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Monday News Roundup

Nov 30, 2010

Millennials driving less want alternatives (Metro magazine) Almost one-half of all 18- to 34-year-old drivers are driving less, and nearly two-thirds would drive less if alternative transportation options were available, according to an independent study commissioned by Zipcar Inc.

Images from the world’s most walkable cities (Switchboard) Frommer’s just came out with their list of the world’s ten most walkable cities. Compact, urbane, mixed-use, resilient, every one of them.

Vancouver’s Farm City builds your raised beds for you (City Farmer News) we built 4 raised beds, comprising some 115 square feet of growing space (that’s a lot of fresh greens, herbs and veggies!). And because it would be a hassle to mow between the beds, we installed river rock paths

Buy Local or Bye-Bye Local (Crosscut) Around Bellingham you can hardly avoid noticing stickers and small posters that carry the message “Buy Local, or Bye-Bye Local.” It’s a tiny part of a major campaign to sustain local banks, local stores, local agriculture, local manufacturers and service providers.

Cities, states start to adopt climate change survival strategies (Grist) As it becomes ever more clear that Congress has retreated from climate change legislation faster than a Greenland glacier, cities and states are starting to focus on adapting to the inevitable.

Most dangerous Vancouver bike crossings (beyond Robson) The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia does not only have to look after drivers, but also cyclists.

Green Roofed Sports Pavillion Opens in Portugal (Inhabitat) Architects Filipe Brandao and Nuno Sanches recently saw the …

Couch Cushion Architecture Contest

by Ivan Ilic, VIA Architecture 

The couch Cushion Architecture project started one slow afternoon when I received an email with a link to this website.

I showed it to a coworker, who suggested we make it into an activity for everybody at VIA to participate; thus VIA Couch Cushion Architecture Challenge was born.

Though it was called a challenge, the CCA project was more an exercise for fun and participation, fostering VIA culture as our coworkers allowed us glimpses into their couch worlds. This challenge was especially fun for children who took the task seriously and produced some of the most innovative and challenging domestic structures.

Certain rules had to be followed:

  1. the project had to be within 5 feet of couch
  2. building blocks had to be supplied from home
  3. LEED Silver certification or greater
  4. must have fun

Each person or team had to submit photos of their creation, letters of assurance from a recognized structural engineer, and a written design intent. The 10 submissions were then subject to a group critique session where every CC Architect was given an opportunity to describe the merits of their piece followed by ‘sophisticated’ architectural commentary from their peers.

Since this project was a ‘Challenge,’ the submissions were presented on the VIA intranet and everybody voted for their favourites. Three prizes were given – third prize for sustainability, second prize for structure and tectonics, most importantly first prize for innovation. Trey walked away with two prizes this year – first and third for his sustainable and innovative …

Monday News Roundup

Nov 22, 2010

Innovative Brevi Bus Unveiled in Rural Putnam County (Passenger Transport) Putnam County has many rural areas and many unpaved roads which still need access to public transportation. These new Brevi Buses will fill this unique local and national need.

High-Speed Rail: Track Record of Success (Passenger Transport) A new study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)—using lessons learned from other countries—found that high-speed rail can boost a nation’s economy, curb pollution, provide an appealing alternative to congested roads and airports, and conserve energy.

Grassroots Planning Transforming Waterfront (Planetizen) A group of citizens calling themselves Destination Bayfront have led the charge to turn their underused waterfront into a destination hotspot.

Solar-Powered French Gym Offers an Energizing Workout (inhabitat) Architect Jean Marc Rivet’s funky design for a small gym located in Saint Gilles, France features an imaginative profile that slopes toward the sky. The gym’s inclined, rounded boxes are certainly good fun, but they also provide raised surfaces that capture sunlight.

Building a better intersection for pedestrians (Spacing Toronto) Would rounded Crosswalk edges to help keep pedestrians safe?

Living, Water-Recycling Building Wrapped in a Network of Tubes (inhabitat) This artists’ atelier and office building in São Paulo, Brazil features a facade covered in plants sustained by a network of tubes that provide mist at regular intervals.

Tiny Transformer Apartment Has Moving Walls, Dropping Beds and More (Treehugger) TreeHugger founder Graham Hill is trying to radically reduce his footprint and live happily with less space, less stuff and less waste on less money, but …

by Catherine Calvert, Director of Community Sustainability

There are fascinating movements afoot in the way in which our communities are responding to imminent changes in the supply of oil, the availability of food, the consumption of goods, and our habits of mobility.

