Architecture
November 1, 2017

Why they call it Bayshore Gardens

Bayshore Gardens (once the parking lots of the Bayshore Hotel) was one of the six (or seven, or eight – depending what you count) of the megaprojects underway in 1990s Vancouver.
It was the least urban of the projects, with little mixed use, considerable setbacks and and abundance of parks and gardens.  Nor were the streets an extension of the existing grid; indeed one had a bit of a suburban jog in it to discourage through traffic. And even though they were a little too wide, they were heavily planted and landscaped, so the boulevards and setbacks bled into the gardens and parks.
Like this:


Michael Geller, the project manager, recalls the street trees being planted in 1994.  Jane Durante of Durante Kreuk, the landscape architects, believes them to be red maples, now almost a quarter century old.
It’s a great illustration of how to create a bucolic setting literally a few metres from one of the widest, busiest streets in the city.  Go here, where the images were taken, and explore the gardens for yourself.

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It is really no surprise that  Vancouver has been named the most walkable city in Canada by Walk Score which looks at population, block length and density to ascertain their “best of” ratings. By looking at the proximity of walking routes to amenities, Walk Score ranks places dependent on amenities within a five-minute walk.

The fact that Vancouver is walkable and has championed the ability to access  shops and services within minutes of walking is really the result of a group of concerned citizens who started to meet in the early 1990’s. This group included landscape architects, planners, students and historians that later became the Urban Landscape Task Force, charged with creating walkable connections through the existing street grid, parks and public places.

One of the great legacies that came out of this Task Force is the creation of the City of Vancouver Greenway system, that links streets where walking and biking has precedence over cars. These greenways stretch from boundary to boundary across the city, and are streets where there is always a sidewalk, curb cuts at crossings, pedestrian/cyclist activated lights, plantings, and route signage.

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A change in the discussion around housing choice: what new things come to mind when a person chooses life in a dense urban setting?  And leaves behind thoughts of car suburb and single-family home.
Turns out one thing, among a load of others, is keeping less stuff around.  Perhaps you can call it a change from conspicuous consumption to mindful minimalism. A shift from expensive and cluttered to cheaper and simpler. Not a bad thing.
And hopefully this conversation continues to broaden so that the condo rises as a well-understood choice and the SFH recedes as the default choice.
Ian Bailey writes in the Globe and Mail:

One of the consequences of dense living – the trend that has seen people living in smaller spaces – is that there is less room to store items. This is an issue in many urban areas, but especially germane in the Vancouver region, which has the lowest proportion of single detached houses in Canada, about 29 per cent . .
. . . Greg Zayadi has had a perspective on the issue as senior vice-president of Rennie Marketing Systems . . .  Despite the angst, however, he doesn’t think space is a deal breaker.
“It’s the age-old adage of location, location, location. People are buying based on location, price, and then the home itself. One of the most important things is a good floor plan. Is it a liveable home,” he said in an interview.
“As you move through those things, you are already 80 per cent of your way through the buying decision. The last thing is, maybe, amenities – maybe storage, maybe appliances. . . .
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re 20 or 80. You’re making the decision to live – call it more simply, call it more urban. People are looking for more freedom from a home, shall we say. With that, there’s an adjustment of lifestyle.”

Another voice in the conversation is at “5 Kids, 1 Condo“, a blog run by Vancouver’s Adrian Crook.   Always worth a read.

Living downtown keeps me connected to personal and professional opportunities I never imagined when I lived out in North Vancouver, about 15 kilometers and a persnickety bridge north of the city core. In the “bad old days,” when I was already tired from a commute home, and another long drive and downtown parking lay between me and a networking event, I usually chose to kick back and call it a day.

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There is an opportunity to learn more about the esoteric, amazing and extraordinary stories of Vancouver from three people who really do their research-at a special event at the Vancouver Museum  on Thursday August 18.  Historian and author John Atkin needs little introduction and you can check out his website here.  A former City of Vancouver staffer he delves into history the way most of us would a cold beer, travels extensively, and  leads very popular  historical walks in Vancouver and  London, all intensively researched and delightful. Rob Howatson is an established journalist and author  that has uncovered many a remarkable story, including how Loretta Lynn performed and was discovered in Vancouver-singing in an old chicken coop.
Mike Harling, a music aficionado  and historical detective (credited with finding the Time Capsule at the old Sunset Community Centre)  rounds out the trio with  “Vancouver narratives which on the surface appear too strange to be true, except that they are!”Besides the discovery of a music legend, this evening will also inform on surprising stories of how the west end became high density, and  dispell many commonly held myths of how this city developed.
And here’s a short video via Rob Howatson on  the historical ‘Chicken Coop’ Jam Sessions:

 
 
 South Van Twang meets West End Pangs in a single, fun packed evening of history, stories, images and musical interludes. -Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver
Date: Thursday, August 17, 2017
Time: 7:00pm
Admission: Advance tickets (Until August 10): *Adults: $15; Seniors, Students: $13; MOV Members Free.
After August 10: *Adults: $17; Seniors, Students: $15; MOV Members Free.
To Register online, click on this link.
Gallery admission included with event ticket. Come early and explore.
* Online Tickets Sales will end ONE HOUR before the event begins. Remaining tickets on sale at the door / Visitor Services at the time of event.

