This is a big deal:
Kevin Griffin at The Sun reports on the Parks Board approval of a $2.56 million contract to develop a master plan for the parks and streets from Stanley Park to Burrard Bridge for the next thirty years. Kenneth Chan at The Daily Hive describes the area and issues:
The design firms chosen are impressive: PFS Studio is of Vancouver – known for many years as Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg – partnered with Snøhetta, based in Oslo, well known for their architecture (like Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre). But unlike that Danish starchitect Bjorke Ingels, they’re also known for a better integration of building with public space.
This promises the production of a masterplan of international caliber, which given the location and opportunity, is to be expected. Indeed, the challenge (for the Park Board in particular) is to imagine a rethinking of this city/waterfront interface beyond its aesthetic and recreational opportunities for the neighbourhood. This is city-building, writ big and historic.
It will also be the third major transformation for this stretch of English Bay – first the summer grounds of the coastal peoples; then, from the 1890s on, houses and apartments (left) all along the beachfront, cutting off everything except the sands of English Bay. For over most of the 20th century, the City purchased and demolished these buildings, even the Crystal Pool, until the by the 1990s there was unbroken green, sand and active-transportation asphalt from Stanley Park to False Creek.
But it was all on the other side of Beach Avenue, a busy arterial that served as the bypass for traffic around the West End – the legacy of the original West End survey in the service of motordom. For some this will be seen as unchangable. As the reaction to the Park Board changes this summer on Park Drive revealed, even a modest reallocation of road space diminishing ‘easy’ access for vehicles and the parking to serve them is upsetting to those who associate motordom design with their needs, special and otherwise.
Some Park Board commissioners, indeed, can be expected to oppose any reduction of asphalt for vehicles, even as they oppose any additional pavement for active transportation. (See, for examples, Kits and Jericho Parks.) It will be tempting to see the masterplan as just an exercise in park design with four separately defined green spaces – unlike the Seawall and Seaside Greenway which work so well because they are part of a bigger active-transportation network.
It’s hardly necessary to emphasize the importance of this corridor for cycling in all its forms. The Rapid Response to Covid by the City along Beach and Pacific settled immediately whether more space was needed for cycling and walking, and whether they should be separated. Within weeks, the number of users and trips taken moved Beach into the category of northern European bikeways. (By July, 12,700 trips in one day, comparable to, for instance, Utrecht bikeway counts.)
Here’s is how Small Places videographers Gould and Corey captured the changes:
It’s clear we shouldn’t and can’t go back to the way it was. This is not just about parks and open space, or even seawalls and bikeways; this is another transformative phase for the English Bay urban edge.
PDS and Snohetta will need that mandate to do a proper job; they will have to think beyond the landscape.