Stylish Cell Towers On the Rise

V-Pole, Mayor Gregor Roberston | BCBusiness

A Vancouver architecture firm (and Douglas Coupland) are paving the way for design-conscious, high-tech cell towers and utility poles

Lower Mainland residents tired of spotty cellphone reception now have two design-conscious solutions that respond to a growing population and increasing numbers of data-devouring smartphones.

Rogers Communications Inc. has commissioned Vancouver architecture firm Dialog BC Architecture Engineering Interior Design Planning Inc. to design a new tower to fill in coverage gaps across the North Shore inconspicuously. But the result has some North Shore residents crying foul while others applaud the innovative design.

Cigarette Tower

At up to 36 metres tall, the cell towers would loom over the trees dotting the North Shore along the Upper Levels Highway.

In the current proposal, Rogers and Dialog are planning for three towers in West Vancouver. However, according to Dialog architect Vance Harris, the companies hope to eventually build a network of 12 that would provide uninterrupted coverage from Horseshoe Bay to the Second Narrows Bridge.

Likened to slender cigarettes, the towers feature internal antennae and would emit a signal for up to three wireless carriers. But the innovative design hasn’t quelled the worries of some residents, who voiced concerns over property values and health issues at a June town-hall meeting.

Harris says Dialog and Rogers will continue public consultations into the fall and plan to incorporate feedback into the design.

All-in-one Utility Pole

The new Rogers cell towers are reminiscent of a project that was unveiled at the New Cities Summit in Paris in May 2012, and was greenlit in late July by Vancouver city council’s Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and Environment. Another slender, vertical structure, this one designed by Vancouver writer and artist Douglas Coupland, combines a cellphone tower, utility pole and street lamp.

Dubbed the V-Pole, the 12-foot tower would use underground optical wiring to power a signal across 1.5 city blocks for up to three wireless cell carriers. A single pole provides Wi-Fi, a digital community bulletin board, and a station to process parking transactions and wirelessly charge electric vehicles.

Bundling these services into a single pole, which could be customized in a variety of colour combinations, has the potential to clear clutter off city streets. Whether or not either of these designs make it from the drawing board to neighbourhood streets, there’s hope that we’ll soon see better wireless service—and a prettier urban landscape—in the near future.