Urbanism
March 18, 2019

The Development of Tenji Tactile Blocks

Do you know who Seiichi Miyake is? With many thanks to City of North Vancouver councillor Tony Valente for passing this #Googledoodle along about Mr. Miyake and the incredible contribution he made for sight impaired people.

In 1965 Mr. Miyake who is an engineer developed “Tenji” or tactile blocks to warn vision impaired people where to stand when trying to board trains. His invention has been adopted globally and is part of the sidewalk and public realm in many countries. As well the Tenji blocks are known as “truncated domes”, “tactile warning surfaces”, “detectable warning tiles”  and “tactile pavement.” 

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The City of Vancouver Engineering Department’s  Viva Program is partnering with the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN ) on a new public space competition called “Life Between the Umbrellas: Public Space in a Rainy City”. 

In a city with five months of rain how do you modify road space and public spaces to encourage public life? How do you invite people to slow down, enjoy the space, and connect with other people?

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It’s open.

Hudson Yards, the self-proclaimed “largest private real-estate development in North America” (maybe the world!), has been on my list of urban must-sees.  How convenient for it to have opened one week before I arrive with the hottest ticket in town: a reservation to climb ‘Vessel’ – the public-art centrepiece.

Whatever you call Heatherwick Studio’s Vessel—the wastebasket, the egg-crate, the Escher-brought-to-life, the basketball net, the Great Doner Kebab—it is the opposite of those examples. Not temporary, not cuddly, not delicate. It looks just like its renderings except possibly more perfect.

I had mentally assigned it an outer cladding of weathering steel; with everything else so smooth and shiny, surely Vessel would have an industrial flavor? But no—Heatherwick Studio leaned into the fractal nature of its design, and the cladding, copper-colored steel, has a mirror finish like Anish Kapoor’s Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park, welcoming our irresistible impulse to selfie. As we assembled on the plaza below it, the underside of the upper tiers crisply reflected us as ants in bright orange safety vests.

The comment above is from Alexandra Lange, the architecture critic for Curbed.  Unlike the New York Times review of Hudson Yards, which was snarky and dismissive, Lange provides some good insights on the nature of such megaprojects (worth comparing to our own undertakings in the last two decades, as well as in Toronto).  Here are excerpts from here review: At Hudson Yards, the future isn’t now.

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It’s not a park, and, at least for buses, not very royal.  Nor for their riders, waiting in the rain:

 

This is the stop for all West Van buses heading east, north and south.  It’s really a slightly enlarged bus stop serving as a transit exchange, except without sidewalk capacity, real-time signage, adequate seating and overhead protection.  Forget any prospect of a washroom.

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The Planning Institute of British Columbia South Coast Chapter  is offering an afternoon  workshop on Accessibility~Understanding the Why and Then the How.

We invite urban planners, policy makers, architects, builders, engineers, park planners and anyone else who can learn from meeting people with various and levels of abilities that face barriers in the built environment. Let us learn how to make the built environment easy and safe to navigate from a mother with a baby carriage, grandmother with bags of groceries, Andrea Bocelli and friends, to Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye

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COMPETING VISIONS OF CLIMATE POPULISM

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 | 4:00 PM
SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue – Room 320
580 West Hastings Street

How does the rise of populism shape debates about climate and energy in Canada? Can left visions of ecological populism combat disinformation and challenge the forces of extractive populism?

Populism has become an increasingly prominent force in Canadian political life, with significant implications for how the public engages with the intersecting politics of climate change and energy.

Free: Tickets here.

IS SOCIAL MEDIA DESTROYING DEMOCRACY?

7:00 PM, April 11, 2019
Alice MacKay Room
Vancouver Public Library
Tickets: $10 – $20, on sale now

A DEBATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE AGE OF DISINFORMATION

Is social media a tool that informs and unites us, or is it responsible for deeper divisions and a more polarized society? Are misinformation, digital propaganda, algorithmic biases, and campaign hacking scandals determining the results of our elections? Do unintended flaws in the platforms and sluggish regulation undermine our democratic process?

Simply put, is social media destroying our democracy? Four expert debaters will engage in civil discourse and give you their best arguments before you cast a vote and decide the winner. Don’t miss this engaging, informative, and entertaining night!

