December 23, 2015

The Good The Bad and the Just Plain Memorable

It is the end of the year, a time to reminisce and the time for a new category of awards, that in honour of Gordon Price I would like to call “The Gordies”.
The Gordies are  awards for the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain memorable Metro Vancouver planning and transportation moments of 2015.
Gordon Price is a champion of open discussion on all things urban and moving in Metro Vancouver on Price Tags. Price Tags has documented an eventful year with  the defeat of the Transportation Referendum, the unveiling of the  new Vancouver Art Gallery Design, the Massey Bridge, and many other stories. What has most inspired and what has most dismayed you in 2015 in Metro Vancouver?

To get started, I am attaching from Curb.com the New York City Annual Curbed Awards, handed out to the “most deserving people, places and things in the real estate, architecture and neighbourhood universes of New York City”.
Please send your nominations for the Gordies in the following Greater Vancouver categories:
The Good: Best Metro Vancouver architecture/planning/transportation story of the year with a happy ending.
The Bad: Metro Vancouver architecture/planning/transportation story of the year on the not so happy spectrum.
The Ugly  or Most Puzzling: Most overrated  or questionable architecture/planning/transportation story of the year.
Please comment below or send your missives to PT.Guested@gmail.com

Read more »

Yes it is the second take on this housing form-rather plain bread to look at, but with lots of space and quite adaptable in the interior. The Vancouver Special was the “big box” of its time, providing the maximum allowable square footage of housing space on a lot.
Bob Ransford in the Vancouver Sun picked up the story previously published in November in Price Tags. The synopsis-Michael Mortensen suggests melding two  or three 33 by 120  foot lots together to create four 1500 square foot units on three levels in the front structure, and a two story dwelling in the back, that could house a 1,000 square foot unit and two 500 square foot studios.
Of course under current zoning restrictions, this cannot be done. But what Michael suggests in his original proposal was the advocacy of a pilot program and the release of design licences with pre-approved development permits for a number of  two or three lot configurations in any single family housing  zone.  As a  pilot project  these developments could connect to  existing water, sewer and electrical lines. The form and its success could then be monitored and evaluated.
Michael notes that 1000 of these developments could yield 6,000 to 7,000 units. While the City is doing some good work on stacked form, its always refreshing to get an outsider’s perspective.
And I am reminded how in the late 1980’s it was almost impossible to have a legal basement suite in a single family house . A decade ago a legal laneway house behind a single family house would be out of the question. The City is densifying and we need to find smart ways to house a growing population.
Perhaps this idea is not too far off. Would this work as a demonstration project? Can this fit into single family areas? Do we still need to think of parking spaces for every unit in a single family zone?

Read more »
London is a city of 8.6 million people with a huge problem-residents are spending half their income on rent, and there is a huge exodus of people in their thirties looking for work and accommodation-those important factors of livability-elsewhere. What to do?  This article featured in The Archinect written by Robert Urquhart explores London’s particular housing crisis where 80 per cent of the housing is available to only 20 per cent of the people. Vancouver gets a  mention too, citing the city’s  housing density and well thought out downtown buildings achievable through strong  area policy and form guidelines. The photo above is that of Charles Dickens’ house in Kent, where he did NOT write  Great Expectations. Perhaps that is apropos. Thanks to Ian Robertson for the article. http://archinect.com/features/article/143145697/london-s-bleak-housing Read more »


In 2010 I was interviewed by DWELL Magazine about the future for parks and public spaces. I was delighted to be interviewed along with Janette Sadik-Khan from NYC  and Richard Haag from Seattle.
At that time, I said “…designing green spaces to walk to and through is key to maintaining physical activity and medical and mental health. We need to stop thinking of nature as places in our parks and legibly spill those ecological components into our city streets and spaces to create usable walkable park environments in everyday places.”
And sure enough, just five years later, Gladys We of SFU passed on this article written by Alissa Walker describing the potential greening of forty blocks of Broadway in New York City, creating a living green spine on one of the major arteries of that city.  In 2010 Janette Sadik-Khan, the former commissioner of transportation for New York City saw the transformation of streets into the “living rooms” of New York City. She was right.
This “green line” concept is an idea of Perkins Eastman architects to make the 40 blocks from Central Park to Union Square into a car-free public space. This green link would give more park space, link Manhattan’s pedestrian plazas, infiltrate water in bioswales and provide a place for water runoff. Such a  link would also equitably distribute access to green space to lower income city areas. The article notes that when streets in Times Square were closed for pedestrian conversion, vehicular congestion improved-and of course Broadway could become a bikeway haven.  Could such a plan be feasible? And could we incorporate these ideas into making “green lines” in Vancouver? Is this the future of our present greenway and bikeway system, in a densifying city that will be short of park space?
The full article is here.
Sandy James


Read more »