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