Get Tickets Now

 

TRUMPING RIGHT WING POPULISM, CANADIAN STYLE

7:00 PM, APRIL 12, 2019
ALICE MACKAY ROOM
VANCOUVER PUBLIC LIBRARY
Free: registration required

While we would like to blame Donald Trump for the rise of the extreme right in Canada, there are a host of endogenous factors that have rendered Canada vulnerable to this trend. Our own breed of right-wing populism pre-dates the election of Trump and takes a peculiar yet also menacing form, ranging from political and media narratives that vilify newcomers and Muslims to social media platforms that breed fear and anxiety through purposive campaigns of misinformation.

In this free lecture, Dr. Barbara Perry, the Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias, and Extremism will explain the resurgence of right-wing extremism in Canada and propose strategies to challenge the current expression of hate fueled by the movement.

Register Today

 

SFU CITY CONVERSATIONS: WHEN FACTS FAIL
.Thursday, April 18, 2019 | 12:30 PM
SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue – Room 320
580 West Hastings Street

Over the last decade, narratives surrounding climate, housing, drug, and transportation policies have taken centre stage in our news cycle and the collective conscious of Greater Vancouverites. Discourse about these complex issues has become highly polarized and clouded with misinformation.

 

Visit the 2019 Community Summit website to see all events taking place as part of Confronting the Disinformation Age.

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Last year Tom Durning sent us this image of Jesus and Colonel Sanders having a conversation over a coffee in an undisclosed coffee bar.

As we stated at the time we did not know whether this was for a film or was just a regular meeting.

The weather must have warmed up, as Tom has now sent us this new image of this unlikely pair conversing while strolling  down the street. No word if urbanism and walkability were being discussed.

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In the Good News, Bad News department, Delta Optimist’s Sandor Gyarmati reports on the face-saving exercise being undertaken by Deltaport’s current container terminal operator Global Containers (GCT).  I have written about the Port of Vancouver’s  continued push for this terminal despite the fact that it is the resting grounds of hundreds of thousands of western sandpipers migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds. These birds feed solely on an algae that is only available on the Roberts Bank mudflats. That algae cannot be moved or replaced, meaning that this important bird migration on the Pacific Flyway would be extinct with port expansion.

It was  Larry Pynn in The Province who pointed out that the written response from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area. Last year the Port of Vancouver said they wanted to work on these issues, but as a representative from B.C. Nature said “I’d say the … port has been holed below the water line. We clearly have an environment at Roberts Bank that is fragile, that cannot withstand any more port development, and, finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.”

But back to the Terminal operator’s and the Port of Vancouver’s spin on ditching the terminal expansion, and no it is not to save the migratory birds.

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For anyone that likes to explore cities and spaces on their own, Google Maps has developed an augmented reality mode  that makes it easy to ascertain what direction a pedestrian should be headed in~there is a large animated type of arrow to guide your direction.

You know those moments where there are no references to help you figure out which direction north is, and no way to determine exactly where you are. Using global localization which brings together Visual Positioning Services (VPS) and Street View, the smartphone camera becomes a “sensor” making wayfinding so much easier.

With a limited release in February for people who will augment the app with new locations and take photos, it is in the feedback stage. And here is the best part~the new feature is solely for walking directions, not for vehicular drivers.

In those pesky locations where GPS does not work because it is bouncing off buildings and cell towers, the Augmented Reality (AR) application uses the camera to suss surrounding buildings and street grids to pinpoint a walker’s location.

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“There is a time coming, in our lives, when the tap of natural gas into our homes and into our city is going to be turned off. It’s not tomorrow — we have time to make adjustments.”

As follow-up to his interview with Vancouver City Councillor Christine Boyle (Episode 19) — mover of a unanimously-approved motion to declare a climate emergency — Gord wanted to speak to one of the ‘generals’ working on a solution to coming disaster. Someone with the knowledge, experience, and character to not just define the nature of the challenge we face in the coming decades, but to take on the mantle of leadership.

Whether Seth Klein is one of those generals is not yet clear, but he certainly seems to be writing the battle book.

The now-former BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives —he actually founded the progressive think tank’s west coast chapter in 1996 — Klein has identified some compelling parallels between the effort made by the Canadian government and industry between 1939 and 1945 to mobilize behind the war effort, and what may be required to keep this ship we call Western civilization afloat today.

With little doubt that drastic measures are needed, Klein believes the responses of countries like Canada during the Second World War are not just instructive, but likely instructive and maybe even necessary in this time of existential crisis.

What were those responses? There were many. They were mandated, legislated. And no person, no institution, was immune.

This conversation isn’t just a sneak preview of his upcoming book — it’s a conversation about a similar challenge we faced 80 years ago, how we faced it, and whether we can do it again today.

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