North Vancouver’s Shipyards District has been described as a “neighbourhood like no other” and has become a model for placekeeping and placemaking. The district is located in the Burrard Inlet with views across towards downtown Vancouver. The Shipyards District is a destination for both tourists and locals and is centrally located near North Vancouver’s vibrant Lonsdale neighbourhood.
How it all started
Throughout its early years, the shoreline that would become the Shipyards District was an essential transport link and saw rapid development. By 1977, there were eight beautiful historical shipyard buildings along with two piers. For quite some time, the space was dominated by heavy industry. Not seen as a gathering place, the City of North Vancouver and the Lower Lonsdale BIA saw a huge opportunity for community building.
In 2017, the City of North Vancouver and the Lower Lonsdale BIA introduced The Shipyards District to the community and visitors. The historical neighbourhood has transformed into a destination featuring inspiring boardwalks, tranquil parks, inviting restaurants and shopping opportunities. The location enjoys year-round activity and is the perfect place to spend a day.
The award-winning Shipyards includes over 85,000 square feet of commercial and community spaces. Featuring local markets, live music, public art walks, and craft beer events, the Shipyard is a destination that fuses North Vancouver’s past and present. Not only are there trendy stores and exciting events, but the Shipyard is also still home to shipbuilding and working tugboats. The blend of historical industry and modern amenities is part of the reason why it’s seen as an outstanding example of both placekeeping and placemaking.
Art in the Shipyards District
Looking to the present day, the Shipyards District has become a cultural oasis in North Vancouver. As visitors walk through the Shipyards, they are encouraged to keep a lookout for a collection of public art that enhances the streets. Seamlessly integrated, every piece of site-specific art has been created to celebrate the history, culture and environment of North Vancouver.
One example of this is Studio in the City’s Fun Alley. Studio in the City is an annual summer program that provides youth with art apprenticeships throughout NorthVancouver. Fun Alley was created in 2018 by apprentices with the intention to create an engaging and unique public space. It’s now one of the most popular and instagram-able spots in the entire district.
Visitors can also spot Elizabeth Roy’s six life-sized stainless steel portraits titled Time Keepers in the Shipyards District. This installation depicts six different local North Vancouver residents and each figure is etched with a quote from the individual, recounting a fond memory from their life.
Fun and adorable art installation the Lost Cows of Lillooet can be found around bus shelters along Lonsdale Avenue. Made by Nathan Lee and Matthew Thomson, the herd of miniature concrete cows are placed throughout three city blocks, bringing a sense of whimsy to the streets of the Shipyard.
North Vancouver’s Shipyards District holds a special place in the hearts of many who visit and it has become one of the top public space destinations in Metro Vancouver in recent years. The neighbourhood has pushed past being an exercise of nostalgia in a historic part of the city and its purpose is not only to preserve a historic part of the city’s past. Instead, the Shipyards District symbolizes the possibility to transform a utilitarian area of the city into a vibrant destination through placemaking. The Shipyards District is a wonderful model for the impact of investing in the creation of dynamic public spaces with art in order to cultivate strong, resilient communities and foster social connections.