Architecture
June 4, 2019

White City Alert: We Need a Name

Hopefully, PT readers are following my exploration of Tel Aviv’s White City on Instagram. As mentioned in the leading post above, this historic neighbourhood shares a lot of characteristics with others of its ilk:

Mid-century modernist beachfront neighbourhoods have an eclectic combo of dense housing, a mix of uses, unique businesses all kinds of restaurants, stirred together with social tolerance.  There’s often a gay village embedded within.

They were often the first suburbs of rapidly expanding cities or linear developments strung along beaches, a few blocks deep, served initially by streetcars and transit with limited parking.   Like Ipanema in Rio, like Miami Beach in Florida, like Venice in California.

They’ll have their beachfront attractions, of course, but usually a block in or leading perpendicularly from the waterfront will be a commercial street cluttered with restaurants and shops, still served by the transit that shaped them   Think Denman and Davie.

They’ve had their up and downs, starting off as attractive middle- and upper-class developments, sometimes as beachfront escapes, sometimes as single-family speculative real estate, sometimes as apartment districts and then gone into decline in the early 20th century until after World War II.   Like the West End, some were largely bulldozed and replaced with higher density rental apartments, some were simply passed by – until rediscovered in the late 20th century and then increasingly gentrified in the 21st.

What shall we call these districts?

Despite their variations, they share enough in common to have a generic name.   MiCe,Hi-Di-on-the-beach.   Okay, not that one.  But help us out.

Scot and I have been developing a list.  Here’s what we have so far:

  • White City – Tel Aviv
  • West End and Kitsilano – Vancouver 
  • Santa Monica and Venice Beach – Los Angeles
    Ipanema and Cocacabana – Rio
    Miami Beach – Florida
    Sea Point – Cape Town
    St. Kilda – Melbourne
    Potts Point and Bondi – Sydney
  • Oriental Bay – Wellington
  • Surfers Paradise – near Brisbane
    Waikiki – Hawaii

Add your own below!

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For most of June, the Price in Price Tags will be far away.  Mostly in Tel Aviv.  More specifically, in the part known as the White City.

I kept hearing good things about Tel Aviv – the people, the food, the beaches, the night life.  Even its Gay Pride and Parade – the antithesis to Jerusalem, I was told.

What really intrigued this urbanist, though, was its planning history.  How its first mayor, Dizengoff – knowing the city would expand far beyond Jaffa, the historic Arab port, after World War I – needed a plan.  And how he went to, of all people, a Scottish botantist in Edinburgh active in the Garden City movement.  And how that planner, Patick Geddes, started on a master plan in the mid-1920s that was accepted in 1929 – and how, amazingly, Tel Aviv built it.  At least the streets, blocks and, to a great extent, the public spaces.  This is very unusual.

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Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Heritage House Tour

The 2019 self-guided tour offers an exclusive look inside ten historic Vancouver houses across five neighbourhoods and six decades of design, from the 1890s to the 1950s.

The adaptability of older houses and buildings is also a theme on this year’s tour with both historic and recent examples: two heritage homes converted for school use, starting in the 1930s but with recent chapters.

See how a charity utilizes a special historic house that was saved from demolition by community efforts and now offers a welcoming environment. Nearby, a former duplex  converted into a bed & breakfast and venue for same-sex marriages.

Also modern interventions such as a basement suite addition, a concept that has added living space and housing options to Vancouver homes for decades. Another stop will show a sensitive second floor addition on a character bungalow, expanding family accommodation while retaining original features.

Not to be missed design highlights include the Mid-Century Modern masterpiece created by architect Barry Downs in 1959 for his own family and the 1910 Hirschfeld House in handsome Arts and Crafts style.

A pre-tour lecture. The Ever Changing House: A History of Adaptability with historian John Atkin will explore the many ways older homes have been adapted through the decades in Vancouver.

 

Sunday, June 2

10 am – 5 pm

$40 or $30 with valid student ID (not including taxes and postage)

Tickets here or call 604 264 9642

 

Pre-tour Lecture: The Ever Changing House: A History of Adaptability

Monday, May 27th, 7:30 pm – 9pm, $16 or $10 for students and 2019 Heritage House Tour ticket holders

 

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Shaping Vancouver 2019: What’s the Use of Heritage?

“What’s the Use of Heritage?” discusses how heritage fits in to planning Vancouver’s near future, what some of its uses are, and how it contributes to the city in more ways than aesthetics and historic commemoration.

