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Who are you and what do you do? My name is Stephanie. I’m an urban designer and intern architect.

What made you decide to go into your field? My art history degree led to an interest in architectural history, which led to an interest in the process of how me make (and inhabit) buildings – and how buildings make us.

What did your family think of your chosen field? They were pleased to have go from visual arts into a more respectable (and profitable) profession!

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? Marc Boutin, my senior studio prof and thesis adviser. His work really influenced my interest in cities and urban design and how buildings create urban spaces.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.) The biggest hurdle by far is the one I’m facing right now: writing all the licensing exams while completing my intern hours to get my full professional registration.

What inspires you? My walk to work in the morning. Riding my bike late at night in the summer.

What schooling is required for success in your career? You must have a Master’s in Architecture to become an intern and work towards professional registration. In general, you can have any undergrad degree to get into the master’s. Visual arts or another design degree of some sort is very useful. Alternatively, a more technical background can be an advantage such as an architectural technology diploma. An undergrad in business would also …

Happy Holidays

Dec 22, 2010

As the eve of Christmas approaches, we thought we would take this opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and an excellent new year.

This card was created by our own intern architect, Ivan Ilic. We only hope that Halmark doesn’t try to scoop him up.

So from all of us here at VIA Architecture, Season’s greetings and (aside from a post on Friday) we shall see you all in the new year!

Monday News Roundup

Dec 20, 2010

California approves more big solar powered projects (Grist) The California Energy Commission on Wednesday approved two more big solar thermal power plants, ending the year having green-lighted a total of nine projects that would generate 4,142.5 megawatts if all were built.

The music of planning (Planetizen) A website called “Isle of Tune” lets you build streets SimCity-style, with a twist- the houses and streetlights become musical elements in the sequence that you make.

TransLink to let public vote on name of electronic fare card (Planetizen) TransLink plans to let the public decide what its new electronic fare cards, which are set to be introduced in 2013, will be named.

View corridors in downtown Vancouver are protected, city planner says (Vancouver Sun) Vancouver city’s plan to consider allowing extra-tall buildings in the downtown core affects only seven specific sites and would not allow any intrusions into long-protected view corridors, the city’s director of planning said Thursday.

Can streetcars save America’s cities? (CNN) In a down economy, pursuing the American dream can be challenging, but restaurant owner Todd Steele was willing to take a chance. He set up shop on a streetcar route and has benefited tremendously from it.

A video of Curitiba, Brazil, the birth place of bus rapid transit (youtube) Hover over cc to get English subtitles and learn about the planning that went into the bus rapid transit of Curitiba.

You’ve Heard of Pocket Parks, but Pocket Airports? (Planetizen) A NASA-related agency envisions a future when people will …

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jenny and I am an intern architect.

What made you decide to go into your field?

A fascination with maps and plans, and of course – lego! I also thought it would be an interesting job.

What did your family think of your chosen field?

They were delighted – apart from the cost of me having to go away for university, when the local university was literally a 10min walk from our house. (It didn’t offer architecture as a course)

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?

Hugh Campbell my 2nd year History & Theory lecturer and Studio Head. For his enthusiasm but also for showing that architecture is everywhere and affects so many aspects of life – it’s not just about 4 walls.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)

Trying to overcome nervousness in project critiques and believing in my work, so I think I was probably my own biggest hurdle.

What inspires you?

Simplicity.

What schooling is required for success in your career?

Bachelors Degree in Architecture, (or a Masters is more common in this part of the world).

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?

All types of people can be successful in architecture. Different aspects of the job play to different strengths – hence working in teams tends to work out quite well! Some useful attributes include creativity, practicality, …

How Design Can Affect Your Mood

by Jennifer Kelly, VIA Architecture

Architects have long intuited that the places we inhabit can affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Now behavioral scientists are giving their hunches an empirical basis.

Scientists are unearthing tantalizing clues about how to design spaces that promote creativity, keep students focused and alert, and lead to relaxation and social intimacy. The results inform architectural and design decisions such as the height of ceilings, the view from windows, the shape of furniture, and the type and intensity of lighting.

Such efforts are leading to cutting-edge projects such as residences for seniors with dementia in which the building itself is part of the treatment. [source]

Ceiling Height Back in 2007, Joan Meyers-Levy, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, wrote a paper that found that an individual’s thoughts and actions were affected by the height of the ceiling:

“When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly. They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics.”

 An Art Studio is better suited for high ceilings

But Meyers-Levy is quick to point out that there are good reasons for a low-ceiling height; like in an operating room where you want the surgeon to “focus on specifics.”

Building Views What about the view that you have from your office or living room window? It would be easy to assume that …

Monday News Roundup

Dec 13, 2010

Update on the Rainier Urban Farm at the Atlantic City Nursery  (Urban Farm Hub ) Great updates on a local project we’re involved with.

One big idea – bring Vancouver together  (Globe and Mail) Meeru Dhalwala has come up with a new way to bring people together. The co-owner and chef at the internationally known restaurants Vij’s – described by The New York Times as “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world” – and Rangoli in South Granville has a Big Idea for boosting the spirit of community in Vancouver.

Bicycle freight – thinking outside the box truck  (Grist) Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, is planning something that, at first glance, is unbelievable. He wants to ban semi trucks from the city.

