Tangential Vancouverism: Projects for Vancouver’s Urbanism explores the potential for new “urban extensions” to be tenably designed as vibrant constituents of city life in Vancouver. Read on »
The Thin Green Line that defines the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a boundary that frames our attempts to mitigate growth, preserve arable land and maintain an agrarian landscape character in municipalities undergoing a massive transformation from rural to urban form. The ALR boundary establishes a wonderful edge in many places – a stark contrast between land uses, reinforced by the ‘boundary’ landscape, a place to observe from the safety of the edge.
In other areas however, the boundary is pockmarked by odd and incongruous land uses: big-box religion, surrounded by acres of occasionally used parking, is acceptable in the ALR; the placeless fake landscapes of golf courses – one of the worst offenders of chemical pollution – are permitted. Monster homes, often built cheaply and without any vernacular context, effectively suburbanize the ALR. There is a great irony in the acceptability of land use types that contradict the intentions of the policy, erode the viability of the agricultural resource and ultimately make the Thin Green Line meaningless. (more…)
As Vancouver expands eastward, facing established neighborhoods such as Strathcona, Chinatown and Gastown, will it continue it’s pattern of erasing and replacing, or is it possible to consider the existing fabric as something to be built within, around and on top of? Tangential Babel is an argument for a dialog between what was and will be; for an architectural memory that reaches deeper than the notional. It is an earnest folly – a fantastical infrastructure – dubbed fondly as the Georgia Grind, with all the challenge, rivalry and dating potential of the original, conveniently located within the City of Vancouver. (more…)
So what else is new?
In my earlier posts, I wanted to observe aspects of the existing legislative system that limit architecture’s agency or at least fail to enhance its relationship to the public good. I wrote about the Tariff’s admission of architecture’s weakness in the face of the economy; that the AIBC’s mandate advocates for protection of the public good, not its advancement; and that the density bonus program operates horizontally within existing class structures as opposed to vertically across them.
Beginning this post, I am left with the feeling. Indeed, so, what else is new? (more…)
Animated Publics versus Damp Subjects
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Not a chance, not in Vancouver at least. Of the 36 cities in North America with populations over two million, Vancouver has the most days with measurable precipitation. It rains more of the time here, than anywhere else on the continent. And meteorological data suggests it will get even wetter. Annual rainfall has increased by approximately six inches since 1960 and it’s widely expected that this trend will continue well into the future. Don’t put away the galoshes anytime soon. (more…)
The definitions section appended to the Vancouver zoning bylaw helpfully illuminates terms such as “family” and “adult magazine,” but fails to define the pervasive term “character,” a term which has an outsize presence in the district schedules and design guidelines, and countless discussions between architects and planners. The fact that there is no explicit definition is on the one hand convenient, and on the other, highly problematic. The lack of definition potentially confers flexibility, though in practice that flexibility tends toward a “consensually” conservative interpretation, foregrounding planners’ (those writing, interpreting, and enacting the code) unquestioned priorities of consistency, legibility, compatibility, and retention. (more…)
Vancouverism 2.0 should attempt to reflect the perspective of its citizens. Through mobile photo capture and sharing, Vancouverites and visitors document their perspectives on the city every day. Massive amounts of geo-referenced data are gathered, and the data depicts a unique image of Vancouver. Through this project we have sought to explore geotagged photo data to consider how we can make the best use of this information for improving the planning and design of our city. (more…)
In Vancouver, the public discussion around densification and architectural design is often limited to the form and height of proposed new developments. Less attention has been given to understanding what makes a neighborhood feel like a neighbourhood and what creates a connection between people and the place they live. (more…)
If you ignore the cost of real estate, Vancouver could be a great place to innovate. It’s not a head office town. It is made of a diverse profile of businesses with a median size of four people. It’s a destination for people entering Canada and has an abundance of under-employed immigrant professionals – they earn 20% less than their Canadian-born counterparts. Combine this with a steady supply of eager graduates from the Lower Mainland’s eight universities and it suggests that there is an untapped creative class ready to make new things happen. Unfortunately space to create and collaborate is not easily found here and rent isn’t cheap.
