* You are viewing Posts Tagged ‘public space’

All Eyes

Designing for safety often relies on “eyes on the street“. After recent moves from Vancouver to Whitehorse to Toronto, I have been considering how living in a much bigger city affects my safety.

Rioters and vandals in Vancouver's Stanley Cup riots earlier this month have since found themselves tagged and identified using social media. Thanks to Dustan Sept on Flickr for this evocative Creative Commons photo.

The assumption that urban anonymity leads to more crime is likely true. It makes sense that safety in smaller places is due to tighter networks and the increased likelihood of being caught or ostracized due to actions.

Fortunately, the digital shrinking of the world is mimicking the surveillance of a small town. Paired … Continue Reading

Bike, bike, revolution.

Thanks to Paul Krueger on Flickr for this gorgeous photo taken at Vancouver's Hornby Street separated bike lane.

The introduction of downtown bike lanes in Vancouver, Canada has been controversial. In contrast to the concerns about potential business losses and increased traffic congestion, investment into bike infrastructure has demonstrated economic benefits. A recent study from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies found that bicycling contributes $1.5 billion to Wisconsin’s economy every year through bike-related jobs, tourism, reduced health care costs, and a better quality of life.

Vancouver’s Hornby and Dunsmuir bike lanes serve several important functions that will have tangible and intangible benefits.

  • Downtown commuting is now a viable option for more than the most stylish bike courier.
  • The seawall is … Continue Reading

Top Five Urban Design Solutions

With this highlight of urban design winners, we hope to draw out a discussion around public space and built form.  The focus of this list is current trends in urban design, ones that have been built rather than ones that haven’t happened. There are heaps of exciting ideas coming from firms, competitions and students that are very innovative. The real winners, however, are the ones that actually happen.  Today, high quality urban design is widely applied in our urban centers as a critical element in any municipal density initiative, as it is recognized to have positive impacts on ecological, economic and social well-being.

1. Urban ecology

The Dockside Green neighborhood in Victoria, BC received LEED designation, in part because of its attention to urban ecology. Thanks to J. Scratchley on Flickr for the great Creative Commons photo!

Continue Reading

“Hari Bebas Kendaraan Bermotor!” (Happy Car Free Day)

Jakarta residents celebrate Car Free Jakarta. Thanks to Luluk on Flickr for the great Creative Commons image!

Jakarta residents celebrate Car Free Jakarta. Thanks to Luluk on Flickr for the great Creative Commons image!

In Vancouver, Canada, the 2010 Olympics are taking over more and more of the city in preparation for the official games and festivities. Starting last week, the city began closing roads and beefing up security, with more closures happening as time passes. As much as these obstructions are annoying to residents, in the grand scheme of things, they are publicly accepted and really not that disruptive. This has got me thinking: if Vancouverites are able to live with all these streets and access points blocked off for the next month or so, why … Continue Reading

Podcast: Urbanist Matt Hern reads from “Common Ground in Liquid City”

Matt Hern is one of the irrepressible urbanists of Vancouver, Canada. He is an author, activist and educator, most widely known for founding Car Free Vancouver. He is also known by his immediate neighbours as the guy who hosts the 200-person potluck dinners in the park by his house! His new book Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future reflects on Vancouver from vantage points in other cities around the world.

This eight-minute audio clip captures Matt Hern reading aloud from his new book. He compares Montreal and Vancouver, considering Montreal’s more distinctive flavour:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

‘Urban Acupuncture 101’ – Mobility and cycling in New York with Janette Sadik-Khan

October 19, 2009.  In a room full of Vancouver’s planning and transportation elite, Gordon Price (director of SFU’s City Program) introduced an event from SFU’s public lecture series, evoking New York City’s gritty and dangerous history, comparing it to a “fallen empire.”  He feels that the success in recent years give it reason to be called “a resilient city” – acting as proof that cities can rebound – and aptly referencing the Gaining Ground conference this week.  Our guest this evening, Janette Sadik-Khan is the commissioner for New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT). She is largely responsible for this transformation, rigorously analyzing ways to make streets more people oriented in one of the world’s largest most congested city.  “It’s a war out there,” she said a few times.

[caption id=”attachment_1459″ align=”aligncenter” width=”574″ caption=”Creative Commons photo of NYC's 9th Ave … Continue Reading

In New York City – Fresh Kills Park is Waste Space, Play Place


The NYC Sanitation Department donated one of these machines for use in the new park's signage. Photo by author.

For over 50 years Fresh Kills was the main landfill for New York City and  the largest dumpsite in the world.  In March of 2001 the site was closed due to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency, only to be reopened temporarily in September of that year as the receiving site for the demolished World Trade Center buildings.   Now the land, once a symbol of waste and environmental disrespect, is being re-developed as the largest park in New York City—at 2,220 acres it will be almost three times the size of Central Park.  The site will be extensively landscaped with native vegetation and will provide natural ecological areas as … Continue Reading

Passtimes and participation

Baseball… How I love a good baseball game on a sunny afternoon in Portland. Being able to watch the triple-A Beavers play in a classic downtown ballpark at an affordable price doesn’t hurt either. Unfortunately, most Portlanders don’t seem to have the same zeal for the old passtime as do I. Maybe baseball isn’t in the cards for Portland — or, as some suggest, perhaps the city has graduated to the major leagues. At least one fan-base is sure of Portland’s major league credentials… but they’re not baseball fans.

In addition to owning the Beavers, Merritt Paulson (son of Henry) also owns the Portland Timbers of the United Soccer Leagues (not a typo). Like the Beavers, the Timbers play their games in charming PGE Park. … Continue Reading

An American twist on the Italian piazza

Most of North America’s zoning and land-use regulation is fine tuned to expedite the creation of one thing: sprawl. That’s why it’s so miraculous when a developer actually takes the time (which is money, at least in the world of construction) to challenge all those laws and build something better. Well last week, the Piazza at Schmidt’s opened in Philadelphia to rave reviews. Here are some of the reasons why it could be the best new development in North America.

Blogging “The Public Square as an Economic Space” Event

Tonight, in a packed community hall with eager community members perched on gym mats and kindergarten-sized chairs*, city councilor Andrea Reimer, economic development planner John Tylee and UBC geography professor Trevor Barnes offered very different perspectives about the economic value and potential of public squares.

The event at the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, was organized by the Vancouver Public Space Network, whose upcoming events can be seen here. Not having a chance to film the speakers, I decided to try sitting in the back and typing madly. The flavour of each presentation is briefly presented below.

*Sincere thanks to the guy who let me take the last grown-up chair!


Trevor Barnes: Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia 

Trevor Barnes began by evoking his childhood in the English town of St. Austell.  Its Aylmer Square was “geometrically a square, but … Continue Reading