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2010 Archive

Our firm is one of the architecture firms featured in Ballista Magazine this week. Based out of Chicago and Boston, Ballista “is a platform showcasing young firms and designers with hopes of bridging the gap between the industry and young professionals.”

If you count a firm with 25 years+ as a young firm, we accept! And along the same lines as Ballista’s mission, we also work to bridge the gap between our seasoned professionals and students/young professionals.

Our firm currently sponsors an annual lecture at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, and Alan Hart (principal) sits on the Department of Architecture Professional Advisory Council at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Although we value “bridging the gap” between young and seasoned professionals, our favorite sentence from the profile is that “VIA has created architecture…that also increases the quality of the surrounding community.”

As we celebrated our 25th anniversary last year, we gave staff the opportunity to come up with slogans that they felt represented VIA. Among entries like “City Building Life” and “Designing Space, Defining Place,” one of the top voted entries was “Building Communities VIA Architecture.” Photos from the magazine feature Burien Transit Center, Kiwanis Seniors’ Housing, and the Roundhouse Community Centre, just a few of the projects that we feel contribute to building communities.

by Lydia Heard, Urban Planner for VIA Architecture

Part 2 of A Citywalkers Take: Walking the Livable City looks at what it means for a city to be “livable” and how it applies in Vancouver, at different strata – up and down.

Walking to our office on Homer Street, I am suddenly stricken by a serious case of citylove. I’ve been here before, but coming back after being in other cities for a couple of years I’m filled with the sense of how comfortable and right this street feels, the sense of human scale in a four-story streetwall, and two well-spaced, attractively proportioned towers on this block offering no sense of intrusion. This is a new block in the famous Vancouver tower and podium style; across the street the block is made up of historic Yaletown low-rise buildings. Balance and beauty, high and low, old and new –I’m very happy to be here.

Vancouverize, Vancouverism. The city that became a verb and and from that a new noun. Rated, again, by The Economist magazine as the most livable city in the world. What does that mean, to be the most livable city? The Economist scores cities across five broad categories: stability; health care; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure.

We in the States, some of us at least, are aware of how Canadian health care compares to ours. Stability, education – highly scored but not something that can be clearly observed while …

by Lydia Heard, Urban Planner for VIA Architecture

Authors note: My nom de plume (or screen) is citywalker. I like to walk in cities, and I like to get cities walking – helping to make them more friendly, accessible and inviting for increasing numbers of citywalkers. There was once a type of citywalker known as “flanéur”. As the great majority of us are not nineteenth-century dandified men of leisure, and there never really was any counterpart “flanéuse”, I find the term citywalker to be more broadly accessible and acceptable – as, alas, “streetwalker” is not. Thanks to VIA for inviting me to do a citywalk of Vancouver during the Olympics and to write about it here.

I was invited to walk in Vancouver during the Olympics and record my impressions. What a hardship! What a pleasure, more like. I’ve visited but I don’t really know Vancouver, so this will be a visitor’s impression. Maybe next they’ll ask the opinion of someone who lives there, eh? Actually a visitor’s impression may be appropriate for this Host City to the 2010 Olympics.

Vancouver was just ranked by the Economist magazine, again, as the most livable city in the world. It’s also one of the most walkable. This is the city that became a verb, “Vancouverize” – in the manner of “Vancouverism”, of course. This great city supposedly got even better in order to play host to the world for the Olympics. What was improved? …

Vancouver Olympics a Living Laboratory for Urbanism! (Planetizen) Brent Toderian: Vancouver Olympics a successful living laboratory for urbanism.  A $1 Billion Hangover From an Olympic Party  (New York Times) Price tag is rising for Vancouver Olympics.

Vancouver’s warm embrace trumps Games tragedy (Seattle PI)Art Thiel: Vancouver’s warm embrace, hug marks, tops it all.

2010 Olympics earn a bronze for climate action, says David Suzuki Foundation

Squatters at ‘Olympic Tent Village’ say they’re digging in for long haul (Planetizen)

Critical Mass bike ride not taking aim at Olympics in Vancouver (Straight)

Let the Debate Begin (Price Tags)Price Tags on the temporary vs. permanent transportation measures after the Olympics.

Vancouver considers knocking down viaducts after Olympic traffic success (Vancouver Sun)The debate continues over taking down the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts after the Olympics are over. Campbell promises $172M for Vancouver social housing (Tyee) Funding for social housing didn’t get it built in time for the Olympics.

by Krystal Meiners, VIA Architecture

Unfortunately, we do. Despite the last two weeks of glorious clear skies and mild weather, I will venture to say that rain is still typically a way of life here in Seattle and the Puget Sound region. And unfortunately, with all of the rain, comes a heap of problems that trickle down our streets and hillsides and waterways, heading straight for our Sound and the Pacific beyond.

With nearly 4,600 manmade outfalls (not including 93 combined sewer overflow outfalls), emptying directly into our waterways, we may as well be funneling motor oil into the mouths of our precious salmon. Too dramatic?

Well, beyond my bleeding heart, new stormwater infrastructure just makes sense and is perhaps a bit overdue, for several reasons.

Over the last century, stormwater has increasingly carried more and more pollutants such as motor oil, construction sediments, and animal waste over roadways, across parking lots, through lawns treated with pesticides and any amount of other down and dirty routes towards the Sound causing:

  • A dive in water quality
  • Loss of habitat
  • Polluted public spaces such as beaches and waterfronts
  • Rising deaths in wildlife (shellfish, salmon, sole, etc.)
  • Rising sickness in wildlife
  • Soil erosion
  • Flooding and property damage

Several organizations, such as People for Puget Sound, the Puget Sound Partnership, the University of Washington, Environment Canada, several Washington state tribes, and The Washington Environmental Council are all working at various levels in policy and action towards improving our infrastructure and implementing sustainable stormwater strategies like LID.

