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2010 Archive

Monday News Roundup

May 03, 2010

Every Monday, we post links to articles and blogs that you may have missed from last week. Enjoy!

Couch Cushion Architecture; A Critical Analysis (Build Blog)A fun look at couch cushion architecture and how it establishes the “basic building blocks of our design logic.”

Vancouver peddling safer cycle paths (Vancouver Sun)City wants to boost bicycle ridership in the downtown core with more separated bike paths.

Aging Burrard Bridge not failing: city engineer (Vancouver Sun)Concrete barriers on the Burrard Bridge are not causing structural problems, city engineers say. The falling pieces of concrete on the south side of the bridge are a normal aging process that officials are monitoring.

A post-Olympic dawn, with a bit of a hangover (Vancouver Sun)B.C.’s economy has much going for it, but a coherent strategy for the future is still missing

Road Lobbyists Take Hit From Livability Movement (Planetizen) The concept of “livability” seems to be catching on — both at a local level and up in the federal government. This is especially true in the Department of Transportation. That could mean bad news for the road building lobby.

22 cities exploring streetcar systems (GOOD) According to Scientific American, 22 cities are actively exploring new streetcar systems.

Urban agriculture upsetting the neighborhood (The Globe and Mail) Vancouver homeowner says neighbours’ ambitious vegetable plot is an eyesore eating away at his bungalow’s property value

Do it yourself maps of realtime information (Human Transit) Eric Fischer wondered how fast San Francisco’s transit …

by Kate Howe, urban planner for VIA Architecture

As planners and designers of award-winning projects like South East False Creek in Vancouver, we’re always interested in innovative development approaches that lead to financially viable sustainable neighborhoods. One such project currently in development is Dockside Green in Victoria, BC.

This project is comprised of light industrial and mixed uses along the waterfront, with commercial, residential and open space tied to a walkable neighborhood. At full build-out, Dockside will have 2,500 people in three neighborhoods and 26 buildings totaling 1.3 million square feet.

What is most interesting about DockSide Green is not just its green building and urban design, but that it is financed and 100% owned by Canada’s largest Credit Union, VanCity – which donates 30% of its profits towards community development. For an America bedraggled by our Wall Street bail outs, and besotted with financial institutions who seem to be competing for most out-of-touch, this idea seems simply radical.

The project is still in its first phases, but according to the developer (Joe Van Belleghem, also the head of the Canadian Green Building Council and Windmill West development) overall costs were just ONE percent more than a traditional development. And yet, each of its 26 buildings will achieve LEED Platinum….how is this possible?

Well, when the numbers are added up, it becomes clear that sustainability makes business sense. Windmill West uses what they call a “holistic costing method” combined with integrated site and building design. The commercial and residential buildings share energy …

Monday News Roundup

Apr 26, 2010

Every Monday, we post links to articles and blogs that you may have missed from last week. Enjoy!  America’s least wasteful cities (GOOD)Apparently, the water bottle makers at Nalgene also produce (or simply commission) a pretty good survey of which cities are the least wasteful.

Bring on the Bikes! (Infrastructurist)Cycling Rises 28% in New York City

Should we plan transit for bikeability?  (Human Transit)As cycling becomes more and more popular, how should transit planning respond?

Project — Help us create Neighbor Day (GOOD)Admit it: Your neighborhood isn’t like Mister Rogers’s. You don’t know the name of your postal carrier or beat cop, or even the person who lives next door. But why shouldn’t you? These people who occupy the orbit of your house have the potential to turn an otherwise dull domestic existence into the rich experience we used to know as community.

British Pavilion; Chelsea Barracks  (Guardian)‘Outstandingly memorable’ … Thomas Heatherwick’s design at Shanghai Expo

Sson 028  (Cool Hunting)A new minimal fixed gear from Stockholm, complete with a travel-friendly bike crate

Recruiting kids for Greenmyparents  (Oregon Live)Greenmyparents wants to build an army of green kids, lauching on Earth Day

Share your yard (GOOD) A list of all of the potential benefits when you share your yard with neighbors

Green tracks — spot the wires  (The Overhead Wire)It’s called, spot the wires. Sure are ruining this nature scene for everyone!

by Catherine Calvert, VIA’s Director of Community Architecture

I’m starting to get an uneasy feeling. It’s not a new feeling, but one that’s been nagging at me for some time, and has only been heightened since the basic failure of anything substantial to be accomplished at the climate talks in Copenhagen back in December. 

