Viewpoint
May 7, 2007

Photo Opportunities

There was a hint of summer in the air today, May 7th.  Deceptive, of course; it will rain tomorrow.  But for an afternoon, we could believe!
A fine time to cycle the Downtown loop, from the West End to the North Shore of False Creek, across Abbott Street to Gastown, and then Coal Harbour and home.
I did something similar in Price Tags 66 and 86.  But for the next few posts, I’ll select some representative shots of how our city changes.
First up – the doggie run at George Wainborn Park.  They’re out there twice a day, connecting with other owners.  It’s definitely a community, and a great place to pick up someone attractive.   That goes for the people too.

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This is what we like.
 David Igglesden, a senior transport planner in Perth, Australia, writes:

Issue 93 says the Brisbane Bridge was the first in Australia designed for buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

One of my projects was the Shenton Park Bus Bridge (across a railway)….  Not quite the same scale or glamour but it was built in 2002 and it was designed for buses, cyclists and pedestrians, although the latter two share a path as volumes are low. …

 

The bridge is skewed to improve passenger comfort and make it impractical to convert it to a normal traffic bridge. More here.

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In the Saturday Sun, editied by Canada’s most renowned environmentalist, David Suzuki, a feature story provides some counter-opinion (including mine) to the usual rah-rah for the Gateway proposal:

The Gateway project is a “gigantic leap in the absolute wrong direction,” says University of B.C. Professor Larry Frank, who is internationally famous for his studies of the connection between obesity and the suburbs. “It will entrench us in an auto-dependent future right in the middle of a climate-change debacle.”
A study Frank recently did for the Washington Department of Transport showed that for each 10-per-cent reduction in driving times that motorists experience, typically because more roads have been built, the amount they walk or use transit goes down. That automatically means greenhouse-gas emissions go up.
Preston Schiller, a professor at the University of Western Washington who has studied the transportation systems of the three cities, called the Gateway plan “a big mistake.”
“To me, that sort of expansion you just don’t do in this day and age.”
And former Vancouver councillor Gordon Price, also a close watcher of the Vancouver-Seattle-Portland scene, calls it “a tragic turn in the direction of this region.”
“If [the provincial government] does what it says it’s going to do, we are going the way of Seattle.”

Full story here.

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Here’s my latest column in Business in Vanouver  (May 1-7, 2007, Issue 914) – to whom I am continually grateful for publishing my comments these many years. 
 This is the unedited version, and hence a little longer than the published column.

The North Shore is about to lose this game of bridge.

Ever since the 1950s, the North Shore has wanted a Third Crossing. The failure of that project in 1972 was a turning point in this region’s history – and though it may seem counter-intuitive, that is one of the reasons we are such a livable and prosperous city. But those stuck in traffic on the roads leading to Lions Gate Bridge still yearn for something better.

On this side of Burrard Inlet, we’ve pretty much done everything we can to prevent another vehicle crossing. Coal Harbour was designed to eliminate the possibility of a waterfront road; we refused to entertain any more lanes through Stanley Park; we rejected the possibility of an Alberni-Georgia couplet; and we traffic-calmed the West End. Councils across the ideological spectrum have agreed: No more capacity for single-occupant vehicles.

On the other side of Burrard Inlet, most people have come to terms with the situation. In fact, given the modest growth in the westerly part of the North Shore so far, the line-ups to the bridge haven’t really changed that much. The worst traffic is on weekends; otherwise people have organized their lives to accommodate a three-lane reality. (And, counter-intuitively, that’s one of the reasons their quality of life is so high.)

Now things are changing: a faster, wider road and a lot more growth. When the Province announces the widening of a road, real-estate development invariably follows – and that’s what is happening up the Sea-to-Sky corridor. Squamish is closer to Vancouver than Langley, say the ads. The Sunshine Coast is booming. And everyone expects to drive.

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Globe architecture critic Lisa Rochon profiles Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie here.   
(You’d think that by now the hometown Sun would be embarrassed that Toronto’s newspaper is doing a better job of covering the built environment of Vancouver than they are.)
Rochon’s column profiles Gillespie’s projects from Shangri-La to Woodward’s, and makes this fascinating observation about the latter:

The vision is monumental, but I admit to being a little fixated on one clever design detail: the bike rack that (architect Gregory) Henriquez has squeezed into the front hall of the tiny units for people on social assistance. “For these people, the bike is really an important part of their lives and their livelihood. They’re not going to park it out on the street.
“They’re going to bring it inside their apartment, so we designed a rack for that purpose.” That insight speaks to the years that Henriquez has poured into the project, meeting with squatters and housing activists for countless consultations, and pushing his practice into the vanguard of architecture with a conscience.

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The new open space at Nelson and Mainland – now in the heart of new Yaletown  – is almost complete.  And already it’s generating hard opinions.

It’s a stretch to call it a park.  There’s hardly a living plant in the place.  The surface is either concrete or granite block, right up to the slender trunks of a handful of trees. 
And just in case you miss the point, they’ve added blocks of stone that aren’t too far removed from Jersey barriers.
 
The separation between the park and busy Nelson Street consists of angled, louvred black-metal screens, as harsh as a portcullis.

But, honestly, I haven’t decided whether I like it or not.  No doubt the rationale behind the park justifies all this hard-surface as appropriate to the Yaletown industrial history and aesthetic.
And it might work.  There’s a very good chance it will be one of the more interesting people-watching places in the neighbourhood, and perhaps even a performance space, spontaneously generated.
One thing for sure: everyone will have an opinion.
 

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