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Obituary: Gerhard Sixta, the brains behind Burnaby’s Metrotown

Planner gave Metrotown its identify, though it was a little bit of an accident.

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It’s possible you’ll not have heard of Gerhard Sixta. However his planning work in Burnaby and Surrey helped lay the muse of the Decrease Mainland we all know immediately.

In 1969, The Vancouver Solar reported Sixta had a plan to “create cities built-in into the material of the current city centres.

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“It’s primarily based on 4 insurance policies,” stated Sixta, “metro cities, circulation, an industrial belt, and inexperienced house.”

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He developed the idea additional in a 1971 e book, City Construction, that was launched by the Burnaby planning division. Burnaby would wind up adopting a few of Sixta’s concepts, and even named a city centre Metrotown.

“He’s a quiet big if you discuss regional planning in British Columbia,” stated Andy Yan, director of the Metropolis Program at Simon Fraser College.

“When he was head of (long-range) planning in Burnaby, he printed this e book known as City Construction. Earlier than (immediately’s) regional development technique, it had all these totally different iterations of how the area might appear to be.”

Sixta died Oct. 24 on the age of 88 after a short battle with most cancers. An athletic man, he was nonetheless snowboarding earlier this yr.

He was born in Vienna, Austria on Jan. 17, 1935, the place he acquired a level in structure after the Second World Warfare. He moved to the U.S. to attend Carnegie Mellon College in Pittsburgh on a Fulbright Scholarship and obtained a post-graduate diploma in city design.

He moved to Montreal to work on constructions being constructed for Expo 67, then joined the Burnaby planning division.

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Excessive-rise residential towers within the Metrotown space of Burnaby, BC Friday, October 27, 2023. Picture by Jason Payne /PNG

His preliminary “metro city” idea didn’t go down nicely with the general public within the early Seventies.

“He proposed a metro city on the west shore of Deer Lake,” explains David Pereira, who met Sixta whereas researching his masters diploma in city research at SFU.

“The residents went ballistic on the time. But it surely was an extremely forward-thinking idea. (It included the thought) that you could possibly get round to totally different components of the neighborhood by strolling somewhat than driving.

“He actually was de-emphasizing the significance of the car. He additionally had transit integration with an accumulation of urbanity. … He was mainly stacking zoning on prime of one another.”

In different phrases, he designed dense neighbourhoods, which is what we see immediately. He left Burnaby to develop into director of planning in Surrey in 1977, the place Pereira stated Sixta authored its first neighborhood plan.

Official opening of Metrotown. Taken September 25, 1986. Ralph Bower Vancouver Solar. Picture by Ralph Bower /jpg

Later, he turned the chief administrative officer of Tofino, the place Pereira stated, “he was capable of steer Tofino within the course of a resort municipality.” He additionally taught structure at UBC.

However his best legacy was the city centre idea that Burnaby residents initially rejected. Planners took his concept and used it in an industrial/business neighbourhood on Kingsway that turned Metrotown. However the identify was a little bit of an accident.

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“Metro city was meant to be a planning time period,” stated Pereira. “There was a contest to call this space (that Burnaby) wished to place lots of densification in when the economic hub was turning over.

“However they didn’t have the cash on the time to undergo the identify change. It was already in a metro Vancouver doc, so that they saved the identify Metrotown.”


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