Design & Development
March 21, 2019

small places in the sun

In a single day, a chilling winter turns to a summer-like spring.  The seawall is packed; the bikes are out.  We look to the patios and parklets for conviviality and amusement.

These are the scenes captured in the videos of the ‘small places’ team – Brian Gould and Kathleen Corey.  PT has featured much of their work over the years, but here’s another one that’s perfect for the moment:

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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.

Coffee.

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. 

 

 

 

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The City of Vancouver Engineering Department’s  Viva Program is partnering with the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN ) on a new public space competition called “Life Between the Umbrellas: Public Space in a Rainy City”. 

In a city with five months of rain how do you modify road space and public spaces to encourage public life? How do you invite people to slow down, enjoy the space, and connect with other people?

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March’s featured storyteller is Kevin Dale McKeown, editor and publisher of The West End Journal.

As part of his “People’s Park” story, Kevin recalls the spring of 1971 when Vancouver’s Yippie movement occupied and built a tent city on the proposed site of a new Four Seasons Hotel at the entrance to Stanley Park – where Devonian Harbour Park is today.

Kevin was in the thick of the action, helping out at the camp kitchen. The protest lasted a year, Mayor Tom Campbell called it “a breakdown of society”, and obviously the campers / protesters won the battle.

Today the main attraction at the site is not a glitzy international hotel but the bronze statue of a woman sitting on a park bench, apparently searching in her purse for the glasses we can all see sitting atop her head. But things could have gone differently.

 

JJ Bean Cafe, 1209 Bidwell Street (Bidwell & Davie)

Wednesday, March 20

4:30 to 6:00 pm

Admission: Free, Complimentary coffee and tea thanks to JJ Bean

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Two Vancouver urbanistas – Michael Gordon and Gordon Price – have decided to celebrate their birthdays in New York City.  Help us out.

  • What off-the-beaten-tourist-tracks should we hike?  (And remember, we’ve seen a lot of NYC.)
  • What’s new in the boroughs?  Even Jersey.
  • Shows, performances, galleries, museums?  (Middle of March through April.)
  • Restaurants, of course.  (Food carts too.)
  • Your favourite book about, set in or metaphorically referencing the Apple.  (Video series, movies or print articles included.  Even policy reports.)

Are you in New York?  Would you like to meet?  Would you buy us a beer or a cupcake with a candle?

And yes, of course we’ll use Citibike.

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes the meaning of the message is lost in alarmist headings. That seems to be the case in this Global Television story about the City of Victoria’s Urban Forest Master Plan. Victoria currently has a tree canopy coverage of 18 percent and aims to increase that to 40 percent in the coming decades.

Street trees are remarkable in that they mitigate heat sinks, cool cities and provide much-needed shade and protection, besides their remarkable ability to photosynthesize. How street trees are chosen and placed is complex, in that as climate and local conditions change tree species that previously did well may start to decline. Diseases endemic to certain species of trees also means that street trees are planted with diversity to enable survival. And in this climate trees seem to grow beyond the nursery specifications, and seem to last longer than  the anticipated life cycle in stressed conditions.

As spring rolls around citizens think of cherry trees and blossoms, and Victoria like Vancouver is well planted in cherry trees, which were very popular to plant on city streets thirty years ago. One of the challenges of cherry trees is that many species are short-lived, from 16 to 20 years. And one of the criticisms of municipal urban forest plans is that while cities emphasize the need for tree planting and replacement, there is not the education about the fact that many tree species need to be replaced as they come to the end of their life cycles, become hazardous, or invade local underground services.

In Victoria one city councillor raised the alarm about tree cutting while complaining about a spending increase of $868,000 to a  tree plan and program that has a 1.7 million dollar annual budget.

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From the Saskatchewan in Motion program coaching children to walk to school and be more active in their communities is this “Bingo” card designed for children to take out on their winter walks.

And as Wildernook Fresh Air Training enthuses “This weekend we’re taking a break from our regular neighbourhood walking game of I Spy to try out Saskatchewan in Motion’s Winter Walking Bingo Card.

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From Michael Alexander:

First sunny day above freezing, and the newish playground next to Science World is packed as usual, with long lines for every ride including the zip line.

If the city charged $1 a kid (“C’mon Mom, it’s only a loonie!), in a year we could build enough affordable housing to meet demand*.

 

 

* Ed – First rule of affordable housing: demand is never met.

 

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February 14, 2019

Lost Lagoon after a few days of freezing weather.

So what do the ice patterns tell us?  Where the underwater currents flow, producing a frozen map of streams and ponds?  Temperature gradients? Or something else – if we have eyes to see.

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