 

Conversation #1: Reshaping Local Places

Under many different names, including “revitalization”and “regeneration”, heritage is and can be used to craft a positive place image, develop local economic sectors, create a neighbourhood centre for culture, and improve upon the animation of local areas.

This process is especially relevant and timely in the False Creek Flats, Chinatown, and Punjabi Market areas of Vancouver.

Four panelists share their insights about their local places:

  • Ajay Puri– Engagement consultant, City of Vancouver Report on Punjabi Market
  • Alisha Masongsong– Project Manager, Exchange Inner City
  • Belle Cheung– Social and Cultural Planner, City of Vancouver Chinatown Transformation Team
  • Elia Kirby– President of the Arts Factory Society at 281 Industrial Avenue

 

Wednesday, May 21

7 – 9 pm

SFU Woodwards,149 West Hastings Street, Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre

Tickets here

 

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Now that Google’s Streetview has been in operation for a decade, and conveniently provides its available archive with each image, it’s possible to do what Guest suggests in the post below:

You could take a similar pic – but in reverse and with a future transition – of the former Granville 7 Theatre on Granville Steet.

i.e. bustling pic of the movie crowds in the 1990s, boarded up with chain link fence and homeless camped out for the past few years after the theatre closed, and in a few more years (hopefully) bustling again as a Cineplex Rec Room.

Here’s the result so far:

2007:

2011:

2018:

The current street scene, at least in these shots, is not as dramatic as it can be, when there are rough shelters under the canopies.  Whereas the difference in New York from the 1980s to now – in this case, the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bushwick – is unmissable.  Almost inconceivable.

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In principle, the idea of infill in already built-out neighbourhoods is seen to be a good one, especially to broaden the choice of options.  At the community planning stage, there’s general acceptance.

Reality is tougher.  Two prominent cases for apartments on parking lots have received a lot of pushback – in the case of the Delbrook proposal in North Van District, council rejection; in the case of the Larch Street proposal in Kitsilano, considerable neighbourhood opposition.

Even in the West End, one neighbourhood you’d expect would welcome infill, the dilemma of scale and relationship to the existing fabric becomes apparent in these two examples.  The first – around five storeys, about the same as those examples mentioned above – was submitted almost immediately after the approval of the West End Community Plan in 2013 – a proposal for a rear parking lot at Cardero and Comox, as reported in PriceTags in 2014.  The comments detail the complaints.

Nonetheless, it is now under construction:

 

The other, a half block away, at 1685 Nelson, is considerably different in scale – actually an extension of to a heritage-quality house – but also meeting resistance.

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Canadians always love getting big-deal American recognitions. This is one – the Pierre L’Enfant International Planning Award.

It should also help reassure the mayor, who has been heard expressing some reservations about viaduct removal. Cost, presumably, that could go for, oh, housing, not to mention placating some pissed off constituents.

But I don’t think he’d like to piss off June Francis if he announced that the viaducts will remain and Hogan’s Alley renewal won’t.

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YouTuber Michael Beach (not the actor, but about whom not much is searchable) came up with a simple but effective idea: urban analysis using maps – the maps we actually use these days: Google Earth and Streetview.

With the seamless use of video, illustration and a lot of research, he takes us on computer-aided visits to cities around the would, and provides sometimes insightful, sometimes scathing analyses of urban places.  His YouTube home page is here.

His views are, of course, personal and in some cases overly simplistic, given he’s never been to many of the places his mouse hovers over – but he’s never boring, even if his voice sometimes seems like an over-caffeinated Thomas the Tank.

Here’s the example an urban environment closest to us: North York in Toronto.  This one, literally focusing on the transit corridor along Yonge Street, will both terrify and assure those who wonder what could happen along the Broadway corridor with the arrival of SkyTrain.

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Occasionally ‘Changing Vancouver‘ will post an example of a Vancouver that hasn’t changed in decades.  Like this lot in the 600-block Nelson (click post headline for images):

This 1981 image shows that not everything has changed Downtown – yet. If heritage status could be conferred on surface parking lots, this one might qualify, as it has been a vacant site for at least 40 years, with no sign yet of a development proposal.

Here’s another at Richards and Pender:

 

These downtown sites at least generate parking revenue.  The really mysterious lots are those that have been grassed-over and empty for decades on high-value sites in the West End, like this one at Robson and Gilford:

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