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by guest blogger John Collings, Collings Johnston Inc.The annual conference of the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) was held in Vancouver this year and was well attended by over a thousand transportation officials, planners and engineers from across Canada. TAC is an association which provides “a neutral forum for gathering or exchanging ideas, information and knowledge on technical guidelines and best practices.” source

The newly opened spectacle of the Golden Ears Crossing was evident at the conference. The project’s urban planning and aesthetics were highlighted by Graham McGarva’s and John Collings’s poster presentation. Collings Johnston Inc. and VIA Architecture were retained by TransLink to develop, specify, and implement the urban design process for the new 14 km highway and major crossing of the Fraser River linking the municipalities of Langley and Surrey with Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. The design and construction was undertaken by the Golden Crossing Group between 2006 and 2009 as part of a Public Private Partnership. The project had three main urban design goals:

  • to design and build a new arterial corridor and river crossing in support of its surrounding context 
  • provide a moderate speed arterial for use by all road users: cars, trucks, buses, bicycles and pedestrians
  • implement an integrated urban design theme whose aesthetics would enrich users experience along Golden Ears Way

The presentation highlighted the process of designing a Major New River Crossing within the context of its surroundings and took the form of questions and comments …

The Golden Ears Crossing Project comprised a new 14-kilometre, multi-lane, highway corridor which included a major bridge crossing of the Fraser River. This Public-Private Partnership Project in Metro Vancouver crosses the flood plain of the Fraser River amidst the Coastal Mountains and passes through residential, agricultural and industrial lands. After four years of work on alignment and preparation of bid documents, construction commenced in February 2006 and was completed in the summer of 2009.

The Crossing was conceived as a transportation facility that would be designed and built within the context of its surrounding land uses. The base concept that was used for the design/build proposals required a comprehensive and integrated design approach from each proponent. It incorporated speed management and involved design elements that were in keeping with the surrounding area.

The commitment of context sensitive design led to a mandate to make aesthetics and urban design considerations integral with the technical and financial performance of the project. The RFQ to pre-qualify bidders led to the selection of three teams, of whom two submitted bids to Design, build, operate and maintain the project.

The successful proponent, Golden Crossing Constructors Joint Venture (GCCJV), provided a design theme that built upon the story of the valley beneath the Golden Ears peaks. This incorporated the natural and cultural history of the area, such as the Katzie First Nation, salmon fishing and the eyries of …

We’re very excited to announce that the Burien Transit Center won “Best Small Project” for Northwest Construction’s Best of 2009 awards competition.

According to their website, Northwest Construction “received a record-breaking number of entries.”

The winning projects will be honored at an awards breakfast December 11th at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott. For more information call 206.378.4708.

See our previous post with more information on the Burien Transit Center here.

Congrats to the Burien team: INCA Engineers, Tres West Engineers, AKB, Karen Kiest Landscape Architects, Julie Berger (public artist), and Pellco Construction.

by Graham McGarva, Principal for VIA Architecture

Hello

When one is consumed in the continuing reinvenition that is the craft of city building, long walks help.  So this morning, I detoured on my way into work through False Creek North’s Roundhouse Neighbourhood (which we planned 20 years ago), and past its Community Centre ( a heritage adaptive re-use and expansion that we built 12 years ago), and took in the irony of the imperatives of the “life official” in contrast with the bubbling delight of the youngsters around me going to their inner city school and day care on the False Creek waterfront.  The following is what I saw and wrote:

Fire exit please do not blockWe have to let the fire outLest it consume usWith its passion for lifeLadies and children stand asideDouse your thrills and trillsWhen the fire drills through youStand aside and let it passDo not let it consume youLet vacant space be your heritageVoid of fire 24/7 or whatever10-4 be your emergencyKeep the flame doused inside youSafe from the armageddonOf common senseAnd thrill of the crowded roomOf private emotionsBetter still never get close enoughTo let the fire get inAnd while you are at itKeep the tide away From the foot of the stairs!

P.S. In case you are wondering, it was a major victory to get the park steps to go all the way down to the water’s edge (breaking the prescribed rule of being 1.3 metres above high high tide level with a safety railing) to where once or …

by Stephanie Doerksen, Intern Architect for VIA Architecture

I recently attended the Resilient Cities Conference in Vancouver, co-hosted by Gaining Ground and Smart Growth BC. In the afternoon of the first day, I attended a workshop session about community-based decision making processes for sustainable communities.

One of the panelists was Peter McLeod of MASS LBP, a Toronto based consulting firm specializing in proactive community research and consultation. He framed his talk with two questions which, although referring more generally to local governmental policy decisions, are extremely relevant to the type of urban planning and design decisions that VIA faces with on many of our projects.

The two questions were:1.    How do we (local governments, planners, community groups) make the right decision regarding any particular issue relating to sustainability?2.    How do we balance democratic processes with the need for quick action on environmental issues?

In order to answer these questions, we have to understand why the decision making process is difficult and what we generally do wrong.

We don’t ask the right questions

In order to give citizens the right to meaningfully engage in the decision making process, they must have the opportunity to provide input, and this can only happen if the question is correctly framed.