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Image Vancouver Sun
 
As reported by Jen St. Denis in the Metro News there’s some big changes coming for single family homes that add laneway houses to their properties. In some areas, laneway houses will be allowed to be stratified and sold, but ONLY if the original character home remains on the same lot.
This is a big, but not unexpected change. Originally the laneway house concept came out of the CityPlan process as a way for older home owners to have a “granny flat” and leave the house for the kids. But like the basement suite which went from unauthorized to allowed in single family zoned areas in the city within a decade, City Planner Gil Kelley notes that the new proposed strata coach house  provides ” a set of enhanced options for more units on lots in the low-density zones. These would be the option of individual owners coming forward, so it’s very much single lot owner driven infill development — it’s not developer sponsored.”
Laneway houses that are already built or lots where the original house is NOT a character house will not be allowed to strata the laneway house.  On the westside there has been a trend to demolish character homes and replace them with much larger ones. The proposed zoning would apply to all RS (single family) zoned areas. As Gil Kelley notes, if one or two per cent of homeowners build new laneway houses, that could “represent thousands of new homes for rent or ownership”.
Also noted in the Council report going up next Tuesday was that in the RT zoning areas in Mount Pleasant and Woodlands, the number of units on a single 33 foot lot will increase to three units from two units. This will be accomplished by “a new detached form for duplexes that allows for two separate houses on a lot, with a larger house at the front and a smaller house at the lane:” essentially, a coach house behind a main house”. 
These are small but important changes to provide a variety of different housing forms as the city deals with affordability and accessibility to housing in the city. While the Council report goes to Council next week, the changes will not be enacted until after a Public Hearing,  expected this September.

 
 

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Lonsdale and 13th is becoming the anchor intersection of Upper Lonsdale in the City of North Vancouver – at least on the east side.  The urban-design techniques of mixed-use high density are now apparent.  Where once there was a Safeway parking lot, there is now this on the northeast corner:

On the southeast side, one of the more attractive street treatments in Metro:

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If you recognize this image of the school house fireworks, you were not born in this century, and you definitely spent part of your childhood in Eastern Canada.Trust the New York Times and Ian Austen to explore Victoria Day, and some of the customs around this holiday.
Canada’s Victoria Day is unique in that it marks the birthday of Queen Victoria. She was the Queen when Canada became a country 150 years ago. She was born on May 24 and the Province of Canada (at that time what is now Ontario and Quebec) marked her birthday. And it was a great moment when parliament in 1952 made a long weekend for everyone by making Victoria Day the Monday before May 25. Brilliant move.
In the last century people toasted the Queen, and if you lived in Eastern Canada there were buckets of sand at the end of driveways and people burned paper school houses in the evening. They were not that exciting to watch. Once lit they did burn, but without any fantastical experience that children would remember. There were however, other noisy fireworks and hand-held sparklers.
But back to those burning schoolhouses. Why did we burn them? As Austen notes “While Canada Day has more or less taken over in terms of fireworks, during my childhood Victoria Day was also Firecracker Day. Family fireworks shows traditionally ended with the Burning Schoolhouse. Apparently a creation of a Canadian fireworks company and largely unknown outside Canada, the blue and red cardboard buildings perhaps reflected the holiday’s proximity to the end of school. Or maybe just general juvenile animosity.”
Austen suggests that Victoria Day is the day that people with summer cottages and shacks open them-I think Victoria Day is also generally the day where you are finally safe to plant those tender annual plants that you bought at the local plant sale, and send your houseplants out to the balcony for a summer holiday. It’s also the true start to being outdoors, biking more, and enjoying long sunlit evenings.  A true Vancouver tradition.

 

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There is a fundamental change in philosophy in public facilities such as art galleries and museums being globally embraced. In the last decade architects attempted to make buildings less about public function and more about their own personal stamp and message. That is evident in Gehry’s Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle which has been called “the unusual-looking building made of curves instead of corners and infamously described by a New York Times architecture critic as “something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over and died”.

Frank Gehry-Museum of Pop Culture
This also happened in Toronto.  The Globe and Mail article written by Alex Bozicovic details the not so subtle attempt of Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to “fix” the starchitect Daniel Liebskind “Crystal” addition which opened in 2007.  As stated by the museum’s CEO, “After you’ve lived somewhere for a while you begin to think about how it can suit you better.” And you worry less about the flashy bits and more about the bones.”