As a part of a firm that spends a lot of time practicing and thinking about sustainable design, it’s been easy to feel that our good work will make a difference toward efforts to change the course of our planet’s climatic transformation. To quote the US Green Building Council, “As the built environment accounts for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, the green building movement has an unprecedented opportunity to make a major contribution to new global carbon reduction targets. [We need to] understand how we can work together to show that green building represents one of the most direct, immediate and cost-effective opportunities to help tackle climate change.”

But it’s not enough. Bill McDonough was so correct in his 2002 groundbreaking book Cradle to Cradle, when he said “being less bad is no good.” Making slightly better choices under the banner of green building only has the potential to slow down the pace at which our climate is changing, but is highly unlikely to prevent it.

It’s kind of ironic that people refer to “destruction of the planet” as the result of our untamed use of energy and resources to feed our …

Monday News Roundup

Apr 19, 2010

Every Monday, we post links to articles and blogs that you may have missed from last week. Enjoy!  10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On Earth (io9)Cities are havens for weirdness. From communities built around garbage to dogs that ride the subway, urban environments have fostered all manner of weird patterns. Here are the 10 freakiest urban ecosystems on the planet.

Planning a Post-Carbon World ( article on sustainability planning for North Vancouver by Patrick Condon

It Isn’t Easy Building Green (NYTimes)Michelle Kaufmann on the rise and fall of her green pre-fab housing business – and the future of environmentally responsible housing.

Saving shrinking cities in Germany (GOOD) Parts of former East Germany have been shrinking, Detroit-style, for many years now. And consequently, Germany has a jump on the States in figuring out how to adjust when a city naturally needs to downsize.

Vancouver’s 1975 Transit Plan (Regarding Place)In 1975, the Bureau of Transit Services prepared a transit service plan for downtown Vancouver. Now that 35 years have passed, it’s time to look at what actually got built.

Tri-Met in motion (The Overhead Wire)This is a really cool simulation of bus and train movements in Portland from the Walk Score Page

Light Form: Gorgeous Wood Wall Panels Flip Up to Reveal Light(Inhabitat)

The Perfect Neighborhood  (GOOD)What makes a model neighborhood? GOOD Magazine devotes an issue to the topic, beginning with a list of traits that make a neighborhood great.

Cool Website: Sustainable Cities “Provides knowledge on sustainable urban planning and …

by Matt Roewe, aka Dr. Density, aka VIA’s Director of Mixed Use + Major Projects

 Capitol Hill Housing sponsored a spirited panel discussion April 14th on what to do with land above and around the new Capitol Hill underground light rail station. The residual lands around the station are the result of a massive excavation to build a concrete station box 65’ underground which also connects to the surface with three head house entrances. The result is the demolition of one and half city blocks in the most authentic, fine grained and densely populated urban neighborhoods in the northwest. As one can imagine, in the heart of Seattle’s most bohemic community, all eyes are focused on the development potential here and how it will fit aesthetically, culturally, socially and ecologically.

150 people attended this event which was held in The Erickson Black Box Theater on Harvard Avenue. I was asked to be a panel member along with several other well known civic and community leaders:

  • Dow Constantine, King County Executive, Sound Transit Board Member
  • Cathy Hillenbrand, Co-Chair, Capitol Hill TOD Champions
  • Grace Kim, Architect, Schemata Workshop
  • Michael Malone, Developer, founder, Hunters Capital
  • Alex Steffens, Author, founder and executive editor,

An extensive series of public meetings has been ongoing for about three years, including design charrettes, Sound Transit briefings, and city sponsored station area planning. A long list of aspirations and expectations have been developed by the stakeholders including a “woonerf” type lane (in the …

Monday News Roundup

Apr 12, 2010

Every Monday, we post links to articles and blogs that you may have missed from last week. Enjoy!

