March 25, 2019

Upcoming lecture on Scandinavian architecture, urbanism, landscapes, and more!

Rugged mountains, forests, and coastline: a description of both Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest.

Join me on Saturday, April 13th for a rapid-fire review of Scandinavian architecture, urbanism, landscapes, and foods that would be right at home in the Pacific Northwest. Ranging from Copenhagen to the Arctic Circle and developed over six weeks of travel on public transit, the presentation illustrates ideas at play in the Nordic countries, aiming to inspire local designers and planners in their own pursuits.

Moreover, there will be housing crises, a gut-wrenching climb up the fjords, and a gong in the strangest of places.

Scandinavian Design: Lessons for the Pacific Northwest from Copenhagen to Kirkenes will be presented at the Scan­di­na­vian Community Centre at 4:00pm on Saturday, April 13. The presentation is part of the annual Nordic Spirit heritage photo festival put on by the Scandinavian Cultural Society.

The focus of this year’s festival is travel, featuring a photo exhibit of Scandinavian immigrant travel and another lecture titled “The Titanic”, by Scott Larsen at 1:00pm. The event runs Saturday from 11:00am to 6:00pm and Sunday from 11:00am to 4:00pm. The address is 6540 Thomas St, Burnaby, and the event is free with no registration required.

For a full description of the event please refer to the Scandinavian Community Centre website.

Read more »


By the post-election decisions being made by some of the smaller, more affluent municipalities in Metro, the messages seem to be: no more density, no more height, no more affordable housing (and, rarely stated but assumed: the people who might live in it if they come from ‘outside’).

In North Vancouver District, as previously reported in PT:

District of North Vancouver council has spiked another affordable housing project, this time before plans for it were released to the public.

Council voted behind closed doors in January to terminate a proposal from the non-profit Hollyburn Family Services Society for a 100-unit, all-below market rental building on a piece of district-owned land on Burr Place.

In Port Moody:

A proposal to build 45 townhomes on six properties along St. George Street in Port Moody is “far too dense,” with not enough green space, said city councillors who rejected the project at their meeting last Tuesday. …

Mayor Rob Vagramov criticized the proposal for being too dense even though it’s located in Port Moody’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zone, which encourages higher density living.

In White Rock:

Read more »

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.


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.


Another addendum: Dianna notes that there’s a small, elegant Blue Bottle coffee bar on the roof at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 




Read more »

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.” 

Read more »


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.

Read more »

If you haven’t already been enjoying the television programming on BC’s public funded Knowledge Network, I have a reason for urban aficionados to tune in.

Among the great docs Knowledge features, one of note for PT readers is Waterfront Cities of the World, a Gemini award-winning program of ports from Marseille to Cape Town, and Vancouver to Dakar, produced by Quebec’s DBcom Media.

So what’s the best episode?  There are many great cities profiled, and the show’s format is superb, but for planners, architects, and urban designers in Metro Vancouver, I would start with the episode of Hamburg (Season 3, Episode 8), where the massive HafenCity redevelopment is profiled.

Read more »

In much of the commentary over the West Van B-line, there’s an oft-repeated assumption, articulated by our very own Thomas:

You obviously do not know many folks in NVan or WVan. Many would never take the bus (or a bike for that matter). That is why there is so much opposition to it.

Embedded in that assumption is this: North Shore residents live primarily in large single-family houses, on steep slopes, that were designed (and still are) car-dependent.  So pervasive is that narrative (and the argument that then follows: no need or desire for transit) that it requires a significant and wilful blindess to ignore all this:

Read more »


Worth bringing forward: Sam Sullivan took the opportunity to comment on the upcoming ‘Tales from the West End’ talk on the People’s Park fight at Coal Harbour in the early 1970s.  (Click on headline for all illustrations and text.)

The 1971 model. Much more on the project by the invaluable John Mackie at The Sun

Sam Sulllivan:

Actually the original proposal (1964) was 15 towers of guaranteed rental for 3,200 residents. Towers from 15 to 30 stories. There would have also been a 13 story hotel near the entrance to the park. Critics didn’t mention the apartment rental and focussed on the smaller so-called ‘luxury’ hotel.

Instead Council spent $30 million in today’s money to turn this into a park. This depleted five years of park aquisition money which would have been used for park deficient east side neighbourhoods instead creating an additional park beside the 100,000 acre Stanley Park.

Gerald Sutton-Brown believed we could convert waterfront industrial land into high density towers to provide quality homes and keep down the price of housing. This would have been years ahead of the rest of the world. TEAM opposed this and fired him. They implemented their vision in South False Creek which had lower densities than a typical single detached house neighbourhood. It would be almost two decades before Coal Harbour, Concord Pacific and City Gate would revive Sutton-Brown’s vision.

TEAM went on to oppose townhouses in single house neighbourhoods(Shannon Mews), tried to end the Vancouver Special by removing the basement exemption, end any approval of residential towers for over a decade and introduce processes that have succeeded in preventing the densification of RS neighbourhoods

When I was in elementary school our teacher took us on a tour of Peoples’ Park and met the protesters. It all seemed quite wonderful. But in light of what has happened to the price of housing since we lost Sutton-Brown, I think of the apt symbolism of what happened to the city vision, looking in our purse for what was on our head.

Bayshore Gardens and Harbour Park today.

Read more »