Bicyclists Outpace Cars in Downtown, Says New Study  (Planetizen) A new study of how people are using the French bikesharing system in Lyon provides ample data for American planners hoping implementing similar systems, and reveals that bicycles are faster and more effective than cars in downtown commutes.

It’s time to update the definition of Smart Growth (Kaid at NRDC) It has been a dozen years or so, fifteen at the most, since a broad but committed group of advocates and organizations coalesced around a shared set of beliefs that, borrowing from then-Maryland-governor Parris Glendening’s landmark legislation, we called “smart growth.”

Defining Provocative Urbanism  (Sustainable Cities Collective) Amid today’s writing on cities, there is a theme afoot.  Something called provocative …

Friday Feature: Bill

Dec 10, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?

Joined VIA in September ‐ currently coordinating the Skytrain integration with the Plaza 88 development in New Westminster and soon to inherit the entire Plaza 88 project.

What made you decide to go into your field?

It was about the integrity of architecture, what it has been, what it does and can do and being able to cultivate and employ a particular view of living through built form.

What did your family think of your chosen field?

I come from a lengthy line of radiologists – brother, sister in law, father, aunt, grandfather – I went into architecture….with blank stares.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?

Artists — who are less shackled by the realities architects face.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)

Financial yes and pressure from beauracracies along the way.

What inspires you?

The goal of the bigger picture and when 1 and 1 = 3

What schooling is required for success in your career?

For me it was 4 yrs to prove you are worthy to enter architecture + 3 yrs of architecure + 2 yrs to prove you are worthy to practice architecture….. then schooling yourself the rest of your life.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?

Good communicators, people who understanding the interconnectedness of things, generally people who have lived enough to know.

What is the best advice you were ever …

a “small pitch” for the specificity of language.

by Richard Borbridge, Urban Planner for VIA Architecture image credit

It is the bane of my every walk to work in the morning.

A short walk down the new Granville Street and there it rests – nary larger than a “no parking” sign, and just gleaming and fresh enough to unfailing catch my eye against the black lamp standard:

“up to small pitch”

The great eighth note above says “play here!” to the newly unshackled busking community – the eighth note… and the word Busking. But the words below speak clearly to an agonizing misrepresentation of musical performance knowledge.

A quick look at the definition of ‘pitch’ ranges from the by-product of tar, to a soccer field, to its rightful musical definition – the tone or frequency of a sound (which is high or low, not small or large) and finally, down the list and Chiefly British, “the stand of a vendor or hawker” – which, while perhaps the most relevant, is still a linguistic leap from the City’s intended meaning.

I understand that these signs are intended to coordinate the level of intensity of a performance on the street and the city’s introductory PDF confirms as much:

  • Small pitch (S): Minor amplification, designed for passers-by, not designed for crowd building
  • Medium pitch (M): Medium amplification, small crowd building, less than 50 person audience
  • Large pitch (L): Medium + amplification, circle crowds, middle of street or large plaza spaces, 100+ person audience

However, what the signs do say is gibberish.

The imprecise use of words and the overuse of imprecise words is hardly …

Friday Feature: Kate

Dec 03, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kate and I am an urban planner…

What made you decide to go into your field?

A few years after college I wound up in a job at an affordable housing non-profit in Brooklyn where we built and managed housing, community gardens, and provided tenant advocacy. I learned about the process of neighborhood development, and the ongoing gentrification of Bedford Sty. I became very curious about why certain spaces and neighborhoods worked better than others as well as the lines on the map you couldn’t see – tracing color, class and use.

What did your family think of your chosen field?

My mom’s a planner too! She helped to write the legislation for the first ISTEA Intermodal Surface Transportation Policy Act (1991) and went on to work to achieve Context Sensitive Highway Design in the State of California among other things.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)

Distractions – of all kinds

What inspires you?

Beauty in all forms – often what is distracting…Whether in thought or design.

What schooling is required for success in your career?

It makes sense to go for a Master’s to help transition into that first key job as the field grows in competitiveness, but really Planning is not about being trained as an expert, it’s just a particular way of viewing and being curious about the world. Lots of training can take place on the job …

by Wolf Saar, Director of Practice for VIA Architecture

The VIAVOX in Seattle last month was a hit, thanks to a relevant topic and a great group of panelists!

First, to explain the broader picture: our firm has historically hosted “Salons,” which aim to initiate conversations surrounding current issues in architecture, planning, and design. We recently renamed these to be called VIAVOX. Latin for ‘voice,’ we intend to hold a quarterly VIAVOX in both our Seattle and Vancouver offices.

The VIAVOX in October addressed “Connected Senior Urbanism.” It was a discussion about how urban design can contribute to an engaged lifestyle as we age.

The inspiration for this includes:

  • Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC’s). Here is a link to the local initiative
  • Urban Planning for Seniors. Here is a link to EDRA
  • Silver Seniors, an initiative in New York City. See this article
  • Universal Design in the Public Realm

Designed to be an opportunity to get a group of people around a topic of interest, we invited four panelists to join us, each of whom brought an engaged perspective to enliven the discussion. Representatives ranging from affordable public housing to market-rate private communities, service providers, neighborhood advocates and the media joined with VIA architects, interior designers, and planners from both our Seattle and Vancouver, BC offices.

Joanne Donohue, Senior Services Aging Your Way

The following is a synopsis of what the panelists brought to the conversation:

Supporting community members as they age, Aging Your Way is an attempt to start a different type of …