Daniel Liebskind-Royal Ontario Museum-The Crystal
Here is what Daniel Liebskind said about his original proposal:  “Why should one expect the new addition to the ROM to be ‘business as usual’? Architecture in our time is no longer an introvert’s business. On the contrary, the creation of communicative, stunning and unexpected architecture signals a bold re-awakening of the civic life of the museum and the city.”  Yes it was certainly the talk of the town but in a more disruptive way. While the building had the “wow” factor in terms of being visually different, it did not roll out the welcome mat-it had heavy Costco-like doors, was crowded, uncomfortable, and didn’t attract the high numbers of forecasted visitors. The museum wanted to make the museum as welcoming as possible, so they are reopening the entrance to a 1930’s wing, and reconfiguring that rotunda to become a lobby. Everything old about attracting and creating the public is new again.
This rediscovery of the importance of the visitor experience “reflects a new focus for architecture in institutions such as this: not in making showpieces, but on the nuts and bolts of making places that work.” The point, says the CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum, is that “the whole thing says, come on in”.
Meanwhile, the Audain Art Museum in Whistler designed by  British Columbia based Patkau architects is getting rave reviews-and a generous multi-million dollar portfolio of 197 works of art have been gifted by Vancouver philanthropist Bob Rennie to the National Art Gallery. Both these fine collections could have had a local home had the conditions been different.
The  Vancouver Art Gallery might want to  explore the customer friendly concept, making the consumer experience about the gallery just as important as their starchitect’s vision. While its great that their program requirements make it perfect for art exhibitions, it also should be a warm welcoming building that is easily supported and visited by citizens, with public plazas, places to meet and to rest. Somehow the current design and strategy does not say “Come on in”.

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Instead of concentrating on issues like housing diversity, seniors needs, and affordability the City of Vancouver council is wading back into predictable waters. The Mayor wants to change the City’s logo once again in an elongated process sure to take up lots of staff time. As Wanyee Li reports in the Metro News, the wordmark approved last February may be rescinded today “in response to public outcry after the original proposed version was revealed. Residents mocked the gotham-fonted logo due to its simplicity and $8,000 price tag while local designers signed an open letter that criticized the process used to create the new logo.”
As Price Tags previously reported, this Council has turfed the Vancouver logo used throughout the Olympics for a rather bare bones version of the same, in Vancouver Canuck hockey colours. Price Tags also talked about the original logo and gave a bit of background in a previous post. But never mind, it appears this is a public involvement exercise and Mayor Robertson is going to let the public “provide feedback on a new wordmark”.

“The new process, if approved Tuesday, will involve both public feedback as well as collaboration with the Graphic Designers of Canada, according to the motion…Local designers have said the original bill, $8,000 was too low and that top-of-the-line city logos could cost as much as $200,000 to design.” You can take a look at the motion to Council put forward by Mayor Robertson on this wordmark process here.  It is not called what it is, which is changing the City’s logo. It is  called “Modernizing the City’s Visual Identity”. The reason for the change according to the Council motion is that “Vancouver’s last visual identity was created over a decade ago, prior to the need for social media-friendly graphics and key City policies including the City of Reconciliation”. 
You can see the old logo and the “new” $8,000 dollar three-month old logo about to be booted below.The budget for the wordmarking  exercise will be set after the Council meeting, but won’t include the hours of staff time this process takes. Stay tuned.
 

 

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From Nuvo Magazine, Vancouver will have a very special visitor this summer to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday-an original sculpture by Surrealist artist  Salvador Dalí called “Dance of Time 1”. This installation will be situated  close to the waterfront and is a two meter high bronze sculpture of his signature melting stopwatch.
The $750,000 sculpture, on loan from Swiss non-profit art organization the Stratton Institute, has been gifted to the city by Vancouver’s Chali-Rosso Art Gallery in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.”The large-scale piece is the last addition to the private gallery’s Definitely Dalí project: a collection of 100 artworks including smaller sculptures, watercolour paintings, and drawings by the surrealist artist, on display at the Chali-Rosso Gallery.”
Dali was noted for being extremely eccentric in appearance, sporadic in behaviour and the absolutely best publicist for himself. He famously said””It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself.
I found out what that meant on an Air France flight from Tenerife to Lyon decades ago when the plane was held while Salvador Dali tried to board with his entourage of young women dressed in diaphanous dresses.The flight attendants did not want him taking his personal two meter long walking staff aboard. Dali, who was quite short with a very big waxed moustache, was not getting on the plane without it. He also carried two bouquet of orchids. Like his work, his life was a performance.
The Dali installation at West Hastings and Hornby will be here from May 6 to September 2017.

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