I hadn’t heard of Kickstarter until I accidentally sat next to zeitgeist author Douglas Coupland last year at the Vancouver screening of Urbanized, Gary Husnit’s documentary about cities and urban design. I got up the nerve to ask Coupland how he found out about the film and it turned out he had donated money toward its production through this online funding program.
No one would ever think of enjoying the space within construction scaffolding (or sidewalk sheds). But, in New York City, they are so prevalent (stretching 189 miles if lined end to end), that students from the Parsons School of Design, created Soft Walks, simple DIY kits with chair pieces, a counter, a light fixture, a planter, and a green trellis that anyone can pick up and install onto the beams of their nearest scaffolded area.
Like the rallying cry to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (“they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”), artists, designers and citizens in cities around the world transform parking spaces into temporary public parks every September 21st in celebration of Park(ing) Day.
There was once a time when Vancouver did not have a central public gathering place. Instead, we had this:
Pop Rocks, a new public art installation in Robson Square, opened last week. It follows on the success of last year’s Picnurbia. Pop Rocks is a collaboration between AFJD Studio and Matthew Soules Architecture. They used Canada Place’s old sail fabric to create these giant pillows, which are filled with recycled styrofoam beads. I finally walked past it today and was instantly reminded of my favourite childhood storybook family, the Barbapapas.
The issue of gated and exclusively high-income communities in North America is rearing its ugly head again. It started earlier this year with the death of Trevon Martin, the young man visiting family in a gated community who ended up being accused of trespassing and shot dead in an altercation with a security guard.
Statistics and media reports keep telling us that the world is becoming more urban than ever before. With more people moving to cities and technology allowing us to be more connected to one another, we are connecting less and less with the natural world - the earth, the trees, the birds and the bees and all that stuff that doesn’t require electricity.
I started volunteering with the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) last month. I don’t know why it took me so long. Ever since the organization was established in 2006, I have been following their work of advocating for public space and developing creative ways to celebrate public space in the city. They have initiated events such as municipal candidate debates, Skytrain Halloween parties, community markets and a petition to create a better public space at Robson Square.
Before the great lights of the Las Vegas Strip, there was the “Great White Way” on Vancouver’s Granville Street. The first neon sign was lit there in 1925 and at the peak of its popularity in the 1950s, there were 18,000 neon signs illuminating the streets of Vancouver.
The answer is: not quite. Coquitlam Town Centre - still waiting for its connection to Metro Vancouver’s Skytrain system - is a prime example of why town centres need rapid transit. The concept of a Regional Town Centres in Metro Vancouver dates back to the mid 1970s, when a Livable Region Strategic Plan was developed. In response to growing automobile-dependence, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver) agreed to create Regional Town Centres in municipalities across the region such as Burnaby, North Vancouver and Surrey. These Centres were to provide a full array of retail, office, cultural, recreational, civic and educational services and facilities, as well as a range of higher density residential developments and public transit options.
Since writing about this, I noticed that a lot of visitors to my site were interested in the topic (the most popular search term people Google to get to my blog is “how does where you live affect your happiness”). Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how where I live makes me happy. So I decided to do a little more investigating and posed the question to readers last week: how does where you live make you happy ?
The City of Vancouver recently challenged its citizens to propose alternatives to the city’s only viaducts at Georgia and Dunsmuir with the design competition, ReConnect (the viaducts were built as part of a massive freeway project that was never fully realized).
When I heard that the Terry Fox Memorial near BC Place Stadium was getting a redesign, I was excited to see how the selected designer- renowned local author and Fox family friend Douglas Coupland - would conceptualize a new monument to Canada’s greatest hero.
This weekend in Seattle marked the demolition of its elevated waterfront freeway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct. While some are rejoicing in a future of unobstructed access to the city’s waterfront, others fear traffic snarls and have dubbed it viadoom.
“The road is just a piece of real estate. The least efficient way to use it is to give it over entirely to cars.”
This quote really stuck with me when I was listening to CBC Vancouver’s Early Edition this morning. It was voiced by Rob Adams, the Director of City Design for Melbourne, Australia - the world’s most livable city according to the Economist (yeah, Vancouver got bumped to number 3 this year). Melbourne has spent the last 25 years transforming from a car-oriented office core to a dynamic mixed-use community with a vibrant public realm, and Adams has won multiple awards as the leader of this revitalization.
Robson Square finally reopened to the public a few weeks ago (following a year of renovations). In a short window of time before the Square is split in two by the reopening of the 800 block of Robson Street to traffic, Vancouverites are finally getting a chance to enjoy this public space through a design project called Picnurbia. Picnurbia is an undulating beach landscape encouraging people to have a seat, gather and relax without going to Vancouver’s more common public spaces - the seawall and beaches.
Ever wonder what it is about Whistler Village that makes it so inviting, pleasant and walkable? Having travelled to other ski resorts such as Squaw Valley, California, and Mont Tremblant, Quebec, it becomes obvious that Whistler Village has heavily influenced the design of ski resorts across North America.
I work near Robson Square, Vancouver’s only central downtown public space, and have been wondering for the past year what on earth they are doing with the site. It has been constantly under construction since before the Olympics and they are still not done.
Remember that little decision Vancouver made in the 1960s to not build freeways into downtown and along our waterfront? Well, here is what those freeways would have looked like (via illustratedvancouver 1960 renderings of Project 200, featuring “a big ditch at Comox and Thurlow with a dizzying complex of roads and cloverleafs”).
A few days ago, I was returning from my lunch break to my office in Downtown Vancouver and I passed through the front plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Maybe it was the warm weather, but it seemed ridiculous that this large, central, sunny public space in Vancouver was practically empty. And, the only place people could sit was on the few measly rows of steps outside the Gallery. Surrounding these steps are interconnecting concrete paths, bark mulch and a noisy fountain that seems like more of an irritant that a pleasing piece of public art (it’s pretty noisy, right?).
OK. Finally summer is here! In Vancouver! I must admit, I’ve been really bummed about the weather this spring. I had my fireplace going all through May. But at last, the sun is out! It’s so warm that my husband and I bought a nice new patio set for our front porch.
One year ago today, my city was virtually unrecognizable. I remember the morning of February 12, 2010. I did my usual two-block walk up Burrard Street to my office from the nearby Skytrain station. The 2010 Winter Olympics were starting that day and the torch relay would be coming down Georgia Street, a wide thoroughfare downtown (once envisioned as the city’s grand boulevard).