1973 Arthur Erickson Design for Robson Square

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An article entry in the category: Chronology-Milestones

Milestone Tags[edit]

Urban planning | Built form | Land use | Development | Politics & governance | Senior governments | People |


In January 1968, Vancouver City Council abandoned plans for a crosstown freeway system, while approving the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaduct components of the A three-block site in downtown Vancouver between Nelson, Hornby, Georgia, and Howe Streets was allocated to provide a relocated courthouse and new government offices. There was also the potential to provide a civic square in this strategic location in Vancouver’s developing downtown neighbourhood. After rejection of proposals for a tower on this site, the newly elected NDP provincial government wanted to see more public participation and a more human scale design proposal.


Arthur Erickson was commissioned to redesign the three block area, originally known as the 51-61-71 project and today known as Robson Square. In order to provide a thoughtful plan for the site, his firm investigated the entire downtown to find a way to better incorporate this new development into the existing urban context. His master plan included a new courthouse, government offices in the centre, and the redevelopment of the old courthouse as the Vancouver Art Gallery. The central government building was planned to house offices below ground-level in order to provide a public space for the city at street level.
The lower physical scale of Erickson’s design makes Robson Square unique within Vancouver’s downtown urban fabric. This has become more striking as taller towers have continued to develop around it.