Thursday, April 28, 2011

Street Hockey: Celebration in Public Space

Two nights ago I attended the Harland Bartholemew event and it was amazing to see a packed room at the same time the Vancouver Canucks were playing Game 7 of their first series. Just goes to show how dedicated we planning nerds are. Just as the event wrapped up the Canucks lost their chance to win their game in regulation time with one minute to spare - it meant over-time, do or die.

After leaving the event, I walked with my friend to his car and you could feel the anxiety in the city. Streets were quiet save for the solemn smokers outside restaurants and pubs waiting for the game to restart. As we got to his car, the city, all at once, errupted in screaming. The Canucks had won the series and the city was about to collectively celebrate this victory.

A crescendo of car horns, shrieks of joy, and other noise makers filled the air.
There are very few times when an entire city (seemingly) syncs together. It was as if time and space had condensed and we had all been at Rogers Arena for the game. But where do we go to celebrate? To the streets, of course. The streets filled with people and were completely transformed into a sea of revelry. Granville street was the centre of the action in Vancouver.
For me, it emphasized how important our streets are in serving as this great and neccessary, but often overlooked, public space. To tie this into Bartholemew's plans for Vancouver, streets were seen as corridors to travel through efficiently and effectively. Today, we still think similarly and rarely do we create streets that do anything but. Instead, it takes a hockey win for us to take back the streets.
Granville was redesigned prior to the 2010 Olympic Games and during the Games was a pedestrian plaza that was asea of people. People got used to this fact but after the games, buses returned to the street, and Translink had to remind people that the street was for vehicles (with hideous stickers on the street).
The Province Newspaper

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Event: Harland Bartholomew’s Master Plan and Papers on the City of Vancouver, 1926-1948

Vancouver is having a stellar year for nerds. The next event I'm looking forward to is a public presentation of Harland Bartholomew's Master Plan and Papers on the City of Vancouver. There are already many documents available online here. REGISTER HEREHere are the event details:
In this 125th birthday year for the City of Vancouver, this public event looks back at the Vancouver that might have been, the metropolis that it has become, and the urban challenges and opportunities that lie before us. In collaboration with the City of Vancouver Archives, Bing Thom Architects is proud to sponsor the full digitization and public presentation of Harland Bartholomew’s Master Plan and Papers on the City of Vancouver. These documents will be freely available in a number of digital formats through the Vancouver Archives website. The panel discussion on April 26 will launch this project and provide a venue for a public discussion of its significance.


In 1926, Harland Bartholomew and Associates were commissioned by the Vancouver Town Planning Commission to develop the first master plan for the burgeoning City of Vancouver. While A Plan for the City of Vancouver British Columbia including Point Grey and South Vancouver and a General Plan of the Region was never officially adopted, it was the first major document to unite the City which was, until then, divided between Point Grey, South Vancouver, and Vancouver. From streets to parks to schools, Bartholomew set the stage for much of Vancouver’s current social, economic, physical, and cultural infrastructure. Beginning with this master plan in 1926 until the end of his commission in 1948, Bartholomew wrote over 20 separate reports and documents and provided the first comprehensive urban visions and plans for today’s Vancouver.

Date: Tuesday, April 26th, 7pm with Registration beginning at 6:30pm

Place: UBC Robson Square Theatre

Panel Participants: Penny Gurstein, Tom Hutton, Andrew Pask, and Gordon Price with an introduction by Leslie Mobbs, City Archivist

Facilitated by Peter Greenwell, Chair of the City of Vancouver City Planning Commission

Hosted by Eileen Keenan, Bing Thom Architects

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Cambie Rocketship: Memories of Vancouver's 50th Birthday and Expo 86

Since Cambie Street was put back together after the contruction of the Canada Line, I noticed a funny little plaza next to the bridge with a rocket ship at it's centre. Being a Sci-Fi nerd, I imediately fell in love with it.  However, I've never gone up to it in person but today I was getting some pizza at the Flying Wedge in Kits and they had a write up on the wall about it. I came back to the office and googled it only to find some amazing information. Given the timing of Vancouver's 125th birthday and the 25th anniversary of Expo86, I thought it was appropriate to post:

From the City of Vancouver website

Artist(s):