Architectural Activism (Archinect)Campaign to save Kreuzberg Tower gets results!

City gardening policy in action (Vancouver Courier) I recommend chard.

Green and Affordable Homes, Out of the Box (The Tyee) The first of a three part report on everyone’s favourite ironic mashup of globalism and affordable housing: the shipping container.

Slideshow: Solar power, shaped up (MIT) 3-D shapes covered in solar cells could produce more power than flat panels, MIT researchers find.

Bonn to Cancun (Grist)Negotiators agree to continue efforts on international global warming

China Is Eager to Bring High-Speed Rail Expertise to the U.S. (NY Times) Nearly 150 years after American railroads brought in thousands of Chinese laborers to build rail lines across the West, China is poised once again to play a role in American rail construction. 

Different Projects to check out  (Icon Magazine)

Being a Bright Neighbor (Good) Could the threat of a peaking oil supply lead to a hyperlocal revolution? A group of Portlanders thinks so.

Cycling city leaders (Seattle PI) More and more officials opt for two wheels over four

Notes from Seattle’s Carbon Neutral Unconference (World Changing)Carbon neutrality is a simple idea with complicated details: it’s hard to define and far-reaching in its implications.

USA=New Hampshire (GOOD) There are about 300 Million people in the US, spread out over 3,794,101 sq miles — but what if we wanted to all fit into one state …

guest post by Jake Tobin Garrett (Beyond Robson)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from VIA Architecture’s post-Olympic discussion. Like many in the city, I have reached an Olympic saturation point—meaning that discussion, debate, and musing on the Olympics seems to be all I have been doing. Basically: I’m full. But with the Olympics being such a huge event that took years of planning and practically held the city hostage (physically and mentally) for months, it’s kind of difficult to let it slip past.

VIA brought together an interesting and complimentary set of speakers, three of whom spoke from a professional background, and one of whom, a torchbearer, spoke from a more personal background. On the professional side, there was Matthew Roddis, an urban designer with the City of Vancouver; Matt Craig, senior transportation planner and Olympic transportation at TransLink; and Annette O’Shea, the executive director of the Yaletown Business Improvement Association (BIA). On the personal side, was torchbearer Mark Hoag, an accountant who landed the position through a lottery system prior to the games.

I was most interested to hear what Matthew Roddis and Matt Craig had to say, as the planning that both the city and TransLink went through before the Olympics seems to me a monstrous task that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. The pressure to design and facilitate a smoothly run performance in their respective fields was, I’m sure, immense and complex.

Place + Placelessness

Apr 02, 2010

by Kate Howe, Urban Planner for VIA Architecture

We planners like to use the term sense of place as shorthand. “Place-making” is an everyday verb where I work. But it’s really a complex term, and what does “place” really mean anyways!? I thought I would write some thoughts on it to help me approach our new planning project work on Seattle’s East Side.

The term, “a sense of place” evolved from the work of Canadian geographer Edward Relph in his classic phenomenological study Place and Placelessness. The book, written in the post modern mid-seventies, explores the value that local human behavior, practice, and lived experience have on the formation of our built environment.

Relph wrote that a “sense of place” has to do with the interchange between three essentials — location, landscape, and personal involvement; but that each by itself is insufficient. He recognized that how we design our communities is more than all else, a battle of identity. And place shapes who we are and what we will become.

For example, Seattle as a geographically bounded “place” relies on any number of historic events that defined interaction with our unique ecology: the Ballard locks and fisherman’s terminal, the cherry trees on Lake Washington Blvd, craftsman houses, or the relentless march of our rectilinear grid from the shoreline to the hills. Relph wrote that a “sense of place” has to do with the interchange between three essentials—location, landscape, and personal involvement; but that each by itself is insufficient. He recognized …

Monday News Roundup

Mar 29, 2010