One of the most interesting of these is the emergence of Transition Towns, as documented in “The Transition Handbook:  From oil dependency to local resilience” by Rob Hopkins (2009).  Hopkins is a founder of the transition movement, which began in the United Kingdom around 2005 following release of the film “The End of Suburbia.” Some of the earliest towns to adopt the principles of community organization, local resilience, and kicking the oil habit are Totnes, Lewes, Penwith and Bristol, which are now seen as models that can be emulated in other communities worldwide.

Transition approaches aim to move beyond conventional environmentalism, embodying the principles of permaculture to develop community-based solutions for long-term resilience.  The basic premise is that we have reached the end of the era of cheap oil, and that all our habits of consumption and mobility need to move away from oil-based practices, otherwise there will be dire consequences — shortages of food, fuel, water, supplies — essentially everything we need in order to survive.  Solutions to this dilemma can only be found through the process of relocalization, whereby we return to a more collective approach to our resources on the scale of the town or the neighborhood, and learn to meet our needs without …

Monday News Roundup

Nov 15, 2010

Cities in Flux: Rebuilding New Orleans with better transportation (The City Fix) How can transportation and urban development—from housing to public spaces to landscaping—repair a blighted American city?

Next Steps for Evergreen Line (The Buzzer Blog) Here’s an update on TransLink’s proposed supplemental plan for 2011, which focuses on funding for the Evergreen Line, the North Fraser Perimeter Road, and several other key projects in our region

Pop-Up Cafes heading to New York City (Planetizen) These “pop-up” cafes will be part of a two-year pilot program and up to 12 of them could begin to be installed in 2011. Participating restaurants will have to hire an architect to design the spaces, but the DOT will help with safety measures in the roadway.

Vancouver’s Transit Options with Pricetag (Planetizen) Mayors in metropolitan Vancouver are facing two options for expanding transit service in the region — and a hard decision about how to generate the funding to make it happen.

New L.A. Planning codes could create transit sprawl (Planetizen) A new group of activists in Los Angeles is warning that recently approved changes to the city’s planning code could make it easier for transit-related projects to be approved even if they are not in alignment with neighborhood planning documents.

Five materials improving sustainability in construction (Planetizen) Joe Peach explains the technology behind five materials that will dramatically increase sustainability in the building industry. Among the list are wool bricks which are stronger, greater insulators and don’t require firing to set.

Friday Feature: Dale

Nov 12, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?

Dale Rickard, an Urban Design and Transit Architect.

What made you decide to go into your field? I discovered that I could make a living playing around with felt pens.

What did your family think of your chosen field? It was a huge relief to them.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? The one person who has influenced my life the most has been my grandfather who was an architect from Glasgow.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.) My biggest problem in my 20’s was choosing a single field, there were so many options.

What inspires you? Living in Cities.

What schooling is required for success in your career? Years of drudgery.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes? Architecture is a very diverse field and there is room for people with a wide range of attributes.

What is the best advice you were ever given? This advice comes from my wife the lawyer: never admit liability.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?) Yes but new people entering architecture need to understand that architecture is cyclical following the real estate industry and global economies. Sometimes there is strong demand and sometimes there is unemployment.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours? Find a wealthy spouse first.

Carve for a Cause 2010

Nov 10, 2010

Our firm has participated in Carve for a Cause for the last three years. The event is sponsored by Architects without Borders, and benefits their current and future projects providing design assistance to communities in need.

We’ll do a quick recap of previous submissions so you can compare them to this year’s.

2008: The Artichoke Lamp

Our inspiration: This picture doesn’t show how much time this took or how hard it was to  figure out how to make it work. Good thing we’re an office full of architects, right? We ended up using a metal toilet paper holder, and attached the  pumpkin “leaves” with long skewers and twisty ties. What do you think?

2009: Silence of the Squash

VIA’s Interior Designer actually steamed squash, skinned them, and then team members hand sewed them together for the final product. Creepy!

