Cranberries and the City— In Spring (left), the cranberry bog is an imprinted plane of vegetation, while in Fall (right) the plane is flooded red and harvested amidst daily urban practices.
From agriculture, urban development to the tossed salad landscape.
What incentives can we offer developers to build viable and place-specific agricultural land in exchange for bonus density?
Apple Lot: Spaces of transition, like parking lots, can support food production and shade vehicles. The regularity of orchard planting complements the orderlieness of parked cars.
Pumpkins vs. Mow-n-blow: Do we want to pay to irrigate and mow lawns in parks and other public amenity spaces or use that money and space to grow food?


Tossed Salad

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…)

View from the Dunsmuir Viaduct
Plan: left - the Grouse Grind, right - the Georgia Grind.
Elevation to distance: left - the Grouse Grind, right - the Georgia Grind.
The georgia grind will be perpetually under construction and always accessible to the public
As seen from South False Creek.
Estimated appearance after 24 months of construction


Tangential Babel

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…)



Peripheral Vancouver

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…)



Rain Urbanism / Rain Architecture

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…)

top— RS-1 Character: The intent of this Schedule is generally to maintain the single-family residential character of the RS-1 District bottom— C-3A Character: The intent of this Schedule is to provide for a wide range of goods and services, to maintain commercial activities, specialized services and some light manufacturing enterprises while preserving the character and general amenity of the area and its immediate surroundings
Character Intensity. The widespread accentuation of ‘character,’ with its limiting, image-based definition, contributes to the replication of an economically expedient, derivative urban fabric.


Character Flaw

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…)

Geotagged photographs across the region of both Locals + Tourists.
left: Geotagged photographs attributed to Locals, right: Geotagged photographs attributed to Tourists
Central Vancouver: Locals + tourists geotagged photographs of Vancouver overlaid with approximate neighbourhood outlines and public parks.
Edge vs Centre: Locals + Tourists spend time along the edges of the city
Transit: Transit doesn’t take Locals + Tourists to all the places they like to go.
Landmarks: Tourists + Locals


Image of the City

Introduction

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…)

LocalSocial: mobile businesses & services, outdoor open space, power and water supply
As neighbourhoods grow and change, how can design support and enhance the tangible and intangible qualities of place that people have come to value?
Design projects or interventions that support local businesses and expand opportunities for social interaction.
LocalSocial seeks to amply and consolidate existing civic programs, infrastructure and spatial conditions to create micro-hubs of social and economic activity.
Neighbourhood. Street. Block.


LocalSocial

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…)

Connect with the right people— The person holding the missing piece to you realizing your project’s goals might be sitting beside you.
Build
Share. Search. Connect.


Garage

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…)



Image of the City

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…)



Tangential Babel

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.



It’s not just the economy, stupid

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…)

a sample of character as image from the RS-5 Design Guidelines (also applies to RS-3 and RS-3A)


Character Assassination

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…)



Tangential Babel

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…)

Cousin to the Woodward's Building, and just down the street, 18 West Hastings by Bruce Carscadden Architect is also enabled by engaging in an economic game: the City's minimum residential unit size requirements were relaxed considerably and in exchange the developer was permitted to charge rent as the market allows - the hope being that super-small units demanding less rent. Here too, the economic model is essential, superseding anyone's personal aspirations.
With 200 non-market residential units, The Woodward's Building by Henriquez Partners Architects is frequently presented as the flagship of sensitive urban redevelopment. Even with the architect's public lobbying, it is difficult to imagine, however, the project happening without the fire-sale purchase price the City got, the heritage density bonuses, or property tax relaxations. Images copyright the architects.


It’s the economy, stupid

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…)



Location to innovation

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…)

The Agricultural Landscape
The Agricultural Land Reserve is created
Urban development on both sides; exceptions granted in ALR allowing non-agricultural uses
Proposal: Reinsert agricultural uses on the non-ALR side
Result: The Tossed Salad Landscape


Blending the Urban and Rural

An initial diagram of reciprocal edge condition strategies for the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)  that could blend the urban and rural. (more…)

Left: City of Vancouver zoning map illustrating use: varieties of residential + commercial Right: Zoning map altered to reflect intensity of ‘character’ regulations
A) RT-5 ...emphasis is placed on the external design of all new buildings and additions being compatible with the historical CHARACTER of the area
B) C-3A ...to maintain commercial activities, specialized services and some light manufacturing enterprises while preserving the CHARACTER and general amenity of the area
C) RS-1 ...maintain the single-family residential CHARACTER of the RS-1 District
D) RS-1 ...emphasis is placed on the external design of all new buildings and additions being compatible with the historical CHARACTER of the area
E) C-2 ...emphasizes building design that furthers compatibility among uses, ensures livability, limits impact on adjacent residential sites, and contributes to pedestrian interest and amenity


Character Study – 11th and Prince Edward

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…)



Rain Urbanism

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…)



Peripheral Vancouver

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…)

One interpretation of neighbourhood character. Wansey Street Housing, London. DRMM Architect


Character

The Vancouver Zoning By-law is prefaced by a definitions section that helpfully illuminates such terms as ‘family’ and ‘adult magazine.’ However, one word is conspicuously absent: character.  (more…)



Proximities of the Local

In 1976, the world’s most valuable technology company was started in this Silicon Valley garage. (more…)



Where do we go from here?

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…)



Thin Green Line

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…)