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Leading thinker pans 2010 Olympics architecture

One of Vancouver’s leading architecture critics has given the urban vision of 2010 Games planners a staunch thumbs down.

"Opinions of Olympic cities are shaped more by the accomplishments of local architects than homegrown athletes," Trevor Boddy wrote in the latest issue of Vancouver Review. "Ours will be the least architecturally ambitious Olympic Games since Melbourne in 1956."

Boddy brought Vancouver’s unique urban thinking -- Vancouverism -- to London in a 2008 exhibition. A local version opens tomorrow at the Woodwards redevelopment.

He doubts the world will be impressed by the recent architectural offerings of VANOC and the provincial government. Part of the reason why, he argued, is no Olympics venue was subject to design contests, the first Games to eschew them in decades.

Instead, the provincial government awarded contracts to "cronies and corporate toadies".

"In the new British Columbia, golf games with cabinet ministers count for more than design awards. And design competitions? What are those?" Boddy lamented.

The result, in his opinion, is “colossal boondoggles” such as the newly expanded Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre. Designers of the massively over budget project “sterilized” a wide swathe of waterfront, then backtracked on plans to turn the roof into a public recreation space amid security concerns, Boddy wrote.

Admittedly, the critic was wowed by the Richmond Oval’s gigantic wooden roof, even though harsh interior lighting makes it hard to look at.

Adele Weder, the Tyee’s architecture writer in residence, had similarly scathing words for Olympics design in a 2008 opinion piece.

“China used architectural bravura to argue its new importance in the world,” she wrote. “VANOC, by contrast, seems determined to keep its architecture as unremarkable and anonymous as possible.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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