As James Kunstler would observe (see below), you can tell a lot about a civilization by the quality of the “public realm” – the spaces jointly shared by every citizen.  As opposed to the privileges of “the consumer,” who has no repsonsibilities for the commonwealth except, of course, to consume it.
Here’s a particularly nice addition to the public realm at Yaletown Park:
Yaletown Park steps
These steps, gracefully proportioned and substantially built (with a glass balustrade!), do nothing more than connect the pedestrian right-of-way between the hard-edged Yaletown Park at Nelson Street  and an allee that runs through the complex of towers to the north and joins up with Smithe Street. 
In fact, these steps may not even be on public land.  Chances are, they’re owned and maintained by strata corporation, with a convenant allowing for continual public access. 
The point is: this is public, it is well done, and it says, as Kunstler would commend, that this is a place worth caring about.


  1. It’s a shame about the adjacent park though. I work across the street and most people I speak to are unbelievably disappointed at what’s been done there – it looks completely barren and lifeless.

  2. Some more plantings would probably help, but it is meant to be a “programmed” space with events. The hard surface works for that (and is better than a dog poop covered lawn). The sculptures (curved rock) could be bigger though, and the screens along Nelson don’t facilitate the Passion flower plants to grow up them – the members are too wide for the tendrils to grasp.
    BTW – the developer had originally wanted the alley ROW to be gated closed at night.

  3. Personally I like the park, different from the beat up grass of some other places and it will only get better with the maturing vegetation.
    This said there are a lot of those public/semi-public places in Vancouver and one has to travel to US cities to see how much of that kind of space is privatized and inaccessible.
    Concord Pacific amongst other did a good job at mingling public and private space. Some of it is so seamless that you hardly notice the boundaries.

  4. That park is better than what used to be there. Begrudgingly I say – better than nothing for a green spot I guess. It seems to be landscaped for visibility and security reasons. I do notice a few blocks east on Richards a fenced lot between two buildings with thick grass. Why? I ask as I walk home each evening.
    I live right on the George Wainborn Park and While its a nice large park it is a bit weird in how it is composed. The obelisk stylized lighthouses are curiously chosen. I find the Frank Lloyd Wright collection cast concrete creations to be rather amusing. He is great, but couldn’t we have chosen something more local?
    I find them to be somewhat symbolic of Vancouver and how there are always people trying to turn this place into different places.
    Anyways, maybe the Wainborn park is memorable because of these features. I couldn’t tell you much about any other park besides Stanley Park or Queen E. in Vancouver other than they have lawns, trees, and some nice gardens. Its nice when public space isn’t generic or an afterthought.

  5. Yes, weird that perfectly manicured green space on a vacant lot on Richards. It’s so well maintained it looks like artificial turf.
    Speaking of weird stuff, at GW Park there is a flight of stairs (on the west side of the wall) that stops dead at a concrete wall. I challenge anyone to come up with a rationale explanation for this curiosity.

  6. Perhaps it’s because I am a Fraser Valley resident that I am not sophisticated enough to see the architectural splendour here. All I see is a stairway.

  7. Gilles – I wonder about those stairs that go nowhere as well.
    Budd – consider a basic set of concrete stairs going out of the back of a warehouse or factory. Then look at those. These are finished nicely, with good sight lines and the glass railings add a good touch. Its about making public spaces look attractive rather than purely functional.
    I am no expert though.

  8. Cameron, I will admit this staircase is somewhat more elaborate than the stairs descending from my back porch. But seriously, the photo did not make any particulalry grand impression on me. It doesn’t look particularly inviting or like a place one would like to linger for a few minutes.

  9. Gilles – I think those stairs to the wall at GW Park are only there for symmetry with a corresponding set of stairs on the east end of the retaining wall.
    GW Park was intended to be a “formal” park – hence the symmetry – in contrast to the “active” David Lam Park nearby. I like it, as it harks back to the formality you see in older parks like Stanley Park.

  10. The symmetry part makes sense but it would have been just as good if they openned up the wall and make them functional as weel. It really is a curious thing.

  11. True.
    Maybe it had to do with the budget or they thought that the grass would be trampled at the base of the stairs? The east staircase leads directly to a path that winds across the lawn.

  12. Ron, it’s a weak argument you’ve got there but it’s the only one we have so far so I’ll go with that. I was hoping Gordon would have the connection to research this puzzling matter.

  13. I know, but that’s what happens when you try to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.
    Those Yaletown Steps could do with some nearby plantings, but that could lead to the situation at the Keefer Steps where the handrails have run amok.
    What about the Keefer Steps? I think they replaced the coniferous trees that were in the tree wells with smaller varieties (haven’t actually been by in a while). But the safety pundits have imposed far too many handrails – which take away from the design of the steps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *