Architecture
March 19, 2019

A key ingredient in public-space programming

Back in October, PT declared the new roof decks on top of the Vancouver Central Library “Best new public space in Vancouver”.  Spaces, actually, since the two top floors provide meeting rooms, quiet reading areas, displays, a theatre and three wonderful outdoor decks, along with gardens and amazing views.  But it is missing one key thing.

Coffee.

Without that caffeinated attraction, there’s less incentive to take elevators for a casual meeting or get-away.  Great public spaces do require some kind of programming or attraction to generate the ‘pull of other people’ – the sense that this is a good place to hang because other people are doing so too.

Otherwise there’s a sense of loneliness.

 

There’s a catch-22 here of course: not enough people to justify a coffee bar, no coffee bar to attract more people. The economics would be hard to justify.  Perhaps a very slick stand-alone espresso machine might do the job.  Let’s ask Starbucks for a contribution for the greater good.

 

Addendum:  Michael Gordon added a comment to the first post on the Library Square roof that’s worth reprinting here:

I think among the key ingredients of a good public space are:

  •  a relaxed balance between gathering, socializing and movement
  •  movable tables and chairs
  •  sunshine and ideally a warm microclimate being protected from wind
  •  easy access to food
  •  people
  •  parents feel comfortable leading go of a toddler’s hand  and letting them wander a bit (need to be careful about folks on wheels riding through gathering spaces)

It seems that the Library roof has all of the above – except for  “easy access to food.”  Perhaps, though, the fact that it requires an elevator trip to get there is sufficient discouragement.

 

 

 

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One of the greatest things you can do is volunteer, and even better learn about your city while doing that. The City of Vancouver is now seeking volunteers for their Civic Advisory Committees for the following committees:

Arts and Culture Advisory Committee
Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee
Civic Asset Naming Committee
LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee
Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee
Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee
Renters Advisory Committee
Seniors’ Advisory Committee
Transportation Advisory Committee
Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee
Vancouver Food Policy Council
Women’s Advisory Committee
Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee
First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel
Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee

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A fundraising evening benefiting the Arthur Erickson Foundation programs and initiatives, including the Arthur Erickson House and Garden. Tickets are very limited, and will be released first come, first served.

. March 28, 5 to 8 pm

The Evergreen Building – 1285 West Pender Street

Hors d’oeuvres and first drink included; cash bar

Price is $125 each (with a $100 tax receipt).  Click here.

 

5:00 Reception and Tours in the renovated main floor IBI Group studios in the Evergreen Building. At 5:15 and 5:30 IBI staff will take optional small groups of guests to their studios on upper floors, visiting the restored decks with their spectacular harbour views.

6:00 Talks: “Telling the Evergreen Story”

Architecture Critic/Curator Trevor Boddy will act as host, giving a short critical introduction: “Evergreen’s Sources and Influences: Plan 56 to Bjarke Ingels.”

  • AEA Project Architect Barry Johns of Edmonton/Phoenix: “Evergreen’s Design in Detail.”
  • Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: “Keeping Evergreen: Planting and Replanting the Decks.”
  • IBI Group President David Thom: “Why We Chose the Evergreen Building and Fought to Preserve It.”
  • Francl Architects Principal Stefan Aepli: “Erickson’s Continuity: Shigeru Ban’s Design Rising Next Door.” 

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It’s worth watching what happens in Seattle today: Its council will vote whether to allow taller buildings and denser construction in 27 neighborhood hubs and some other areas – affecting about 6 percent of land zoned single-family.

But the more interesting story is the zoning proposal that didn’t occur, as told in the Seattle Times:

 

It was July 29, 2015, and Seattle stood at a crossroads. A panel convened by then-Mayor Ed Murray had recommended buildings in neighborhood hubs and denser housing options everywhere, angering some homeowners who wanted to shield blocks of single-family houses from development.

So Murray made a decision still resonating today. City Hall would leave most of those blocks alone and move ahead with upzones of one or several stories only in and around the 27 hubs and along arterials, he said, sacrificing the more controversial proposal in order to protect a deal with developers that could yield thousands of apartments for low-income households.

The strategy may have paid off, because the council is expected to approve the targeted upzone plan while requiring developers to include some low-income apartments in their buildings or pay into an affordable housing fund. …

“It was the smart move, 100 percent,” Councilmember Rob Johnson said. “I learned an important lesson, which is to have a controversial element of your plan that you can surrender.”

 

The whole story is worth the read: so many of the issues Seattle is dealing with are similar to (hell, exactly the same as) Vancouver.  

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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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