Lew Parry
Description of Work:
A 12-foot-long stylized rocket ship made of bronze and stainless steel sits on top of an 11-foot-high stainless steel base. The design of the rocket ship looks like a 1950s Hollywood movie space ship. The design was originally created in 1936 for the Sheet Metal Workers Local 280 float for the Pacific National Exhibition Jubilee Parade on the occasion of the City of Vancouver's 50th birthday. It was designed by Lew Parry and made into a sculpture, built by Neon Products, which was sited at the first Vancouver Air Terminal from 1939 to 1972 when it was scrapped because of rust. In 1985 the Vancouver Transportation Club and the Sheet Metal Workers Union 280 decided to build a replica to celebrate Vancouver's 100th birthday. They located Lew Parry and he still had the original plans. This time the rocketship was built from more durable materials by Terminal Sheet Metal and the Local 280 metal workers. The Rocket was exhibited at Expo 86 and then donated to the city. It was moved by helicopter to it's current site. A Centennial Time Capsule is housed in the base of the rocket, scheduled to be opened 50 years from 1986. It includes items such as an Expo 86 passport with stamps of all the pavilions and recorded messages from local celebrities and many other things. The City accepted the Centennial Rocket and a site was found for it in the small plaza at the SW end of the Cambie Street bridge. -information from the website of SMW280


Artist Statement:


1985 version: "Presented to the citizens of Vancouver, this rocket is to commemorate the Centennial and the celebration of Expo 86 World's Exposition. This rocket is a symbol of the role played by craftsmanship and transportation in the growth of Vancouver." (from the plaque on the east side of the base)


Neighbourhood: Fairview
Site name: Cambie Street Plaza
Address: Cambie St.
Location on site: S. end of Cambie St. Bridge, W. side of bridge entrance
Source/Program: Gift
Installed: 1986
Primary Materials: stainless steel & bronze
Type: Sculpture
Status: Existing
Ownership: City of Vancouver
Sponsoring Organization: Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 280; Vancouver Transportation Club

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Event @ MOV: Anthony Townsend, A Planet of Civic Laboratories

April 08, 2011 / 7:00 PM
Join us for a conversation with Anthony Townsend, a noted public intellectual with the California-based, Institute for the Future. Townsend explores the connections between technology, urbanism and innovation. He will speak about his research funded by the Rockfeller Foundation: "A PLANET OF CIVIC LABORATORIES: The Future of Cities, Information and Inclusion".

City of Vancouver Councillor, Andrea Reimer will join Anthony for a follow up conversation about his research.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The South Granville BIA Responds

The South Granville BIA has responded to my post. You can read all my tweets as is on twitter to verify things. However, since they deleted theirs the only way to get the story out was to screen cap them all. I'd like both sides of the story to be told. This blog is about me and my love of urban planning - I think that BIA's are important neighbourhood/community agents. I do believe that some do better jobs at it than others. For instance, I tweeted to the SGBIA that they should look at the Strathcona BIA because of the amazing work they're doing. It's all about balance: I believe that businesses can benefit from sustainable practices and better place making for people. Here is their response:
Brandon, this is very disappointing.
You fail to mention that 3 days prior you came through with a 'you should do xyz like XXX BIA...' We gracefully accepted and thanked you for your suggestion. 3 days later we get another 'you should ...'
There are lots of things we should do. The pop up cafe idea sounds great unless you read some other info on the subject or walk in my shoes and have done my job for as long as I have. When I attempted to give you a small sample of the obstacles you kept at it. There is a list as long as my arm why this particular suggestion would simply not fly - Transit requirements and use of Granville is the first.
You have neglected to include my post where I suggested I handled things poorly. I should have accepted your suggestion (good - bad or otherwise) and walked away without comment. The truth is, I DID handle it poorly and I apologize. I would like to think that the SGBIA is a strong part of our community. We go far beyond our mandate when it comes to community development. We have been commended by great Public Space advocates such as Fred Kent for our efforts around public seating and streetscape enhancements. In reality we are on the same team and want to continue on that path.

The South Granville BIA: An Example of How Not to Use Twitter

Fact: The Internet is full of drama. Recently, I had a little bit of my own. As you may know, I've recently moved to South Granville and being interested in 'city things' I started looking at my new neighbourhood and it's potential for greatness. I sent a tweet to the South Granville Business Improvement Association about NYC's pop-up cafes that I personally think would do great in this area since there is a deficiency of outside cafe seating. However, my enthusiasm was immediately dampened by the SGBIA twitter account. The exchange went back and forth and, perhaps I was pushing too hard, but it went extremely negative. Since, the SGBIA has deleted their messages to me but I managed to screen cap about 95% of it. You can read most of the exchange here. I'm kind of astounded by their reaction and am stunned that one person who represents all the businesses along this stretch of Granville street could think this was an appropriate use of their twitter. What do you think?
At this point they said that I must not be that committed to idea if I'm not willing to put a proposal in (I didn't manage to get the screen cap). This is an agency with a $500,000 budget. Was I too cocky?

What I do know is that the person who promotes South Granville on behalf of the SGBIA on twitter shouldn't have their job.