I have to agree with Stuart Lefeaux, the long-time superintendent of Stanley Park, about the consequences of the December windstorm: “The end result is that Stanley Park will be much more interesting than before.”
Though retired in 1979, Lefeaux saw the results of Hurricane Freda in 1962. In this article in the Courier, he told of what followed:

“The storm opened up quite a swath behind the Hollow Tree and we made that into a picnic area,” he says. “The biggest result though was that we were able to build the children’s zoo and miniature railway in an area cleared by the blowdown.”
The storm also cleared the way for the development of the Prospect Point picnic area and created viewpoints and vistas towards the ocean and North Shore.

Given the news coverage, many people probably believe the damage to be worse than it was, that Stanley Park was affected throughout its thousand acres. But save for a few areas of blowdown, it looks pretty much the same at casual glance. Where the microbursts roared through – Cathedral Trail, Prospect Point – the damage is dramatic. From Prospect Point to the Hollow Tree, the seaward slopes down to the Merilees Trail have been decimated.

But the extent of the blowdown is limited. Result: the view through to English Bay has been opened up, and is, as Lefeaux suggests, much more interesting.

Though I doubt the Parks Board would put it this way, the outpouring of grief and generosity is going to lever a lot of opportunity to make capital improvements, particularly slope stabilization, that would be otherwise unaffordable but will also change the park in some ways.  Stanley Park has added another layer of history to its landscape, and more diversity for those of us who experience it.
Here, by the way, is the New York Times story – Its Wild Heart Broken, a City, Like Its Eagles, Rebuilds.

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At the corner of Barclay and Denman Streets in the West End, on a small rectangular lot next to King George High School, there are four benches.  Rusty red, flaked and nicked, they look as uncomfortable as the stone walls they butt up against and as worn as the ground they stand on.   But there’s something bright and new on every one: a big brass plaque with an official-looking crest, and some words.
 
The crest, it turns out, is of King George High School, and my assumption is that these are gifts from the grads.
The advice:
  
“Take time to meander in your quest.”

“Slow down.  You move too fast.”
So if you actually stop to read the two plaques, then in the first case, you have, and in the second, you don’t.

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If you like Google Earth, you’ll love VirtualCity – a pedestrian view of Toronto (or at least a good portion of the central city).  This beta version allows you to see streetscapes lot by lot, image by image, with a very user-friendly interface.  Check it out.  If you’re knowledgeable about TO, expect to spend some time.
 

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Here’s what a road map of Richmond looks like when every kind of street is given a different colour.  Crescents are deep pink, drives are burnt orange, avenues are powder blue – you get the idea.

You can find the key – and most of the GVRD – at Radical Cartography here
Thanks to Max Richter’s Freshlist for the weird and wonderful.

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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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Barrie is the driving force behind the Sculpture Biennale detailed in Price Tags 86 – http://pricetags.ca/pricetags/pricetags86.pdf (Click and take the tour.)
He’s just back from Northern Europe, with an interesting observation on Vancouver:

Just returned from Scandinavia, Baltics and Russia.  Very impressed and surprised at how beautiful Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga, etc are.  Amazing parks, waterways, walking and bike paths.
What I discovered most is much what you have said in Price Tags 87.  Vancouver has nowhere for people to gather and ‘party’ or ‘protest’.  WE have no inner-city squares where people walk through or can congregate … probabaly afraid they will become gathering places for the unwashed, etc. Hence our parks are primarily along the water’s edge, on the edge of the city.  No room for congregating … only passing by!

I wonder if the design to design-out public-squares like you find in every European and South American Capital was intentional !
It would be nice in the newer areas of the city that are being developed to create public parks/squares and to build amenities and living accommodation around them so that people have to criss-cross through them to get from a to b and in better weather actually congregate … ike Place des Vosges in Paris, the park in Riga between the Embassy district and old town, or the large plazas in reconstructed Vilnius.

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August 17, 2006

Great vacation time in Montreal and Vermont. 
For a perspective on public spaces in Montreal, check out the latest Price Tags – Issue 87 – which you can download on my web site (www.pricetags.ca) or click directly from here:
http://pricetags.ca/pricetags/pricetags87.pdf
Usually I have to wait for the next issue of PT to provide feedback.  Now I can do it on this blog.
As you’ll see, I wrote some positive comments about Parc Emilie-Gamelin (also known as Place Berri) based on the activity I saw there. 


Here’s another perspective from PT reader Dan Freeman:

I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with your laudatory description of Place Berri in downtown Montreal (Jan Gehl’s book “New City Spaces” makes the same mistake, in my opinion)

While it has some strengths, it is a problematic public space. Based on my experience/observation of this square (most recently in July) it has far too much unprogrammed open space. There are no activities, cafes or vendors here that could draw people to this space in the heart of the city. There is also very limited comfortable and practical seating. Not enough is in the shade, and there isn’t much that would encourage conversations between people – just the usual benches and ledges around some of the edges.
As a result, most of the space is largely empty (except for the odd skateboarders in the blank plaza), and its edges are usually populated by the city’s homeless population who set up camp in the shade and sleep/lounge throughout the day. While they are certainly as entitled to using public space as all other citizens (and in fact the homeless likely depend on it more than most), their overwhelming presence discourages many others who live/work/study downtown from hanging out there. We need to create public spaces which are inclusive and provide places for multiple communities to feel comfortable on a daily basis.
I won’t deny that Place Berri is a fantastic place for public events/concerts/gatherings/protests. It most definitely is. And Vancouver desperately needs such a space. My (exceptionally controversial) suggestion: rebuild much of Robson Square to create a public plaza across the street from the VAG. Don’t tell the architects though, they LOVE this Erickson work, ignoring its failings as a piece of the urban infrastructure.
But I digress. The problem with Place Berri is that it fails ‘the rest of the time’. Public spaces should be designed and programmed for major events, but need to work first and foremost as great every day places.
Thanks once again for the amazing photos and ideas you share through PriceTags. It’s truly an exceptionally generous contribution to the city’s urban dialogue.

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A perfect day, really: sunny but not too hot. The beaches and bikeways are packed, and people seem in the mood to dance the day away. In some cases literally.

On Granville Island, a tuxedoed busker serenades the crowd with French ballads. A young couple finds just the right tempo to dance to his songs, and because they’re good, because they can really dance, their performance enchants the surrounding audience. They, however, only have eyes for each other as they dance among the pigeons and the children, perfectly in step and, you’d guess, in love. If it wasn’t all happening spontaneously, it would seem way too hokey. But it isn’t, of course. It’s a Sunday afternoon on Granville Island.

Not too far away, on Kits Beach, another kind of dance. I’m not really sure who they were or what they do, but here’s the scene:

In amongst the beautiful bodies, seated in a circle, half-dressed in white, chanting to the beat of some oddly shaped instruments, these young people from a myriad of races watch two of their own engage in what seems to be a highly choreographed version of martial arts. “Dance fighting,” says one of the observers.

Whatever it is (something Brazilian, perhaps), it’s perfect for Kits Beach.

Oh man, I love this city in the sunshine.

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