Stramps and Civility at the Robson Square Plaza
In 1972 with a change in provincial government, the architectural plans for the development of a central and significant portion of downtown Vancouver shifted from a proposed tall tower to a tower laying down on its side. Arthur Erickson’s re-design of the Robson Square Complex was premised upon this significant shift towards horizontality as a central feature of civic design. The link between horizontality and accessibility was foregrounded by Erickson in his proposed re-design. This paper examines the influence of questions and concerns over accessibility within the design and development of Vancouver’s Robson Square Complex. As the son of a paraplegic war veteran, Erickson had personal connection to issues of accessible design. His decision to prominently feature a stramp or stair ramp at the centre of this three-block downtown complex bears connection to his familial experience. However, the influences upon the accessibility of this project extended beyond the personal register to include an engagement with a range of broader discourse around accessible design of the period, ultimately linking questions of civility, horizontality and accessibility.