The example given by McLeod came from a community in France in which residents were asked whether they would accept the construction of a nuclear waste dump …

In Flanders Fieldby John McCrae

In Flanders field the poppies blowBetween the crosses, row on rowThat mark our place; and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,Loved and were loved, and now we lieIn Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields.

Poem’s Origin

The areas of Northern France known as Flanders and Picardy, saw some of the most concentrated and bloodiest fighting of the First World War.

There was complete devastation. buildings, roads, trees and natural life simply disappeared. Where once there were homes and farms, there was now a sea of mud, a grave for the dead where men still lived and fought.

Only one other living thing survived. The poppy, flowering each year with the coming of the warmer weather, brought LIFE, HOPE, COLOUR and REASSURANCE to those still fighting.

In 1915, John McRae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Armed Forces, was so deeply moved by what he saw that he scribbled the verses in his pocket book.

________________________________________________________________________In hono[u]r of Remembrance Day, our staff in both VIA offices have been wearing poppies for the last week.

Vancouver Office Staff:

Seattle …

by Jihad Bitar, Planner for VIA ArchitectureAfter three days of intensive lectures and presentations about the environment, climate change, ecology, economy, development, theories, corporate progress and grass root success example at the Gaining Ground Summit under the theme of ‘Resilient Cities, Urban Strategies for Transition Times’, there were a lot of messages flying through the air at the Canada Place ballroom. Yet, at the end of it all, I grew rather depressed reading all the data and equations of how long we humans have on earth before we totally destroy it.

In the midst of this ‘Smart’ jungle, I was reminded of a great message from Paul Hawken’s speech and lecture. When asked whether he is an optimist or a pessimist about the future, he replied with what became his most famous quotation: “If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.” And then Hawken later used the word ‘heart’.

For me, I like to think of myself as a scientist with a heart, which by Hawken’s definition, makes me a pessimist-optimist. But when I thought of Hawken’s words, the scientist side of me linked Hawken’s inspiring ideas to Hernando De Soto’s theory which talks …

by Lydia Heard, VIA’s Urban Planner

On October 14th, a Mayor and Managers Summit was held in Redmond, organized by NextGen Today, in partnership with the attending communities, and hosted by Redmond Mayor John Marchione and Kirkland City Manager David Ramsay. The attendees were representatives of towns and cities ranging from 1,000 to 85,000 residents, from strong mayor to mayor-council-manager governance, from 85% residential base (Maple Valley) to twice as many jobs as residents (Redmond). Some had administrations with paid staff support; others had mayors who essentially volunteer their terms of civic service and receive a stipend for their labors. All were facing similar and urgent challenges and seemed truly hungry for the opportunity to hear from their fellow civic leaders what issues they were dealing with, and the solutions and best practices that they might share.

Focus on FundingThe morning session was titled “Navigating the Turbulent Waters” and began with attendees describing where they felt their city budgets were – above water, treading water, or underwater. Many were trying to find funding for capital projects (infrastructure). Funding was uppermost on everyone’s minds. There was much discussion about I-1033 along with the worst-case assumption (at the time) that it would pass, and that voter tax referendums are now the “New Normal.” There was dismay over the raiding of the Public Works Trust Fund this year to make up state budget shortfalls. There was stated interest in asking the legislature, once again, to change …

Silence of the Squash

Nov 04, 2009

We submitted a pumpkin this year for the annual Carve for a Cause that benefits Architects without Borders (more info here).

Last year, we did the artichoke lamp, but were disqualified for using too much “non-pumpkin” material:

For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, here’s a picture of the artichoke lamp:

So, this year, we decided to step up our game. Our interior designer came up with the idea of doing a pumpkin modeled after Silence of the Lambs or making something out of pumpkin skin. After a brainstorming session, Silence of the Squash was quickly formulated. Hours and hours went into steaming the squash, scooping out the insides (you can image how quickly you can get sick of squash for every meal), and getting the skin ready to be sewn together.

Here is the pumpkin in progress:

Surprisingly, it only took us about 3 hours to sew everything together and put nails in strategic places to hold the skin in place. The next evening, we headed down to Design Within Reach to see the competition. There were some incredible entries.

After mingling at the event, they announced the winners and our pumpkin won Judge’s Choice this year! After the competition, they auctioned off all of the pumpkins, which was a good way to help raise more money.

y Christine Szeto, VIA Architecture’s Vancouver Office

Part 1: Growing Up Riding the SkyOn a Saturday afternoon in the spring of 1992, I rode the SkyTrain for the very first time. My family usually spent Saturdays in Chinatown but we lived in Surrey. My parents were working late that day and my two older sisters thought that they could ride the train home to work on their “homework”. Of course, much to the dismay of my parents, as well as my sisters, I insisted on tagging along. Our ride would take us from Main Street Station to Scott Road. (King George would have been the closer station but it hadn’t been built yet.) I had just turned 10, and my sisters were 12 and 16.

Like all parents who are learning to trust their children, my parents were a bit worried about dropping off three girls near skid row and then having them ride the train all alone for an hour. Anything could happen — we could get lost, or could lose a sister, especially the little sister. We could have missed our stop at Scott Road Station, or we could get off too early. Cell phones were still sort of new and expensive so there wasn’t a way of contacting us until we reached our destination. Besides, we could have lost the precious gigantic brick of a phone. “But, c’mon, get real – …