May 15, 2019

VHF Heritage House Tour – Jun 2

Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Heritage House Tour

The 2019 self-guided tour offers an exclusive look inside ten historic Vancouver houses across five neighbourhoods and six decades of design, from the 1890s to the 1950s.

The adaptability of older houses and buildings is also a theme on this year’s tour with both historic and recent examples: two heritage homes converted for school use, starting in the 1930s but with recent chapters.

See how a charity utilizes a special historic house that was saved from demolition by community efforts and now offers a welcoming environment. Nearby, a former duplex  converted into a bed & breakfast and venue for same-sex marriages.

Also modern interventions such as a basement suite addition, a concept that has added living space and housing options to Vancouver homes for decades. Another stop will show a sensitive second floor addition on a character bungalow, expanding family accommodation while retaining original features.

Not to be missed design highlights include the Mid-Century Modern masterpiece created by architect Barry Downs in 1959 for his own family and the 1910 Hirschfeld House in handsome Arts and Crafts style.

A pre-tour lecture. The Ever Changing House: A History of Adaptability with historian John Atkin will explore the many ways older homes have been adapted through the decades in Vancouver.


Sunday, June 2

10 am – 5 pm

$40 or $30 with valid student ID (not including taxes and postage)

Tickets here or call 604 264 9642


Pre-tour Lecture: The Ever Changing House: A History of Adaptability

Monday, May 27th, 7:30 pm – 9pm, $16 or $10 for students and 2019 Heritage House Tour ticket holders


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Like some unprecedented mass shooting, it’s the kind of record-breaking news one tends to think twice about discussing at the breakfast table.

As reported by Popular Science, among many other media outlets, late last week the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii measured carbon levels in the atmosphere at 415 parts per million. That’s more than 100 ppm higher than any point in almost 1 million years’ worth of atmospheric data available.

For nearly a million years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have maintained an average of about 280 ppm, not going above 300 ppm or below 160 ppm…the latest human-caused warming event is occurring over just a couple of centuries, which is so quick in comparison that the trend line appears vertical as it approaches today.

Do we actually still need to wonder why this is happening?

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Sandy James’s post on Cornelia Oberlander – “the First Lady of Canadian Landscape Design” – is so apropos at this time of year, when her legacy, particularly Robson Square, literally blossoms.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the look of Vancouver is captured in her works.

She’s still active, still provocative.  In the film “City Dreamers” in which she’s featured, she says she’s not in favour of daylighting streams that have been previously culverted – as is proposed, for instance, for Brewery Creek through False Creek Flats.  Too many unexpected consequences, says the voice of experience.

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Can we create community out of diversity? If so, will it require changing the scale and character of urban forms within our communities…the very change some Lower Mainlanders have recently become notorious for rejecting?

It’s one of many thorny questions tossed around, grappled over, and occasionally outshouted by our venerable host and his subject Mark Busse, Director of TILT Curiosity Labs at HCMA Architecture + Design, and host of the Creative Mornings Vancouver breakfast lecture series. There’s a give-and-go to this conversation that Price Talks has not yet witnessed, or had to edit around…

It begins with a game of Podcast Ping Pong (you don’t know it because Gord just invented it), and ends with a discussion of the possibility that, not only have we not seen the end of Gen X, we may yet have the opportunity to witness their best and brightest contributions to society.

In the middle is a wide-ranging debate about the role of designers — not planners mind you, but a broader creative class — in contributing to the directions our cities and communities take. Often bespoke approaches to prescribing how relationships are facilitated and move in space, and what we could call the ‘special sauce of serendipity’ that has come to mark social interactions in the new communities of the future, today. In places like downtown Vancouver, and Surrey, for example.

And by the way, what is community? Says Busse: “There’s data that says people living in close proximity, sharing and touching skin on skin produces happier, and healthier human beings.” And if that means breaking the bargain we’ve made with previous generations who have come to counted on having homes that the kindergarten class have depicted for generations — detached house, pitched roof, chimney, backyard, and generous garden — then so be it. “Sorry, grandpa.”

And when Gord asks if Gen X has blown it, Busse suggests that, perhaps with the support of a little Millennial tailwind, the best of this generation may be just over the horizon.

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In the good news/bad news department, the City of Vancouver has announced a “Request for Expression of Interest (RFEOI) “on a proposed master plan for four iconic west end parks, their beaches, and the adjacent street networks. Noting that there is an expectation of 18,000 more residents in the West End by 2040 and the fact that this area is heavily frequented by tourists, the City is looking at a refreshing rethink of this place that is so loved by locals.

