Daily Scot: Parks and Politics on False Creek


Scot: “This is great news for Vancouver, some much needed outside design influence to help us get more funky.”
High Line architect picked to design park in one of Vancouver’s last undeveloped waterfront propertiesThe Globe and Mail

The landscape architect behind New York’s award-winning High Line has been selected to design a major new park in Vancouver. James Corner will design a multi-use park for about 21 acres of space in northeast False Creek – on one of the last undeveloped areas of waterfront land downtown. …

The project, which is tied to the dismantling of the viaducts leading into downtown, includes a new Creekside Park Extension, renewal for Creekside Park and Andy Livingstone Park, and a pedestrian and cycling bridge that will take people up into the downtown core.

“It’s a generous, open scale that will be significant,” said Mr. Corner, founding partner and chief executive of James Corner Field Operations.

“That part of the city is quite fragmented and confused at the moment between the roadways and the stadium and the derelict land, parcels of land that are presently disconnected. [It’s an] opportunity to really build connective tissue that ties things together and allows people to walk or cycle more seamlessly from one part to another,” he added. “[We’re] looking for ways to tie this park more meaningfully into the neighbourhoods so that it’s a park for people, a park that is used by people.”


Gord Price: Good to see progress on this site – and the choice of Corner, along with local firm PWL.  But I’ve always thought it more than a bit disingenuous of those who have criticized the City, Park Board and Concord for not proceeding with the site earlier – as though a promise had been broken to the local residents, mainly those in the CityGate complex who are almost completely surrounded by existing parks.  

Having been on Council at the time the Official Development Plan was approved, I understood that the contract called for the parks to proceed at the time when development approvals for a certain amount of housing had been issued, according to the long-range plan.  Which is what has happened further west.  The rezoning of the northeast part of the site and the reconsideration for the removal of the Viaducts changed the expected timeline- but just as well.  If the park had proceeded, we would no doubt be lamenting an inferior design or considering whether to rebuild it at some cost to take advantage of the proposed changes.

18 thoughts on “Daily Scot: Parks and Politics on False Creek”

  1. Translation; viaducts not coming down.

    • … except it says in the second paragraph “The project, which is tied to the dismantling of the viaducts leading into downtown”

      • Read the fourth paragraph, then ponder; why hire Mr. Corner of high-line fame if you don’t want to reconsider demolition? Translation; We will save millions converting the viaducts for pedestrian and bicycle use rather than demolishing them. It’s sustainable, don’t you know. Mr. Corner showed us the way we could not find on our own.

  2. Alex Botta said:

    I think the James Corner projects more relevant to NEFC pertain to waterfront renewal like Seattle, not the Highline. The Highline would not have happened without the unique blend of support by Janet Sadiq Kahn and NYC mayor Bloomberg.
    Corner has surely been branded by Highline, to the point where everybody wants one even where it would be inappropriate, such as suggested over and over again for our viaducts, which are completely different animals. Narrow, elevated iron railway guideways from the 19th Century are a rare form of heritage. Elevated 60s concrete viaducts as monuments to Autotopia are a dime a dozen.
    I am a bit mystified why an outside landscape architecture firm was retained while we have many very talented firms and individuals here. It’s like purchasing a famous name only because the locals are not so famous, yet are just as talented. PWL has already won awards for their exemplary design for SEFC shores and were involved in the adjacent park next to Science World. Both PWL and Phillips Farevagg Smallenberg were involved with Coal Harbour. Notable waterfront contributions were provided by several other firms, including Erik Lees’ exquisite Komagata Maru Memorial on the Coal Harbour seawall.
    I wish the very talented James Corner well. But his involvement should not be taken as a knock against our own international-scale talent. It just seems so Canadian to not let our talent shine too brightly.

    • Alex Botta said:

      ” . . . Farevaag . . . ” Pardon Marta.

    • I think getting outside perspective is important. It’s safe to just keep using what we know generally works, but let’s try something different.

