“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Read more »
This was something a planning professor of mine once told me which I never really thought much about … that is until I moved to Vancouver.
Hi, let me introduce myself formally, my name is Ian Robertson, and I occasionally show up in these woods with ‘Items from Ian’. I did my Architecture Undergraduate in ‘merica, worked for a while in the Netherlands, MArch in Australia, worked for a while in Vienna, and finished my degree right around the time that the world called an architectural timeout for a while, and I found myself in Vancouver.
What links my experience in these other places is that they all involved looking forward. The aforementioned quote from my planning professor, masterplanning cities and countries while in the Netherlands (itself a product of what must be the most comprehensive masterplan anywhere in the world), then Sydney Australia – where I was first exposed to the kind of 2030 vision which Vancouver also now espouses (except in Sydney’s case, it actually backed up by a Master Plan to give it institutional heft), and finally Vienna, which has a uniform building fabric and density which puts most cities to shame, and which turned the old Hapsburg Stables into a technology and culture and startup hub which exists only in Vancouver’s dreams.
This week I will be under the broad category of ‘Ideas from Elsewhere’ (‘Ian’s Items from Elsewhere’ if I wanted to keep the branding alive) … frankly I am always amazed that there is such a strong desire here to reinvent the wheel instead of looking for what works (and what doesn’t) elsewhere (transit referendums, city planning, existance of a master plan, regional transit, fare gates, bike path design, foreign investment, affordable housing, sea level rise planning, etc… are all examples of issues where in either trying to be unique, or in willfully ignoring precedent, Vancouver/BC is certainly ‘planning to fail’).
So, with that lengthy introduction, I give you my first post, written for a recent architecture criticism competition requiring one to talk about a Library of one’s choice. As you will see, the Library wasn’t really my topic of interest 🙂
Many thanks for Ken and Michael, and all the rest filling in … and most of all to Gordon Price, for his care in establishing this great platform from which to view the world deliberately and with consideration.
(Longread) Nov 2015, Criticism of the Mount Pleasant Library (Longread)
It is not often that a library erupts from an intersection like the prow of an ocean liner cutting through the neighborhood, but when completed in 2010, the Mount Pleasant Library did just that. Immediately it was the tallest building in the neighborhood, and it represented the starting gun for a race to redevelop much of the surrounding neighborhood.
Height is an unusual quality for a Library, as the Dewey decimal system is an inherently horizontal concept. The library’s apparent mass is the result of the nine stories of affordable housing stacked on top, as well as child care, retail, and a community center beside1 — a configuration resulting from the unique desire to place all its civic infrastructure in one basket.
The building, designed by what is now Perkins+Will, is additionally unusual because it was developed by the City of Vancouver itself as a mixed-use structure, combining older, insufficient and inconvenient infrastructure into one centralized location, as well as provide additional affordable rental to address the city’s almost zero-percent rental vacancy, and rapidly increasing rents. The mixed-use aspect is itself not that unusual for a rapidly urbanizing city, what is unusual is that the developer was the City of Vancouver, and Vancouver does not often place itself in the development game — much of the Vancouver’s recent civic infrastructure has been created by leveraging the ‘Community Amenity Contributions’ (CACs) of developers.
Vancouver’s urban infrastructure, such as this library, is dictated by a unique set of influences which directly affect the manner in which Vancouver builds its libraries, and other public amenities.
Infrastructure, being a public amenity, is typically funded through a city’s tax revenues. In Vancouver, CACs are not a tax, but rather are “are in-kind or cash contributions provided by property developers.”2 These contributions take place to facilitate a rezoning application,