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Monday News Roundup

Jun 06, 2011

VIA Architecture is pleased to announce an upcoming event in conjunction with McGill University:

Community by Design: A Boomer Gift to the Next Generation

Alan Hart, AIA VIA Architecture

Sunday May 22, 2011 12:30 – 3:00 pm Smith Tower – Chinese Room 506 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Refreshments will be served No charge for admission

The Baby Boomer generation began as one of the most idealistic that engendered hope for the future and the planet. Although highly energetic and innovative, Baby Boomers have taken a lot more from the planet than we have given back.

Many of those born between the World War II and Vietnam War years only deferred thoughts of saving the world in order to make a living. Now they want to return to their roots and “make good” on early promises to themselves, and to their communities. Retirement may not be appealing either professionally or financially, but “returnment” or “encore” careers have become hugely popular as Boomers seek to spend the next chapter of their productive years doing work that is meaningful both to themselves and to the world. Embracing community, and being active agents of positive change, will be this generation’s legacy for the next generation.

This generation of 78 million now has an unprecedented opportunity to make our cities greener, healthier and happier places to live. Ideas like alternate housing choices, generational continuity, increased mobility, urban agriculture, intelligent grids, local energy/sufficiency and incremental framework for change will be explored using real world examples including some from VIA Architecture’s projects and initiatives.

Alan’s talk will be followed …

The Home Depot Foundation awarded its second annual Awards of Excellence for Sustainable Community Development to Tacoma, WA; Burlington, VT, and Boston, MA. The awards recognize and celebrate cities that are incorporating real-world sustainability initiatives into their day-to-day operations, with a focus on wise use of budget dollars and increasing the livability of each community for all residents.

City of Tacoma won the “large city” award for 2010 — with the announcement stating that they have “incorporated sustainability throughout its comprehensive plan ensuring that sustainable policies and business practices are considered when making all departmental decisions”

Here are some examples of sustainability practices that they have already implemented:

  • 25 new bike racks in the public right of way
  • Public Works is using recycled road material, including chip seal oil containing 5 percent recycled rubber tires
  • Fifteen hybrid vehicles were purchased as pool vehicles this last year, encouraging the use of fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles within the City of Tacoma. A fleet anti-idling policy has been established for General Government.
  • Tacoma Rail has installed idle reduction technologies on 10 of its 17 locomotives that have resulted in a 40 percent fuel savings.

Click here and here to see other posts that we’ve written about Tacoma.

To read more about their submission, click here.

Designing for Loss: The Shrinking City

by Amanda Bryan, VIA Architecture Photo: Philipp Oswalt; Shrinking Cities Volume 1: International Research © 2005, Germany

Philipp Oswalt and Tim Rieniets; Atlas of Shrinking Cities © 2006, Germany

Whether we’re comfortable with saying out loud or not, the American Dream is based on the idea of expansion and acquisition. First exemplified by the Louisiana Purchase, then modernized by the Interstate Highway Program, and now globalized by our corporate prosperity in countries around the world, we have gotten very good at dealing with growth. If there is one thing that Americans know how to do, it is expand, expand, expand (and yes, I know the same can be said of our waist lines). But do we know how to deal with the antithesis of expansion – shrinkage? To be specific, I’m talking about The Shrinking City, a phenomenon synonymous with the words suburbanization, deindustrialization, and decentralization.

While the issue of the Shrinking City is not unique to the United States, having found perch in old industrial belts like Eastern Germany and post-socialist regions of Russia, our Shrinking Cities are a little different because they are not the products of war, natural disaster, or governmental upheaval. The American Shrinking City is a once vibrant urban center, formerly dependent upon a highly industrialized local economy, which finds itself subject to a rapid population decline within its city boundaries and bloated with an excess of abandoned spaces and buildings.

If we look at the poster child of our nation’s car manufacturing industry, Detroit, we can see that its population …

Canada Line featured in Canadian Architect Magazine

“Eighteen months have now passed since the inaugural run of the new Canada Line, which connects the cities of Vancouver and Richmond with the Vancouver International Airport, and has already reached the capacity ridership anticipated for five years hence.”

— Sean Ruthen, writer for Canadian Architect

The Canada Line was featured in Canadian Architect‘s March magazine, and covers five of our stations, along with stations designed by other architecture firms. To read the article, you either need an online subscription, or need to request a copy of the magazine.

Our firm provided master planning for the line, and completed prototypical work for all 17 stations, including each station’s schematic design. Here is a feature of the inspiration and ideas behind the three underground stations: Yaletown, Vancouver City Centre, and Waterfront, and the two elevated stations: Marine Drive and Bridgeport.

Underground Stations

These three downtown stations represent rail, road, and the sea, and we tried to make a reflection of each of those ideas in very subtle ways.

Yaletown — Rail

Yaletown Station pulls its inspiration from the historic Yaletown loading docks in the design of its roof canopy (as seen in the photo below):

image source

It expresses the rail by using continuous horizontal bands of colored accent tile. We knew that the architecture needed to be receptive to advertising and art, so we placed the patterning so that they would become a backdrop:

Vancouver City Centre — Road

Vancouver City Centre Station was inspired by the intersection of Georgia and Granville.  Once you get down into …

University of Washington Headlines Exhibit

Beginning in 2005, the UW Architecture PAC has presented Headlines each Spring: an exhibit on public view for 2 weeks at Gould Court, traveling for exhibit at other Cascadia educational and professional venues, and visible online on the UW Department of Architecture site.

By highlighting unbuilt architectural projects under development by Washington design firms and organizations, Headlines offers the public, professionals, and campus communities a glimpse of work rarely seen outside the studio.