    • from the Globe article “Mr. Corner will be in Vancouver on Wednesday to meet with officials and the local design firm on the project – PWL Partnership”

    • Alex Botta said:

      I can see outside perspective being a primary consideration if this was an international design competition. To my knowledge it wasn’t.
      Vancouver has exemplary local talent in this profession as well as architecture, planning and environmental remediation.

      • Why are we so inward looking? What are we afraid of opening up our City to new ideas/different perspectives?
        There are some great projects in Vancouver and there are some really bad ones. It’s not like we’re batting 1.000 here. Let’s see what other inspirations/ideas are out there. It’s oddly telling that this would be viewed as a negative by apparently more than a few people here…

    • No way, time to bring in some new cutting edge design ideas. The bland uninspiring detailing for Coal Harbor and Oylmpic Village landscapes speak volumes. Gray concrete pavers, No Color, boring use of materials (Oversized dock cleats) gray stone, etc. We have yet to have a project done by an outside LA firm in this city and nows the time!

      • Alex Botta said:

        You take huge risks with outside perspectives that do not care to delve into local and regional history. Grey materials … well, representative native BC materials in the landscape have a lot of grey, not to mention dark light-absorbing green. Grey and green, these are the colours of Stanley Park and Lighthouse Park, natural landscapes that contain deep wells of design influence. To my knowledge no one has ever knocked the iconic brown brick walls of London. Subtlety can have great power. Colour used judiciously is far more effective than if it was in your face and plastered the landscape.
        Outside influences have already brought us a gladiator coliseum façade on an otherwise outstanding public library, a stack of wooden pallets for a public art gallery design, tiny garbage-filled green-washing bioswales inappropriately imposed on highly urban landscapes, and of course enough black towers, blank facades and total amnesia about the deathly palour of our neglected streetscapes to paint the city 1,000 times over with mediocrity.
        To reject local talent is like rejecting historic precedence. McClure, Rattenbury, Erickson, Oberlander — these outstanding LOCAL design professionals have created a part of Vancouver’s history.

        • And you wonder why Vancouver is considered such a bland status quo urban landscape on the world scene. Attitudes of protectionism like this. You see it everyday in the bland gray towers, lack of bold art work and drab public spaces that have persisted for years in your design conservative city. A chance for something new is shot down as “taking a huge risks with outside perspectives”. Good God

        • You need to go to Seattle and Portland, city with the same natural light, climate and culture and see that they are designing great spaces with color, bold materials, etc. Seattle Sculpture park and the new Amazon tower is just the beginning. Portland is implementing great design ideas everywhere. Vancouver is so bland

        • Alex Botta said:

          Why is it not considered a great risk to react to the outside influence that brought us Pelli black towers, Safde PoMo immaturity and the ubiquitous mediocrity of commercial and residential landscape treatments as dictated by developers from the California school?

  3. Alex Botta said:

    In my view the two most important design influences here are the obvious land-water edge, and the not-so-obvious deep and meaningful history of the site.
    My hope is that Mr. Corner will assign significant hours from his generous budget to conduct the deep level of research into the industrial and cultural history of False Creek, the wisdom to bring forward design iconography that is deeply saturated with it, and the intelligence to follow with very mature design elements. The archives are filled with photos of indigenous people’s fish weirs and encampments, smoke belching satanic mills, Chinese market stalls, early farms, stacks of logs in the water and on land, trestles, and many other rich and inspiring images.
    If there is a generalized knock against local LA talent, it’s in conducting inadequate historic research on deeply important sites, and the ability to carry it forward without resorting to arbitrary whimsy, kitsch and too many cuts to production hours to maximize the profit on set fees. Then again, this is generic to all professions. But on this project there has to be a deep commitment to researching history first and foremost, not on building form over function and precedent.

  4. Meet with “officials” means that the City Planning Department wants “one of those” just like the “one of those” some other city has, in this case New York City. They never want Vancouver to be Vancouver they always want it to be like someplace else.

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