Architecture
February 16, 2007

A Forum for West Point Grey

Architect Rick Balfour comes up with more audacious ideas before breakfast than most of us have in a year. (He led the “Outside the Box” workshop at the Affordability by Design conference, results here.)
 And another:

Says Rick:

Looking at the land form on Jericho,-could we need a classical amphitheatre like Epidavras in Greece; big enough for 15 000 people, overlooking the beach, bay and mountains.
Forget rain, we can deal with that later, but the urban form and the invitation to meet and on the stuffy west side. I think we need it.  Even first nations might say, good idea, count the area in our contribution.
– we must add a west coast touch related to the Talking Stick
Like the Greeks, I think there are some natural forms on that hill to make it work. It can be used for all the festivals already in vogue and a whole lot more.  When not in use, like in Greece, the children play in it, old folks have tea parties.
 We do not have enough things to leave as ruins.
And for those that say we could build another 200 condos … we need more civic spaces in the city.
 
I also know why these classical spaces are frowned upon and not built in our society, but that is another chapter.

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I predicted a few months ago that the new sculpture park on the Seattle waterfront may be the next best urban space on the west coast. Maybe.

It’s due to open on January 20th – but the hype is underway. Here’s the latest from the New York Times, along with the picture above. Or this, in The Oregonian from Portland. And here’s Trevor Boddy’s review in the Seattle Times.
Hopefully the success of the park will persuade people that rebuilding the Alaskan way Viaduct, just to the south, would be a very bad idea if it foreclosed other opportunities like this. Seattle is worthy of so much better.
The Seattle Times picks up that point in its article:

… as civic leaders emphasize the importance of urban density to save the splendor of the surrounding countryside, they also recognize the need for parks and civic spaces downtown. As the Alaskan Way Viaduct debate heats up, some are hoping a walk in the Olympic Sculpture Park will open people’s minds to new possibilities for downtown.

“I think it will give people a sense of what we can accomplish on the rest of the waterfront if we take care,” said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “I think people will see [the park] and they will want more … this will give them a flavor of what’s possible.”

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Paris is celebrating the opening of the new T3 route as part of its Metro tram network.  Even the Germans are impressed.  (And since Siemen’s invented the technology which made the electric streetcar possible, this is very gracious of them.)  You can read more about it in Spiegel Online:

Now the plan is to supplement the star-shaped métro network and the meandering bus routes with a circular tram line — starting with the T3, which will cut through the city’s southwest, from Pont Gariglino to Porte d’Ivry, 7.9 kilometers (4.9 miles) long. (You can see the route here along with other cities that have caught the fever.)

The elegant green and white cars will carry almost twice as many commuters every day as local buses — some 100,000 people. (That’s the number of people the Canada Line is supposed to attract on opening.)  The strips of grass and the reduction in car traffic should improve the quality of life for residents.  (They even sacrificed a lane of traffic to give the tram its own right-of-way.)
Lots of pictures of the tram and public art here in Le Monde.  And this story from the BBC via Colleen Nystedt.

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Lis Welch, Vancouverite, visiting Chicago:

We were in Chicago on business last week, made a walking pilgrimage to Millenium Park, and are as enthused as you about the destination.  The Bean, we learned, cost $30 million to construct, was done on site.  You will have marveled at the seamless stainless steel and high quality of reflection:  according to what we learned from one of the maintenance people, the Bean was polished so much that seams disappeared and the reflective image is so fine a quality.   Skaters were having a great time on the ice, despite the balmy 67 Degrees.  We hung around the area for a long while, so interactive and pleasant. 

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Problem: a couple of badly sited Hydro boxes in front of Elsie Roy School near the Roundhouse. 
 
Scot Hein, head of the Urban Design Studio at City Hall, along with his assistant Phil Scott, came up with an elegant solution.  How about a screen made up of images drawn by the students themselves, of themselves?

Other problem: no money.  But they got the buy-in from principal Isabel Grant and, better yet, School Board shop manager Walter Adolph, who fabricated the screen in house.
Result:

The Concord project is often criticized for having a relentless sterility, albeit a very well designed sterility.  Here’s a fine example of how time and personal touches take care of that. 

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What happened to car alarms?
I may be totally wrong on this – especially since we moved to a quieter part of the West End – but I don’t think I’m hearing as many car alarms going off.  Particularly at night.  I asked a few others about this, and they concurred.
Maybe it was because car owners realized the alarms were being ignored, or reset their sensitivity, or replaced them with bars on the steering wheel, or I’m going deaf.   Whatever.  But thank you, thank you.

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September 29, 2006

What happened to the buskers?  A few years ago, Robson Street was awash in musicians, and not just on weekends.  Some were pretty good, others a waste of sidewalk space.  Now it’s unusual to head a good sax riff on Granville.  Where did they go?

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