That heavily used parks that are older are being considered for a facelift is great, with enhancements being proposed for Morton Park, better connections for cyclists to the seawall, better readable open space, and an emphasis on biodiversity and festival space.

The Vancouver Aquatic Centre built in 1976 is over forty years old and is due for an overhaul. It would benefit from a redesign that tied it into Sunset Park. The RFEOI also wants to explore climate change and sea rise, and  do work differently. Noting that these lands are on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, any proposal must include meaningful engagement with the Nations. This could be very exciting to have placemaking and marking from the indigenous perspective, and explore culturally and historically the use and importance of this site.

The bad news was it appeared that some City Councillors and Parks Commissioners were unaware of this city proposal and initiative, which follows city policy to improve and manage public amenities and improve active transportation connections.

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TransLink was recently asking Vancouverites for suggestions on the best seating design for new SkyTrain cars.  Hopefully they saw this video from Cheddar on a study done for New York’s transit system:

Are the cars the MTA uses currently the best for the way we ride the subway? In 2013, researchers from Operations Planning Group at NYCT submitted their improved design to the Transportation Research Board.

(Click headline of post to show video.)

Yeah, it’s fodder for ELMTOTs*, but it also an exploration of human behaviour in confined spaces and how design affects us.


* Urban Dictionary: “Stands for Expo Line Memes for TransLink Oriented Teens. It’s a Facebook group for over 1300 kids-with-no-life to share memes of Vancouver.”

And doesn’t that screen capture above look like Vancouver?  It’s probably Long Island City, as the East River shoreline transforms into False Creek.

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Shaping Vancouver 2019: What’s the Use of Heritage?

“What’s the Use of Heritage?” discusses how heritage fits in to planning Vancouver’s near future, what some of its uses are, and how it contributes to the city in more ways than aesthetics and historic commemoration.


Conversation #1: Reshaping Local Places

Under many different names, including “revitalization”and “regeneration”, heritage is and can be used to craft a positive place image, develop local economic sectors, create a neighbourhood centre for culture, and improve upon the animation of local areas.

This process is especially relevant and timely in the False Creek Flats, Chinatown, and Punjabi Market areas of Vancouver.

Four panelists share their insights about their local places:

  • Ajay Puri– Engagement consultant, City of Vancouver Report on Punjabi Market
  • Alisha Masongsong– Project Manager, Exchange Inner City
  • Belle Cheung– Social and Cultural Planner, City of Vancouver Chinatown Transformation Team
  • Elia Kirby– President of the Arts Factory Society at 281 Industrial Avenue


Wednesday, May 21

7 – 9 pm

SFU Woodwards,149 West Hastings Street, Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre

Tickets here


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Dr. Bridget Burdett in New Zealand sent along this link to a new article in Science Direct published in  the Journal of Transportation and Health.  Researchers included Corrine Mulley, one of the editors of “Walking~Connecting Sustainable Transport with Health”.

The study looked at the qualitative experience of over three hundred individuals who relocated to suburban areas without good transit or active transportation links to work centres. Since residential development in outlying areas often arrives before public transportation infrastructure, researchers wanted to assess the health impacts of longer and changing commutes on commuters.

Using multiple regression techniques, researchers had some surprising conclusions. Longer commutes and changing the time needed to leave for commutes was found to be directly related to lower mental health levels and the perception of a decrease in wellbeing. But researchers also found that independent car use and not using public transport was associated with “increased happiness”.

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For anyone that knows the Canadian First Lady of Landscape Architecture, 98 year old  Cornelia Oberlander you know that she is a force of nature with a visionary lens that has proven to be right time and time again.

She was advocating for green roofs decades ago, pointing out their ability to lower temperatures, provide greenery and absorb rainwater. She insisted on double rows of street trees as allees fifteen feet apart around the Robson Square Courthouse when it was being built in the 1970’s. She designed the roof top garden of the downtown Vancouver Public Library which is now on everyone’s list as a “go to” public space.

And she is already advocating for the new Jericho Lands 52  acre site to be developed as a complete ecological city, similar to Stockholm Port City or King’s Cross London. 

Sabrina Furminger in the Vancouver Courier   describes the new documentary film “City Dreamers” by filmmaker Joseph Hillel that follows four urban architects: Cornelia Oberlander, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Phyllis Lambert and Denise Scott Brown.

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As part of its TILT Talk series, HCMA Architecture + Design is co-presenting a free community dialogue event on May 14. In partnership with Megaphone Magazine’s Speakers Bureau project, this is the final in a series called Building Compassion in the Face of the Overdose Crisis developed to build awareness and compassion in communities confronted by the overdose epidemic.


May 14

6:30 pm

312 Main Street

Info & Tickets here.


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