The John Fluevog store in Vancouver’s Gastown is an example of how new can be mixed with old and produce great results.

Nelson’s past must meet its present

Is Nelson's commitment to heritage limiting creativity and the community's future?

Walking through Victoria’s downtown core as a child, I loved looking down at a unique strip of bricks on Government Street.

Each brick had a name on it. The names were of those who founded Fort Victoria, and the line of bricks ran the perimeter of where the old fort stood.

From Market Square to the Inner Harbour and Chinatown — which is the oldest in Canada and only second in age to San Francisco’s in North America — Victoria is saturated in history and heritage.

When I moved to Vancouver after university I immediately found myself drawn to the Gastown neighbourhood, which reminded me of home. But what I loved most about Gastown was the juxtaposition of old and new.

Vancouver has become known as the Emerald City — partially due to its towering green glass buildings — but wedged in between all of those modern skyscrapers are remnants of the city’s past.

One of my favourite examples of this is the John Fluevog shoe store in Gastown. My friends have often heard me refer to the store as a cathedral of footwear. (I had a bit of a shoe obsession before moving to the mountains and trading my high heels for Birkenstocks.)

It is a beautiful glass building sandwiched between two heritage buildings; a wonderful example of old married with new.

In my time in Nelson I have fallen in love with the heritage and history of the community, but I’m starting to wonder if we’re a bit stuck in the past.

From the nostalgia around the Civic Theatre building to the conversation around the changes to the City’s heritage commissions, it seems as though some people are unwilling to step into the future.

Not all cultural trends are particularly nice to look at — for example the hairdos of Flock of Seagulls or some of Cher’s wardrobe choices — but they were influential and important in terms of artistic and creative expression.

What if architects like Frank Lloyd Wright had been restricted by heritage preservation? He may never have created Fallingwater.

Imagine how much different Seattle Centre would look without the dramatic design of the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Museum.

What would Nelson look like if we opened up our vacant lots to developers with new architectural design ideas mixed with images from our past?

If we truly are a great little arts town, should we really be restricting someone’s creative vision?

Memories and history are important, and need to be recognized and cherished by a community, but we don’t need to create living shrines to the past.

First dates and kisses at the Civic Theatre are important, but perhaps the interests of the community have changed.

Maybe my generation would rather watch movies on NetFlix or AppleTV or go climbing rather than sitting in a movie theatre.

Just because we don’t have a movie theatre in the Civic or incorporate modern architecture into the downtown core, doesn’t mean we don’t respect our heritage.

By firmly labeling Nelson as a heritage community and by deterring design concepts and ideas that stray from the city’s heritage vision, we are also restricting what could be great modern design.

Design, art and architecture of today will be the heritage of tomorrow and by restricting what could be because of what was, we are limiting the legacy we leave to future generations.

Megan Cole is a reporter at the Nelson Star. She can be reached at reporter@nelsonstar.com

 

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