The …

by Kate Howe, Urban Planner for VIA Architecture

Much of our combined city planning energy has been focused on traffic; how to plan for it, how to make space for it, and how to keep people from getting in its way. However, the methodologies championed by Danish urban expert Jan Gehl and his team at Gehl Architects are finally giving neighborhoods and community advocates the facts they need to compete in a world dominated by traffic demand models, population forecasting, and abstract regulations that do not value public realm.

In this way, a paradigm shift is taking place around the world, bringing with it a new fact-based level of empiricism to our sometimes too subjective conversations about sustainable urbanism. Gehl promotes a data driven view for improvement-based on watching and quantifying what people do in public space, how often they do it, and where. It seems simple, because it is.

We too can become experts at understanding how life, mobility, and people can be invited back to the city.

The tricky part is collecting and paying attention to this data. As of today, Copenhagen is the ONLY city in the world with a Department of Public Life. This is not a Traffic Department, or a Building Department, but a city agency that is consistently engaged with the everyday users of a city, its pedestrians, its residents and its commuters.

Over time, a close relationship between the progressive City Engineer and City Architect in Copenhagen and Jan Gehl’s lab at the …

The New Partners For Smart Growth National Conference was held in Seattle in Early February. VIA’s Matt Roewe, Director of Mixed Use and Major Projects, was a featured speaker and panelist in a special session on best practices in transit oriented development.

This panel was Moderated by Vancouver’s Gordon Price, Author of and professor at SFU. Other panelist included David Alumbaugh, Director of Citywide Planning in San Francisco and Lyle Bicknell, Neighborhood Planning Manager for the City of Seattle.

Matt’s presentation featured a primer on Vancouver’s high capacity transit system (Skytrain and the Canada Line). He also featured five station areas of various ages, each with it own set of transit integration variables and development determinants. Tremendous lessons can be learned from 25 years of successful transit planning and station area development in Vancouver.

Take a look at Matt’s presentation here.

More information on the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference can also be found at:

Monday News Roundup

Feb 22, 2010

Working for Clean Water WCW is about creating jobs, rebuilding our local economy, and cleaning up polluted waterways like Puget Sound and the Spokane River. Each year millions of gallons of petroleum pollute our water through storm runoff, a serious threat to our health and environment. Working for Clean Water will fund shovel-ready, local projects all over the state to stop this contamination. Now is the time to put Washington back to work by building storm water infrastructure that we’ll be proud of for generations. 

The Foodprint ProjectThinking about how zoning, policy, and economics shape our urban food systems? NYC is hosting an international conversation.

Blind architects have a real feel for the site lines  (LA Times) Blind architecture in LA. Unable to see their designs or those produced by others, blind architects get more in touch with their other senses.

BC #1 in economic growth  (Vancouver Sun) B.C. will post growth of 3.7 per cent over the year, while renewed American auto demand will help Ontario surpass the national average for the first time in nearly a decade with growth of 3.5 per cent, the board said in its Provincial Outlook — Winter 2010, released Monday.

Record Number Taking Transit in Vancouver (Vancouver Sun) More than 1.6 million people a day used buses, SkyTrain, the SeaBus and the West Coast Express, according to TransLink.

Bloom box: An energy breakthrough? (CNET) What happens when suburbia pulls itself off the grid… and every home features a new massive accessory …

We hosted our first meet up in Vancouver almost a month ago, and were really excited about our Seattle meetup/tweetup/blogger meetup, which happened last night at the Pike Brewery Co, which was the perfect venue.

Just like in Vancouver, the goal of the meetup was not only to learn more about some of our local bloggers, but also to continue the dialogue we started back in June when we produced the Great Urban Debate (Seattle vs. Vancouver).

Instead of comparing Seattle vs Vancouver, however, we hope to facilitate conversation between cities in the Pacific Northwest, including Portland. We believe this will enable us to discuss important issues while getting feedback from those that are local, as well as our urban city counterparts.

A big thank you goes out our social media consultants at Banyan Branch for partnering with us and helping organize the event, and to Pike Brewing Co for hosting the event. We had almost 100 people come through the meet up (some just wondering what a “tweet up” was…) and had a great time meeting some incredible Seattle-ites.

Thanks again to all who attended, and congratulations to @mattgoyer who won the drawing for the $30 Visa gift card.


by Naomi Buell, VIA Architecture Vancouver

The running of the flame has a bit of a controversial past, having been introduced at the Berlin Olympics during the Nazi regime. Today, it represents hope, sportsmanship, and the interconnectedness of nations. The flame is ignited in Olympia and crosses through many continents to arrive at the central stadium of the Olympic host nation. The flame has had an adventurous and interesting history and has traveled through many mediums including boats, canoes, deep sea divers, camels and was even transformed into a radio signal in 1976.

Last Friday, our Vancouver office was fortunate to see this wonder as it made its way to GM place in time for the opening ceremonies.  It would seem that every office had the same idea as the excited crowd covered the streets. Some people even stood on dumpsters, hung out of windows and off balconies and watched from their roofs. Some VIA-ites were lucky enough to see it at multiple locations as it made its way all over Vancouver.

As the flame approached, the crowd narrowed, causing the running of the flame to become more of a walking of the flame in order to make it through the many obstructions (mainly people) in the way. Once the torch bearer had passed in front, all that could be seen was a small flame above the heads of the proud people following …