Schedule of HEADLINES exhibition:

April 15th to April 30th – University of Washington, Gould Hall Court TBD – Architecture Institute of British Columbia, Vancouver TBD – Washington State University, Pullman TBD – Washington State University, Spokane TBD – Montana State University TBD – Portland State University TBD – University of Oregon

We chose to feature the following two projects:

Evergreen Line – path of possibility The Evergreen Line is designed as a new 11km rapid transit line in Metro Vancouver. It will seamlessly connect the municipalities of Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody through six stations to the region’s successful SkyTrain system, local bus service and the West Coast Express commuter rail.

SR99 Tunnel Vent Buildings – urban strata The designers were asked to develop designs for two vent buildings, located at the north and south portals of the proposed SR99 Tunnel. While the functional criteria for the two buildings are very similar, the designers were faced with drastically different infrastructures, neighborhoods and built environments.

The designers were challenged to develop a flexible material palette, which would allow each building to express an identity unique to its context, while maintaining threads of continuity that make known the connectivity and kinship …

by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture

In my last post I addressed some of the common objections to the proposal of removing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts and mentioned some examples of similar initiatives. In this post I’d like to discuss some of the urban design benefits that could result.

Strathcona

Traffic on the viaducts has been steadily declining over the past 15 years. Studies show that most of the traffic accessing the downtown core via the viaducts originates in East Vancouver. In other words, this route is not part of the larger freeway/commuter network.

The viaducts during morning rush hour (8:10am Tuesday)

So if there’s really not that much traffic on Prior Street, why do the residents of Strathcona care about making it into a local street? In this case it’s a matter of quality over quantity. Prior Street may not boast the traffic volume of freeway, but the traffic certainly has the quality of major artery. The viaducts were constructed as part of a never-finished freeway network, but Prior Street was essentially designed as a neighbourhood street. There are no shoulders, large street trees, and minimal front yards. The character of this street is that of a residential collector. Functionally, Prior Street is a very uncomfortable hybrid, wherein a street that is designed to be residential gets used as freeway.

Prior Street at Jackson

Despite the 50km/h speed limit drivers often use freeway speeds. They run the red lights all the time because, in the freeway mind set, they simply don’t see them. In …

by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture

The 50’s and 60’s were the heyday of urban expansion and economic growth in North America. Miles and miles of freeways were constructed and the resultant increase in mobility led to economic growth that went far beyond the stimulus cost of the actual construction. By the 70’s and 80’s the first generation of freeways were beginning to need maintenance and repair. The cost associated with this infrastructure continued, while the economic growth it brought about had already happened.

Recently a new trend has emerged related to freeway infrastructure in North American cities: highways are being removed for the sake of urban renewal, redevelopment and the economic prospects associated with better urban design and more sophisticated transportation networks. Cities like New Haven, South Bronx, and New Orleans are getting on board. Some of them are even receiving federal funding in the form of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. (Ref. Planetizen article http://www.planetizen.com/node/46514). This recent NPR article summarizes some of the reasons for and objections to these US examples.

Here in Vancouver, the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts has been a topic of conversation for the past two years, but the conversation has recently picked up steam – and widespread support. City Counsellor Geoff Meggs has been responsible for promoting the idea with the City, but other prominent urbanists such and Bing Thom and Larry Beasley are also in favour.

On April 7th SFU’s city program hosted a public forum on the future of the …

JP Thornton, our Director of Practice in the Vancouver office was just featured in Grand & Toy. Here’s an excerpt:

Q: What’s your elevator pitch?

A: Our goal is to move beyond designing the right building and instead design the right building in the right place. We believe architecture extends past the property line and into the community. Through collaboration, we create connective communities ‘via’ architecture, that’s where our name comes from. We connect the live, the work, the play, the move and the recreational aspect of a community into an interrelated, livable, sustainable and human experience.

Q: How do you keep staff motivated and engaged?

A: Because we’re a studio our employees aren’t doing the same thing every day. One moment they may be presenting to clients, the next they may be detailing a construction project. We encourage collaboration by making sure everybody is aware of what is happening on all projects. The worst thing in the word is people working in silos and not knowing why they’re doing what they’re doing. We’re also innovative and early adopters of new technology.

To check out the rest of the Q&A, click here.

Monday News Roundup

Apr 04, 2011

GORGEOUS “Luna” faucet and shower (Design Milk) Check out this beautiful faucet and matching showerhead, inspired by the moon and stars.

Before I Die, by Candy Chang (Design Milk) [love this] In her New Orleans neighborhood, Candy turned an abandoned, graffiti-ed house into something inspiring. She covered an entire side of the house with giant chalkboards with the words stenciled “Before I die I want to _________.” She then left pieces of chalk for residents and passers-by to fill in the most important things they want to do in their lifetimes.

Mobility’s diminishing returns (Strong Towns) We like to believe that the United States is the land of opportunity. We also believe, for good reason, that increasing mobility increases opportunity. But when does this correlation break down? When do we go too far, to the point where the cost of improving and maintaining mobility actually stifles opportunity?

First Crescent in South Africa (Design Milk) The original home on this site was demolished with the exception of a small basement area, converted into a guest suite. The oddly-shaped lot offers beautiful views of the Camps Bay beach and Lion’s Head to the north. Everything about this home takes advantage of the views from the windows to the outside space and cantilevered roof.

Is sprawl over? (The Transportationist) In what is believed to be a turning point in American history, new figures from the U.S. Census indicate that suburban sprawl might be coming to an end.

Ideas for …