Architecture
August 23, 2019

Precious Space

Eric is right in his comment to “How do you cycle to Stanley Park Brewing“:

I was at the Pub last night and think there may be some ‘cyclist exceptionalism’ here with regards to parking at the Pub. I’m an avid cyclist, but I don’t expect to be able to ride up and park steps from the front door of every single business I patronize. My legs are still good for walking “some distance”, especially on green grass. And I’m quite adept at walking with my bike as well. I also wouldn’t begrudge a business for wanting to keep their frontage free of racks’ of tangled metal — just as we’d expect car parking to be ‘at the back’.

Yes, more and better racks are needed at the Pub, and it’s GREAT that Park Board seems to be moving towards “to AND through”, but let’s not get too precious. 🙂

It’s easy to get all precious over something in your neighbourhood that annoys you. And I remember from my own experience that listening to overly upset people get all tedious over minor concerns is really annoying.  Over things like bike racks.

The danger is the bigger issue gets lost in the trivial.  And the bigger issue is that this is what the Parks Board and the client think is good urban design in 2019, in Stanley Park:

Leaving aside the possibility of placing a bike rack on the abundant asphalt exactly where the bike is in the advertising:

 

That would definitely be a little precious.

 

 

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Andy Yan, Vancouver’s Duke of Data and Director of the Simon Fraser City program asks~what do we do when the glass towers that make Vancouver’s “Vancouverism” are sustainably outed  as hungry  power hogs? What is the 21st century sustainable version of Vancouver’s glass tower style? As reported in The Guardian and as Price Tags has previously written the iconic glass towers are becoming a faux pas “because they are too difficult and expensive to cool.”

As  Simon Sturgis, an adviser to the government and the Greater London Authority, as well as chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects sustainability group observed “If you’re using standard glass facades you need a lot of energy to cool them down, and using a lot of energy equates to a lot of carbon emissions.”

Because glass towers reflect a lot of heat into the buildings, air conditioning has been standard to cool towers. But the International Energy Agency now estimates that forty percent  of all global carbon dioxide emissions come from construction, demolishing, heating and cooling buildings. And here’s a staggering statistic~the energy for air conditioning has doubled in the last twenty years, and makes up 14 percent of all energy used.

In New York City Mayor de Blasio is demanding that glass towers now meet new energy efficient standards, which really means less use of glass and steel in towers. While other cities have not yet grasped the connection between warmer hotter climatic conditions and glazed towers, new regulations will come under play to ensure that glass towers are efficient for the lifecycle of the building.

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Number One on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List site for 2019 is Mount Pleasant, one of Vancouver’s original neighbourhoods – an area under threat of losing its valuable heritage qualities.

Intersected by the commercial high streets of Broadway, Main and Kingsway, the old Mount Pleasant village (the “Heritage Heart”) has been the hub of the neighbourhood ever since it first developed in the 1880s. Pedestrian-friendly and human-scale streetscapes are lined with independent stores and restaurants that lend this commercial area of Mount Pleasant a welcoming, interesting and vibrant village atmosphere.

Many of the heritage buildings from the neighbourhood’s streetcar era still exist, alongside others from the early and mid-twentieth century.  They continue to provide affordable housing, artist studios and commercial spaces for a wide variety of community groups and local businesses.

The area is a complete neighbourhood and is clearly distinct from the rest of the city. However, the forthcoming subway, new transit station at Main and Broadway and accompanying development may put this in jeopardy.

 

Sunday, August 18

10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Cost: $10 for Heritage Vancouver members, $15 for non-members.  Tickets here.

Meet at the NE corner of 13th and Quebec Street.

Tour Lead is Christine Hagemoen

 

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The Shipyards has been launched.   It’s just east of Lonsdale at the North Vancouver waterfront – a mixed-use commercial development at the centre of the City of North Vancouver’s Central Waterfront  

The commercial offerings (the restaurants, the boutiques, the Cap U extension) are still to come.  Nearly complete, however, is a great new public space that will serve not just Lower Lonsdale (LoLo) but the whole North Shore.

The Shipyards replaces the bloodlessly named Lot 5 in the plan below.  The green-coloured Commons’ fulfils almost exactly the vision that informed the project from the beginning.  The Commons is a covered year-round public space big enough, at 12,000 square feet, to accommodate major events while still providing a flexible intimacy needed to give sparkle to what mayor Linda Buchanan calls ‘the jewel in the crown.’

The design is by Dialog, among whose principals, Norm Hotson and Joost Bakker, were the architects of Granville Island.  This space is not just what’s on the floor and at first level.  There is also the spectacle of the walls and ceiling: a cathedral-like industrial legacy above, a retractable roof extension over the water park alongside, with galleries surrounding the space to the east and south.  There’s constant animation around, over and above, with people looking down, up and across.  Irresistibly moving around to capture views and Instagrammable moments both front and back.  It’s dynamism in three dimensions.

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For some years now, the City has been approving the replacement of small plazas, originally incorporated into the design of downtown office buildings and open to the public, with infill development.  Now those projects are underway – notably at Hastings and Seymour, and here at Dunsmuir and Homer, which in 2009 looked like this:

The two-storey pavilion and surrounding plaza were part of 401 West Georgia, and were never much used.  Shadowed, windy, and even though windowed, presented a blank, bland facade to the street.  But the empty space at least gave breathing room for the adjacent Holy Rosary Cathedral.

Here’s what that looked like until recently, from the view at Richards and Dunsmuir:

Now that the infill building replacing the pavilion and plaza is almost complete, here’s the view a few weeks ago:

I suspect the architects thought they were being respectful while providing street continuity in this fast-changing part of east Dunsmuir.  But the result is a crowded cathedral and more blank glass walls.  There’s not even a chamfered corner that would have acknowledged the church.

We’ll hold final judgement until the ground-level frontage is complete.  But even though the original plaza will not be missed, the setback and breathing room for the cathedral most certainly will.

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Imagine if the West End had never been zoned for highrises.  Imagine, instead, if through the 1940s and ’50s, we rebuilt the square mile west of Burrard with apartment buildings like this:

So from the 1940s on, it would continue to look like this:

And eventually, with replacement of the original houses by three- to five-storey apartment blocks on small lots, look like this:

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From the Vancouver Sun:

‘We’re in the middle of a sea change’

Today, architects like (James) Cheng and (Foad) Rafii think about a building’s resiliency against future changes. … they consider a future with digital workspaces, ride-sharing and a generation of tenants who will forgo cars entirely.

Many office tenants don’t even ask about parking anymore, which means new buildings probably don’t need several levels of underground parking, Cheng said.

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