Policy & Planning
June 3, 2008

Christopher Hume on Thursday

Don’t forget: this year’s VIA Architecture Lecture on Urban Design is coming up this Thursday at SFU Harbour Centre , featuring Toronto Star urban and architecture critic Christopher Hume.  Details here

Hume’s current column is here.  Appropriately, it’s about demolishing a waterfront freeway – the Gardiner – something Vancouver has never had to consider, because we never built one.

Dismantling the Gardiner will also serve as a symbol (good and bad) of a city (partially) in control of its destiny, one that hopes to become competitive enough to play in the big leagues.

No, it’s not the bold step so many Torontonians were hoping for, but finally we are being forced to make up our collective mind. This will be the biggest decision the city has made in years; it will set the course for the future. If the move is approved by Waterfront Toronto, it will go before city council in July.

Though the debate will be long, rancorous and utterly predictable, we have no choice but to proceed. There’s no alternative. It’s already getting late, and half a glass, whether empty or full, is preferable to none.

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A thoughtful and cleverly constructed profile of architect Bing Thom in the current Vancouver Magazine by Michael Harris.  Bing’s a natural for an interview, always ready with a provocative quote:

“The tragedy here,” says Thom, “is that people in Vancouver have not figured out where we’re going. We’re drifting toward becoming a resort town—one giant Whistler. Up to 30 percent of the people with homes in the downtown core don’t actually live here. And 30,000 young people in the downtown every day are foreign students. This is the global-city problem: foreigners and visitors outnumber residents; you become a stranger in your own home.”

Harris also gets some good quotes on Bing’s work.  Here’s Bob Rennie:

“Twenty-five years from now we’re probably not going to be able to drive cars. We need the next vision. And Bing is planting a seed.”

And me:

Combining an office tower, a mall, and a branch of SFU, Central City is a masterpiece of mixed-use design. Its main galleria is toplit by a massive skylight that, buttressed by a network of timber beams, resembles the organic outline of Thom’s boat. Above it all, the 25-storey office tower bears a glass prow, poised as though it might thrust itself through the surrounding tracts of monotonous sprawl. 

Price calls Surrey Central City Thom’s most important project. “They were carheads out there, and then Thom created a real urban environment.”

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Here’s a nice use of technology by Dan Froidevaux, a UBC and Langara Digital Arts grad, to interview some of the candidates for mayor.  It’s for VancouverIAM – a very useful aggregator of articles, blogs and videos on this fair city.

http://www.vancouveriam.com/videos/dc148eb0ba17 – Robertson

http://www.vancouveriam.com/videos/bbd7c7fcad1b – DeGenova

http://www.vancouveriam.com/videos/31c42f97214f – Ladner 

[QUESTION: Does anyone know how to embed non-YouTube or Google videos into WordPress blogs?]

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You can download yet more on Paris here.
















From Marie de Medici to Simone de Beauvoir, from Descartes to Derrida – well, of course we’re talking about the design of Paris’s great parks, public spaces and promenades.  This four-century scan looks at how Paris has evolved in its use of pubic space, from passive to active, and how it’s changing its modes of movement

Lots of pictures of Paris’s contemporary parks – Andre Citroen and Promenade Plantee – as well as the cherished Luxembourg Gardens.  Not to mention that extraordinary new pedestrian bridge, Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvour.




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In Price Tags 101 – on the Paris bike-sharing system known as Velib’ – I wondered what patterns would emerge, given that the system collects real-time data every time a bike is used.

Well, here’s the answer:

This is an animation of the Velib’ system for a full day (February 10th) based on the number of bikes available at each station.  More here.

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May 26, 2008

One thought/suggestion to use in a discussion with someone that says “if we can put a man on the moon, we can come up with a replacement for oil.”

You can take energy and make anything, but you can’t take anything and make energy.

Fossil Fuels + Man’s ingenuity = Man on the Moon

Man’s inguenity – Fossil Fuels = Man on stationary bicyle pumping water out of the ground for his garden and family.

Things change quickly without unlimited amounts of energy.

Posted by “barefootbookseller” as a comment to James Kunstler’s blog entry this week.

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I sit on the board of the Sightline Institute, so I’m always pleased to see the Seattle-based organization get good coverage in Lower Mainland media.  The release of their report on compact urban form in the region certainly did that, as evidenced by Jeff Nagel’s piece in the Surrey North Delta Leader.

The best part of the Sightline’s report?  The map that shows the changes in the region from 1991 to 2006.  (Click and watch it change!)

The major warning: “Compact neighbourhoods accounted for 56 per cent of new suburban and urban development in 2001-06 versus 67 per cent in the 1990s.”  We’re still doing better than most places, but we’re slipping.



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Triangle West is Coal Harbour Slopes – the blocks above farthest West Hastings Street, from Thurlow to the pointy end, where Pender and Georgia meet.  As an emerging neighbourhood, just starting to fill up, it’s at the stage where Yaletown and Concord Pacific Place were about 1998.

Among all the downtown neighbourhoods, its towers are the tallest, the thinnest, the sleekest:

It treats its lanes with respect:

Some of the street frontages, on the other hand, are mediocre:

But thanks to some remaining heritage apartment houses and mature trees, some parts seem like an extension of the West End:

Triangle West still feels rather like a stage set, and rather sterile.  As the new buildings are occupied, the neighbourhood will take on a character, though still largely indistinguishable from Coal Harbour.  But since each block makes a big difference in a dense city, the locals will appreciate the nuances.

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Next up: London

We’ve already seen the massive success of urban bike sharing in Paris, but now the super-smart Velib Bike program is taking to the streets of London! 15,000 bikes, 1,000 stations and more than 7.5 million miles of combined biking later have already been implemented in London, and the new scheme will contribute £75 million and 6,000 shared bikes to the mass biking scheme. Spearheaded by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the new ‘granny bike’ sharing scheme will reduce traffic congestion and help clear up the air of England’s sprawling capital city.

More here.

In Vancouver, we’re waiting for (1) the report out by TransLink on recommendations of the task force set up to examine bike-sharing for this region.  And (2) support by those running for office in the upcoming election.

How about we ask them.


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Brisbane looks set to become the first Australian capital city to join several European centres in introducing a public bike hire scheme, with the city’s council launching a call for proposals for the project at the weekend. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said the scheme would be similar to the Paris and Barcelona models.

There’ll be bike (stations) every 300m in the inner parts of Brisbane and in terms of the price structure, it could be similar to Paris, where the first half-hour is free’. Mr Newman said the initial stage of the project would have 2000 bikes at 150 stations across innercity Brisbane, from Newstead in the inner-north to the University of Queensland at St Lucia in the city’s southwest.”


[Thanks to Stephen Ingrouille]


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