And our 2010 submission? The [Pumpkin] Design Process…

A few team members were worried that we might be offending some professions that we work with, but we made sure to make fun of everyone equally, including Architects. Here are some detail shots:

[Click on the image to view the comments larger] Need I say more, other than to point out the solar panels? The date: October 34, 2009

Our prize? Two staff members with tattoos [which I must say is better than the fake bloody arm from last year]:

Monday News Roundup

Nov 08, 2010

Will big business go green on its own?(Planetizen) Mithin says that private enterprise has done a fairly good job of pushing green building standards on their own, driven by the economic incentive. But if there is plenty of cheap land and little regulation, business lack that incentive.

Andres Duany Uncovers Landscape Urbanist Takeover(Planetizen)

Duany (the famed architect and one of the founders of New Urbanism) reports that much of the Harvard Graduate School of Design is embracing the concept — even as they rebrand it “ecological urbanism” Lookotels Seeks to Roll Out Prefabricated Capsule Hotels in Spain (inhabitat)

Capsule hotels are all the rage in Japan, and now Lookotels is aiming to bring the prefabricated modular building trend to Spain. The company has envisioned a 100-room hotel composed of factory-built capsules that could be constructed in less than 6 months. Lookotels coined the term “lowxurious” to describe their budget hotels, which are energy-efficient, low-cost, and low-maintenance. Co-operative Housing Federation to manage Parcel 2 in Olympic Village/Southeast False Creek (State of Vancouver)

The city has chosen the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. to manage the one building it actually bid on, Building 2, the mostly market-rental building, for 60 years. Rail and District Energy: Streets paved in better then gold (Sustainable Industries)

Combining efforts to lay tracks for rail transit and at the same time put in the underground pipes for conveying district energy could leapfrog all of our sustainability efforts. Help the planet: Stop Wasting food(LA Times)

Producing it and then …

How to terrify a city by riding a bike

Editor’s note: just to be clear: this email is a satire and no one should actually follow the ideas suggested below…

[Remember this post on being terrified to ride a bike in the city? Well, here is a follow up response from guest post-er Craig Hollow]:

As a life-long member of the loose affiliation of bearded men in short pants often seen whizzing by at near-terminal velocities, a group that some might poetically refer to as the anarcho-cyclistas, I find myself uniquely qualified to share some of the wisdom gleaned from years spent rolling around Seattle on two wheels, and to provide you, dear reader and dearest rider, with valuable and true knowledge about the finer points of riding a bicycle in the paved paradise we call the city.

This information, gathered by the hard work of my very own thighs, will prepare you to wield the bicycle not as a mere tool for commuting to and from your soul-sucking job, but as a weapon against tyranny in the glorious fight for freedom of the streets. Brave rider, know that the bicycle, when properly used, may terrify the average citizen, accustomed as he is to quietly suffering his tragic automobile-induced Stockholm-syndrome, afraid to rise up and challenge the oppressive rules of the road that encumber and prevent us all from liberty.

A brief history of the Freedom Machine, commonly known as the bicycle

Since the invention of the ‘dandy horse’ in 1817 by the brilliant Baron Karl von Drais, the bicycle …

Monday News Roundup

Nov 01, 2010

Belgium’s Médiacité Shopping Mall Complete (inhabitat) The Médiacité in Liège shopping mall opened last October of 2009 in Belgium, and new photos of the naturally daylit mall and entertainment center have just been released. It is the first BREEAM certified project in Belgium.

Roosevelt Island Parking Sensors Will Point the Way to Smart Parking (Planetizen) The new “smart” parking spaces on Roosevelt Island will be outfitted with Streetline’s patented parking system which includes ultra-low power sensors that communicate with one another to deliver valuable real-time information, such as how long a car is parked and when a car enters and leaves a parking space. The initial system also lays the foundation for smart parking meters allowing for easier payments and better pricing.”

Who will be the next TTC chair? (The Star) The Star’s list of potential contender’s for the position.

Condominium market in Canada heating up (The Vancouver Sun) Condominiums have become a hot sector of the Canadian real estate market, particularly as an option for first-time homebuyers spooked by the escalating prices for single-family homes, says a report.

Huge Living Wall with 10,000 Plants Completed in Canada (inhabitat) While it’s not the largest living wall in North America, this vertical garden is certainly one of the most beautiful and diverse vertical gardens out there. With 10,000 individual plants representing more than 120 unique species, this living wall installation on the Semiahmoo Public Library and Royal Canadian Mounted Police Facility in Surrey is almost 3,000 square feet.

Israel’s …