Cities are built for a variety of reasons, but are ultimately places for people to live, work, and play. As such, architects and urban planners need to keep in mind the concept of human scale, or designing buildings and spaces for human use. This impacts everything from the height of buildings to the size of street furniture.
As a small city, Kelowna, Canada, has thus far followed a pattern of low lying development, with only a handful of buildings over 115 feet tall. This makes it difficult to imagine the upward growth necessary to continue developing the city in an environmentally responsible and sustainable fashion. While there are multiple proposals for higher buildings, and an Official Community Plan that supports these higher developments, public support has been largely divided, with the arguments boiling down to the issue of scale.
Earlier this year, Kelowna city council rejected the development application for the Monaco, a twenty-six storey high-rise in the downtown core. The proposed building would have been the third tallest building in the city, and the height was an issue for many Kelowna residents. In the end, height was not the issue that shunted the proposal, but rather the visual mass of the towers.
Council’s decision on the Monaco will likely set the tone for all future high-rise development applications to the City, causing potential developers to pause and consider the scale of their own proposals: what might fit in a city like Vancouver may not be appropriate for the city of Kelowna just yet. Our city is still growing up, and the urban landscape is changing, too. What should remain constant, though, is a consideration for the people who make Kelowna their home.
The question the Monaco raises, though, is important to Kelowna and other cities like it: should smaller cities pursue sustainability goals through the creation of high-rise developments, or should upward growth be a gradual process? Does a building that meets the needs of people necessarily meet the needs of the city?
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