Conceived as the first phase of a twenty-year redevelopment plan, MacLean Park, situated just one mile east of downtown Vancouver, is one of three public housing projects built in the city during the 1960s. Along with Skeena Terrace, MacLean Park was originally built to house residents displaced by demolition of so-called “blighted” areas in Strathcona, one of Vancouver’s oldest neighborhoods. Although it replaced three residential blocks and a public park, most of the planned demolition never occurred, as Strathcona community groups prevented the city from executing its full redevelopment plan. Designed by architect Erwin Cleve with Underwood, McKinley, Cameron and landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, the twelve-acre housing project blends public and semiprivate open space around a mix of “maisonettes” (three- and four-story attached houses) and towers comprising single-bedroom apartments.
Dense canopies of deciduous trees, including plantings of oak, shade numerous private and public outdoor areas. Set back from the street, paired rows of maisonettes are bordered along the front and back by garden areas accessed by footpaths and cordoned by low-rise fences. Shaded by mature chestnut trees preserved from the former park, a wide circular lawn and a playground are enclosed on three sides by a nine-story tower and a connected line of low-rise apartments. A freestanding serpentine brick wall separates the courtyard, which once housed Oberlander-designed play sculptures, from the tower entry plaza. Staggered along the site’s sloping western edge near a second apartment tower, a series of maisonettes open to backyard terraces connected by an arcing path. A central community garden is edged by two twenty-foot-wide private access roads.