So where can these ideas happen and grow? (more…)
Vancouverism 2.0 should attempt to understand the city from the perspective of its citizens. Through mobile devices, Vancouverites and visitors document their perspectives in the city thousands of times each day. We tell friends and followers where we are, we tag the locations of our photographs, and we document our interactions with the places around us. As we engage in these activities in the city, massive amounts of data are being collected and stored that track our collective movements. What might Vancouver look like from the perspective of these electronic interactions? (more…)
East west section of Vancouver studying the threshold between downtown and East Vancouver. The diagram indicates the insertion of a fantastical infrastructure that argues for an improved alternate to the current Georgia Viaduct.
In my previous post I attempted to make the case that part of what hinders architecture’s ability to affect change, or more precisely to control where it affects change is a function of its poor position in the marketplace. We have little say in where and how money is spent.
A friend’s response to me a was “Well, kind of obvious, isn’t it?” and perhaps it is, but what is fascinating to me, is that the Tariff is framed with this weakness in mind:
[m]uch of the service necessarily provided by an architect is a function of the building industry marketplace.
Indeed, need for a Tariff of Fees at all (or an enforced Tariff, at any rate) is evidence of Architecture’s economic weakness. If Architecture were well-positioned in the economy a Tariff would hardly be necessary. (more…)
While character isn’t directly defined, its meaning becomes fairly clear through contextual interpretation of zoning district schedules and design guidelines. Several terms recur in relation to character: preserve, maintain, retention, and compatibility. Rather than chasing these terms down a linguistic rabbit hole, they can be used to derive meaning, and meaningful meaning at that. They are used because character crops up whenever there is a desire to maintain things as they are, suppressing evolution.
This desire is rooted in strong values – character is value-laden – but what precisely are these values and why do they hold such sway? Why is the presumption towards “all new building and additions being compatible with the historical character of the area (RT-4 and RT-5)?” Or “preserving the character and general amenity of the area and its immediate surroundings (C-3A)?” The “new” is dead in the water with a presumption of guilt for just being itself. (Character assassination, one might say.) (more…)
1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. 4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (more…)
Much of the service necessarily provided by an architect is a function of the building industry marketplace; performance of the builder; and interpretations by the authorities having jurisdiction. These are not under the architect’s control.
–The AIBC Tariff of Fees for Architectural Services
Sit in on any architecture studio review and listen to both the invited and future professionals. From both sides of registration it’s clear that the expressed sympathies of our discipline frequently align themselves with the disenfranchised. While in school we contemplate social housing and design generous public space. We value the public realm and care about the poor. (more…)
At one time the recipe for successful innovation was face-to-face communication between innovators, rolling into the mix investors and the necessary capital to create a marketable product. In 1976, one place for innovation was Steve Job’s garage. It was right in front of this garage where Steve Wozniak met Steve Jobs, as the story goes. The garage is a suburban by-product of neighbourhoods built for the automobile – the entryway to the suburban home and often the most visible part of the ubiquitous single family house. (more…)
Practicing architecture, character seemed to come up frequently, both in analyzing the relevant zoning bylaw for any particular project, and in conversations with development planners. Increasingly, this term seemed influential in the planning approval process, and I had a hunch that it was officially undefined. The hunch was soon gratifyingly realized through a quick search of the definitions section of the zoning bylaw (gratifying because this meant there were depths to plumb). (more…)
Of the 36 cities in North America with populations over two million, Vancouver has the most days with measurable precipitation. It rains more of the time here, than anywhere else. While this moisture supports the magnificent fecundity of the city’s biota, it also suppresses the proliferation of an activated street-life. (more…)
Just ask Stan Douglas: the built environment has figured prominently in the narrative of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside; it is impossible to imagine the circumstances of the residents of Hastings Street without also thinking of the abandoned buildings and storefronts they occupy. (more…)
In the next 30 years, it is anticipated that the city of Vancouver will require approximately 56,500 more dwelling units of various sizes to accommodate 130,000 more residents. Vacant tracts of land for additional housing are no longer available and new residential development will more often occur by densifying existing neighbourhoods. (more…)
The Thin Green Line that defines the Agricultural Land Reserve is a boundary that frames our attempts to mitigate growth, preserve arable land and maintain an agrarian landscape character in municipalities undergoing a massive transformation from rural to urban form. The ALR boundary establishes a wonderful edge in many places – a stark contrast between land uses, reinforced by the ‘boundary’ landscape, a place to observe from the safety of the edge. (more…)