Marpole Grows: Communicating Development Scenarios

Marpole Grows from Planning Pool on Vimeo.

As part of an on-going research project conducted by UBC urban design professor Maged Senbel, students in SCARP’s Digital Video and Planning course prepared a few short films on development issues facing the south Vancouver neighborhood of Marpole. This particular film, created by  An Minh Vu, Silas Archambault and myself seeks to engage the community in a conversation about how they would like to see Marpole address inevitable development pressures, brought about by a new Skytrain station, among other things. 

It was originally screened at a community meeting where students from other classes, mostly design, presented their own projects. Among these was an impressive scale-model of the area around the new station, as well as a series of 3D computer models. … Continue Reading

Snapshot: Corporate Art

Snapshot:Corporate Art

Oversized Shell Toe Adidas shoe sculptures are located at the corporation’s North American headquarters. For Adidas, the art is the foundation of a publicity stunt and multimedia ad campaign. (The left shoe was painted by artists from the West Coast, while a New-York-based collective provided decoration for the right shoe.) For residents and visitors of Portland, the shoes might represent conflicting meanings: love of skate shoes; East Coast-West Coast rivalry; a splash of colour in the urban environment; an irritating corporate intrusion.

Meanwhile, a huge sculpture of a drill bit looms outside a big-box power centre on the side of Vancouver’s Grandview Highway. Shavings embedded in surrounding landscaping are engraved with Canadian Tire advertising keywords like “fixing” and “driving”. The municipality required this development to include a public art component as a condition of site rezoning. Apparently, the developer’s plan promised artwork … Continue Reading

On the treatment of peepee in Koh Phi Phi

First of all I’d like to apologize to our Thai readers for taking liberties with the Thai language, subjecting it to puerile puns such as the one in the title of this post. More generally, I’d like to apologize to everyone else for subjecting you to potty humour. As a visitor to PlanningPool you, Dear Reader, deserve better than this.

But not in this post. It’s late. And I’m sometimes terribly immature.

In my defense, the title is at least somewhat relevant. Koh Phi Phi is a small resort island a queazy hour-and-a-half by boat from the southeastern Thai city of Phuket. After a bout of mildly academic work in Singapore, a fine city that could one day serve as a convincing substitute for “The Village” in a Southeast Asian version of The Prisoner, I found myself on vacation here. And … Continue Reading

Green Infrastructure: Paying for Utopia (Feature)

The term ‘green infrastructure’ typically conjures up ideas of LEED-buildings, green roofs, grey-water recycling and emerging clean energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines. This type of ‘green infrastructure’ investment is sometimes heralded as an economic save-all, a way to meet the goals of the planning profession while investing in the world of tomorrow. Pundits suggest that investment in green infrastructure will create the backbone of future communities, places that are energy efficient, multi-modal, carbon-neutral and in harmony with natural systems.

However, “green infrastructure” could also have an entirely new meaning. Exploring this expanded definition is going to test our beliefs and will require keeping an open mind. Planners should be up for the task; as a profession we are open to idea exploration, we experiment with new technologies and we utilize our creative instincts when planning for communities … Continue Reading

A Tale of Two Chinatowns (And a Little India)

Just arrived back from a trip to Asia where, among other things, I took part in a short exchange with the National University of Singapore.

This was all part of a History course that took a comparative approach to exploring planning issues in the ethnic spaces (mostly chinatowns) of Vancouver, Singapore and to a lesser extent Malacca, in Malaysia. The students were divided into several working groups, covering areas such as mapping, architectural modeling, real estate marketing, and video (which I helped to facilitate). Each was responsible for creating a final project presentable to university and government officials, professors and local planners.

So as our little group nosed around these two fascinating cities, talking to planners, historians and local residents as we went, we managed to produce this film. Its purpose is to function as a snapshot of life as it’s being lived … Continue Reading

Privacy for Superman

So my cell phone contract expired about a month ago now, and I thought I’d give life a shot minus the long arm of AT&T.  I purchased a Skype number, so as not to fall entirely incommunicado, but my days are largely spent without the luxury of instant telecommunication.  Overall, things have gone smoothly, but my lack of a phone has led to a series of revelations.  Most apparent is the lack of payphones in Portland, which had me walking all the way to Union Station to make a phone call (a fair walk from where I was located).  Perhaps it’s my unhealthy love of noir detective stories, but the death of the payphone is troubling to me.

Sure, wifi will soon make even cell phones irrelevant, so bemoaning the loss of the payphone is a little … Continue Reading

In New York City: Abandoned elevated rail becomes a new urban park


The High Line, underneath the Standard Hotel. Photo by author.

High Line_Complete

Pedestrians enjoy a stroll on the completed High Line in New York. Thanks to Gerard Dalmon for the Creative Commons photo!

Two weeks after the opening of the High Line, New York is still reveling in its newest city park. The creation of open space is a rare event in the world’s densest cities, a treasure hunt sometimes known as landscape urbanism. Seoul, Korea recently brought to daylight a forgotten river under the city, opening up a wide boulevard of parks and recreation spaces. Many cities have converted unused belt railways into community gardens or greenways. Now this trend for generating innovative … Continue Reading

Event: Strathcona Community Gardens Open House in Vancouver

Next Sunday, Vancouver’s biggest community garden hosts its annual open house. Check out garden tours, workshops, beekeeping demonstrations, a native plants display, live acoustic music and free vegan snacks!


Musicians take a break at the 2007 Strathcona Community Gardens open house.

When:     Sunday, July 12, 2009
Where:   Strathcona & Cottonwood Community Gardens
(Just off the Adanac bike route. See map below.)
Time:      10am – 2pm
Cost:       Free!

Perhaps like all community gardens, the Strathcona and Cottonwood gardens have wonderful stories in their soil. In the 1950s and 1960, the site served as a garbage dump and a city works yard. Since the 1980s, the land has been completely restored through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Today, the gardens thrive in a seven-acre urban oasis that is also a living example of urban … Continue Reading

Proposed Drive-Thru Ban in Comox, BC: Cognitive Dissonance and the LEED-certified A&W

***Update, July 17: The Comox bylaw received first approval from the town council.***

Have you ever wished that your least favourite form of development could be simply banished? In the Vancouver Island town of Comox (pop. 12,000), the town council is considering just that.

Drive-thru A&W in the City of Coutenay, in the Comox Valley. Thanks to Brian Chow for the Creative Commons picture.

Drive-thru A&W in the City of Courtenay, in the Comox Valley. Thanks to Brian Chow for the Creative Commons picture.

A current resolution, meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development, would amend Comox’s Zoning Bylaw to prohibit drive-thru services like restaurants and banks throughout the town. Existing uses would remain but no future drive-thrus could be developed.

Howls of protest and approval … Continue Reading

Event: VSPN “City Shorts” Film Night in Vancouver

This Thursday, the Vancouver Public Space Network is presenting a one-night film festival of short films dealing with public space.

When:     Thursday June 18, 2009
Where:   VanCity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St @ Davie St
Time:      Doors open at 7:00, Screening begins at 7:30
Cost:       10$ regular;  8$ students/ seniors (no advance tix, only door sales)

This is the first event of it’s kind in Vancouver – let’s hope it’s a roaring success so that we can look forward to seeing more short films about cities and public space!

VSPN Shorts Poster

To find out more about the festival, check out the Vancouver Public Space Network event page here.

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