March 26, 2007

Price Tags 91 – Gold Coast of Australia

 Download Price Tags 91 here.

Yes, it’s been awhile since the last issue.  But I have a good excuse: three weeks in Australia on a speaking tour, visiting six cities and renewing a host of friendships.  
We begin where change is most dynamic: on the Gold Coast of South East Queensland, where a new regional plan may be providing lessons for places like Greater Vancouver.
I’m not the first to have discovered that.  Michael Geller (past manager of SFU’s UniverCity), currently on a world tour, just reported back on his trip to the Gold Coast in the Vancouver Sun.  You can read about it here.
And while you’re at it, check out the blog City Alliance, devoted to comparisons of Auckland, Brisbane, Perth and Vancouver.
This is the second series of Price Tags on Australia.  The first series – Issues 52, 53, 54, 59 and 60 – can be found in the Archives:

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As in most cities, there’s lots of competition for ‘worst’ building.  Over at Pacific Metropolis, they’re inviting nominations for “a list of those buildings that we’d like to see torn down as quickly as possible – preferably before they’re granted heritage status.” 
Here’s my nomination:
The Academy of Music on Vanier Point. Not too many people know about it, thankfully, since it’s another of those 70s-style bunkers they built back then, like the Archives. What makes it my top choice is the lost opportunity. Shouldn’t an Academy of Music be a graceful, inviting, significantly placed icon in the fabric of the city? This is none of those.

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From the Washington Post

On July 15, the day after Bastille Day, Parisians will wake up to discover thousands of low-cost rental bikes at hundreds of high-tech bicycle stations scattered throughout the city, an ambitious program to cut traffic, reduce pollution, improve parking and enhance the city’s image as a greener, quieter, more relaxed place.
By the end of the year, organizers and city officials say, there should be 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations — or about one station every 250 yards across the entire city. Based on experience elsewhere — particularly in Lyon, France’s third-largest city, which launched a similar system two years ago — regular users of the bikes will ride them almost for free.

For more, click here.

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I saw the Fred Herzog show at the VAG last night – and I wasn’t alone.  The place was packed, full of under-30s.  Like those of us old enough to remember some of the places captured by Herzog’s camera, they were amazed at the compositional quality and play of colour in his prints. 
The younger ones came, I think, to gain into insight into a Vancouver they never had the chance to see.   (Though that sentiment shouldn’t be overdone: so much of what Herzog physically saw from the 1950s to the 70s is still here.  One West End shot has most of the elements remaining: the B.C. Electric building, the houses of Mole Hill, the streetcar apartment building.  But like the shots of Hastings Street in the Downtown East Side, the people, the mood, the social reality – all irretrievably changed.)
What makes Herzog so important, with a status that goes well beyond Vancouver, is his use of colour.  No other photographer of the street was using colour stock back in the 1950s; it was considered too garish, too associated with advertising.  Herzog’s collection, until recently, was almost entirely on slides, since prints didn’t give the quality he desired when enlarged.  Now digital imaging allows what you see on the walls of the gallery.
Or in books:

(A mixed bag of essays, but worth the trip.)
Herzog documents the Vancouver we were – and many will lament the loss.  Don’t.  We’re not that different, just evolved.  There is no clean break from the city that Herzog saw.  Like it, he is still with us, still walking the same streets for the same purposes.  
Even racially, Herzog captured the early days of the city we have become:    
Some of his works, like Jackpot, look as though Jeff Wall had set them up.  Some are immortal: perfect moments from the 1950s.  They certainly deserve life beyond the gallery walls.  Suggestion: create bus-shelter scale posters and mount them on the streets on which they were taken.   Or, like in Montreal, build an outdoor gallery, perhaps on the sidewalks of Georgia Street or on the old Larwell Park site (between Hamilton and Beatty), perhaps the home of the new Art Gallery, certainly the location of the Olympic gathering place in 2010.

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Randy Gragg, one of the best writers on urban design and architecture in America, profiles a Portland developer, Joe Weston, in an article in The Oregonian. Weston, who is building in the Vancouver Style, may the the first of many.

Sunday, March 11, 2007
Standing in the 27th-story penthouse of his soon-to-be-finished condo The Benson, developer Joe Weston foresees a taller, thinner Portland.The building is the city’s first “point tower.” Each floor will be 8,000 square feet or less, hence the “point” compared to the more typical Portland “slab towers” of 12,000 to 20,000 square feet.
Vancouver, B.C., built hundreds of these more slender buildings in the past 20 years, increasing the city center’s population by more than 50 percent and drawing the attention of cities across the world for its combination of higher density and livability. For years, Portland has sent delegations of planners, architects and politicians north of the border to see them.

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The last issue of Price Tags had a section on Portland’s South Waterfront, and the new park being constructed along the Willamette River. 

I wondered whether this was the finished state, particularly of the asphalt walkway.  And no, of course it isn’t.
Ken Pirie from the office of Walker Macy, the designers of the waterfront master plan, sends along an image of the eventual plan for Bargeway Park:

Nice to see the separated path for feet and wheels. 
 Ken explains:

The city has no money currently to build the full Greenway with proper paths, but new condo dwellers demanded something resembling the grand open space they thought would be there instantly!  We hope to also design the eventual park but much will depend on city funding and on the cooperation of river frontage developers.

I would have thought that the developers should have been required to design and build the park as a conditon of approval.  After all, it only adds value to their product.

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In the “morbid but fascinating” category, a condensation of imperial history in the Middle East:

  • An amazing presentation to help understand the powers of Empires.
  • 3,000 Years in 90 Seconds
  • Watch the history of the Middle East (and beyond) unfold with an interactive map showing the various civilizations that have ruled the region from ancient Egypt to modern times.
  • This is from the Biblical Archaeological Society e-news.
  • No wonder it is still a region in turmoil — it’s never known anything but war and strife.

Thanks to Rona Gilbertson.

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Back from Australia (much more on that later), but to get things rolling again, here’s an item from my Inbox by way of  Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing:

Toronto councillor: dead cyclists have themselves to blame!
Joey “AccordionGuy” deVilla reports on the single dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of an elected city official saying. Toronto councillor Rob Ford told the Toronto Star: “I can’t support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”
Joey highlights a comment from the Raise the Hammer blog,
Ford is an idiot, there’s no defending that, but he highlights a common problem among City Councilors:
. he does a great job at meeting his constituent’s needs. A recent Star article highlighted a day with Councilor Ford which found him working 12 hours, and visiting constituent’s homes personally, along with various city staffers, to address their complaints directly. Now that’s service. He is also ethically astute and regularly files the lowest expense reports of all Toronto Councilors. But:
b. he has a complete lack of understanding of how to build and manage a livable city. His ignorance is truly astounding.
I don’t know if a) is true, but b) is clearly demonstrated.

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