A pedestrian roundabout …

Paths throughout the neighbourhood come together here.  Everyone circles around the centre.  Or sits down and watches the circulation.

The space is beautifully proportioned; it feels comfortable.  And hence safe.

It`s an opening in the urban forest, ideal for the inhabitants who live underneath.

This place creates community.  Where is it?

 

Comment below, answer tomorrow.

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Douglas Todd in the Vancouver Sun opens up a conversation that is very timely: exactly what are we doing with landmarky twisty bending towers and jenga block buildings in Vancouver, and who are they really for?

In his article, Todd interviews Ray Spaxman who was Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver for sixteen years. Ray is originally from Kings Lynn in Great Britain (where George Vancouver came from) and is a very tall man who was known for a thoughtful approach to city planning and a strong advocate for public participation in planning. The term “livability” was coined by Ray and his team. An architect and a planner by training, Ray is also an artist, and during public hearings and meetings often captured  the entire room of people in one sketch. You can read a bit more about Ray Spaxman and his time at City Hall  here.

While his leadership of the planning department ended in 1989, his thoughtful legacy and staff choices led the department into the millenium.

When asked to define what “iconic” buildings are, Ray responded: “You either try to be iconic because you want to stand out, or you are iconic because you stand out.” 

Spaxman also bluntly pointed out that building developers want to sell condominium units to “wealthy people in foreign lands” and the term “iconic” has changed. Previously that term would be for places  where power and community melded in  “public gathering places,to the town hall, the church or concert hall” . The forms of those types of places are all recognizable and have deep symbolism to people.

Designers now want to imprint similar symbolism on their buildings for developers to sell a new kind of brand to a buyer that has not seen that type of product before.

But does it work?

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August 23, 2019

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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It’s summer in Vancouver and time for a visit to Vancouver’s newest and much loved public space, the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library’s  rooftop garden created by landscape architect extraordinaire Cornelia Oberlander.

Even on one of the hottest days of the summer the outdoor space  is a cool oasis, with lots of corners to sit in and a cool breeze. There’s plenty of people up on the roof, but the space is big enough to accommodate students studying as well as people relaxing drinking coffee. (About that coffee~you still have to bring it in from outside the building, but it is perfectly fine in the library with a lid on it.I checked.)

There is apparently a challenge with the current landscape maintenance contractors  and they are no longer tending to the plants. Thankfully Cornelia’s palette includes lots of hardy plants and wild roses well adapted to dry conditions.

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A new brewpub in the old Fish House has opened in Stanley Park, next to the main tennis courts:

Isn’t the bike on the logo, front and centre, a nice touch?  It’s what you’d expect for a destination away from any major road, in a park, for an active, outdoorsy culture.

So how do you cycle to Stanley Park Brewing?

Officially, you don’t.  Go to the website for the brewpub, and here’s what you find:

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As we pass high summer into the glory days of fall (the first leaves are changing, perhaps from a bit of drought), it’s time again for an observation I make every year:

Did Vancouver seem as lush and forested on its streets a year ago as it does now?  Same answer, too: Nope.  Things grow fast here (it’s almost a rain forest), and the additional growth from spring is tangible enough to make a difference in perception – especially if seen only intermittently.

Where, for instance, is this – where the trees now branch over a highway-wide corridor?  Only a decade or so ago, they seemed only samplings.*

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City of North Vancouver Councillor Tony Valente has been involved with The Shipyards development for at least ten years as a community member, leader, and now a City Councillor.  I asked Tony to tell the story of his involvement and how The Shipyards Commons came to be.  He begins with referring to the “bloodlessly named” Lot 5 that was his motivation for engaging with local government back in 2009.

I was one of a group of neighbours in Lower Lonsdale (LoLo) who petitioned the City to get moving on the North Van central waterfront following the failure of the National Maritime Project.   The petition was, sadly, promptly filed by City Council following my delegation and presentation.

It wasn’t over, of course. The petition connected me with other neighbours, including the owner of the Cafe for Contemporary Art (Tyler Russell who has continued to spread culture across our province) – where we held our own guerrilla consultation, discussing elements of what could be on Lot 5. That turned into a non-profit society – the North Van Urban Forum – which brought together a diverse group of community members to transparently and openly engage in ideas for developing our public realm.

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The Pride Flag – one of the great graphics of our times.

Its simplicity, those particular colours, its inclusive meaning – no wonder the Pride Flag is so immediately recognizable and embraced by so many peoples for what has become a global summer festival.  Variations will evolve to distinguish the nuances of its subcultures, to be raised more as political statements – but the rainbow Pride Flag is a keeper that keeps on spreading.

Its graphic power especially allows it to escape from the constraints of the flag format.  Think crosswalks.  And as artists and designers have appropriated its colours for more creative presentations, cities around the world have became outdoor galleries of splashy public pride-art.  Sometimes just for association, sometimes for marketing, always for expression.

Here are some fine examples from Tel Aviv when it celebrated Pride for a week this June.  (One gets the sense that the bold use of the colours is also a statement of secularity by its citizens.)

Vancouver is relatively unimaginative in its use of Pride regalia – mostly flags, banners, a bit of paint.  So allow me to make a recommendation:

City of Vancouver, have a contest to decorate these trucks, Pride-style:

I get why you use them as giant metal bollards, to close off streets and prevent a terrorist event as happened in Toronto.  But it makes the events they’re protecting seem like they’re in construction zones.

Commission some transformative ideas.  Give some grants to make them happen. Let the artists and designers demonstrate their cleverness and creativity, using these lumbering canvases, to make them part of our festivals, parades and gatherings – not just a cheap, dumb solution to a policing problem.

Show some Pride.

 

 

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