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2014 Archive

VIA is seeking a mid-level Transit Architect for our growing San Francisco office.

VIA Architecture is a multi-disciplinary architectural and planning firm of urban strategists creating connected communities. With offices originally in Vancouver and Seattle, we’re now bringing our ability to craft thriving urban places centered around transit and integrative development to San Francisco.

Highly networked across three offices, ours is a highly interactive studio based practice concentrated in urban planning, transit systems planning and design and architecture for urban mixed-use development. Our systems-level sustainable design strategies and community-based design studio set us apart from traditional architectural practice.

About this position This is your opportunity to make an impact as part of our start-up here in San Francisco while benefiting from the deep intellectual capital, technical resources, and hands-on work-style of a capable mid-size firm. We see this position as a growth opportunity for you to learn the “VIA way” to manage and design transit facilities while moving into increasing project management responsibilities.

Responsibilities (subject to change) will generally be those of a job-captain and initially might include:

  • Participation as team member in conceptual design through construction documentation with an emphasis on leading consultant and/or in-house design and documentation teams in conjunction with the Project Manager and Project Designer.
  • Self-directed research and development of building assemblies and details and their coordination with specifications;
  • Communications and coordination with consultants;
  • Implementation of CAD and BIM standards and construction document production using Revit.

Experience Requirements

  • Architect with 7-10 years of professional practice centered around ground-transit and urban infrastructure projects. (Significant experience in other multi-disciplinary team, …

By Alan Hart, AIA Architect AIBC AAA, Founding Principal  

The dilemma is that although the City of Vancouver and its residents have, in most part, adopted the principles of mobility and growth, the other municipalities of the region have been formulating the right balance of growth and livability.

What is often forgotten is that by densifying the areas near transit, the pressure for growth in existing single family neighbourhoods is lessened. Vancouver is often associated with images of high rise towers but in fact 80% ‎of the City’s residential land area is occupied by single ‎family homes.

The regional cities are wrestling with what it means to be more urban, what the appropriate and authentic form and character should be for their cities, and what the ingredients and the necessary components are to make their cities work successfully.

For these suburban communities to move to a more urban model, it means that residents and businesses are asked to reconsider a vision for growth and livability that is significantly different to the norms that have defined suburban life for six decades: the automobile and the single family home.

At the heart of the potential transportation referendum for these suburban communities, their ‎residents and businesses, is that they are being asked choose to fund transportation initiatives that seem, at first blush, not to support the suburban lifestyle they have chosen. By pitting transit against the car in this discussion, both the suburban and urban ways of living in the region will be undermined. The focus of the …

by Graham McGarva, Architect AIBC AIA AAA LEED® AP, Founding Principal  

Vancouver – leading the way in Canadian cities’ transit infrastructure expansion VIA Architecture was recently invited by CBC-TV to provide comment on the Pembina Institute’s study of transit system in Canada’s major cities. The study highlighted that Vancouver has built the most kilometres of rapid transit over the last 3 decades. But whereas Toronto and Montreal’s 40 year old transit lines provide service within 1 kilometer of more than 30% of the population, less than 20% of Vancouver’s population has the same connectivity. Entering a Municipal election cycle where provincially controlled transportation funding is a key issue, this provided fodder for knee jerk blogging about bloated transit funding not serving the needs of the majority.

Fortunately, in conjunction with our discussions, CBC went deeper into the analysis than that. The Pembina authors had pointed out that in comparing the Cities they used the Metro Vancouver average data to match the scale of regional completeness of Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton’s civic borders. Approximately 640,000 of Metro Vancouver’s 2.4 million population live in the City of Vancouver. Using Pembina’s index of transit proximity, 54% of Vancouverites live within the rapid transit walk-shed, but less than 13% of those in the other 20 municipalities do.

Sept 5: Graham McGarva’s interview with Andrew Chang, anchor of CBC Vancouver’s evening news.

Where are we heading now? Through the joint initiative of the Mayor’s Council for metro Vancouver, TransLink has a plan for rapid transit extension that will …

by Dan Bertolet

Full build-out of the Rainier Beach light-rail station area would create a balance of businesses and housing.

It is widely established that concentrating growth near transit is a key strategy for sustainable urban development. Historically, planning for transit station areas has focused on housing rather than employment — when most people think of transit-oriented development, they picture dwellings above street-level retail.

In recent years, however, the value of planning for employment around transit has become increasingly recognized for several reasons. From a practical standpoint, jobs near transit boost ridership and help leverage transit investments. But more importantly, creating a healthy balance between employment and housing is essential for growing a complete community that maximizes opportunities for both residents and workers.

In some station areas the primary need is for new employment that builds upon the assets of the existing community and becomes a source of living-wage jobs for locals. In other cases, the main challenge is to avoid displacement of existing businesses. Industrial jobs are particularly challenging since they can conflict with residential uses, and often rely on the availability of cheap land.

Of course the catch is that there’s no easy formula for bringing high-quality jobs to desired locations. Do innovation districts just happen, or can the public sector help them along? VIA recently engaged in two employment-based planning efforts that illustrate concepts and approaches, as described below.

Employment-based redevelopment near the Rainier Beach light-rail station would create an ideal location for a farmer’s …

By Brendan Hurley

PalleTopia design as set in Surrey Centre’s Landscape.

VIA Architecture is proud to have participated in the City of Surrey’s 2014 PARKit Design Challenge. A team of VIA designers presented ‘PalleTopia’, a design to use stacked reusable pallets as modules to create a playful and multi-functional space right next to the entrance of Surrey Central Station. This endeavour was part of a public call for the design and installation of a $15,000 summer season pop-up park. PalleTopia, designed by Zhaleh Moulaei, Sophie Steer and Brendan Hurley was granted Honourable Mention amongst all of the submissions received by the City. Exercises carried out within the VIA Office in Vancouver helped develop a vision for the mini-parkit as a simultaneous node, stage and gateway to create a place that comfortably and elegantly connects the people of Surrey with their urban centre and to each other.

A new axis for Surrey’s growing centre.

This spring’s opening of Surrey’s new City Hall right next to rapid transit marks a turning point for the City’s transformation from suburb to city. It is now centred with a transit connected central business district and civic heart for its 500,000+ residents. The area around Surrey Central Station now becomes a central node in a new and future axis of the City’s core. It is a crossroads of moving people (through transit), moving commerce (with a renovated retail mall) and moving minds (with the Simon Fraser University campus and recently built public library). Yet, this …

Shared from the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, co-written by VIA’s Amanda Bryan

There’s a new type of space coming to Seattle – it’s tiny, but packed within its small stature are all kinds of good qualities. Residents are reclaiming the public right-of-way (i.e. roadway), traditionally taken-up by parked cars, for open and green space. It’s called a parklet and like the name suggests, the easiest way to describe them is as “mini open space.” And yet that term just doesn’t quite capture the breadth and beauty of these little spaces because they’re so much more than a plaza or patch of green space. Read the full article on by clicking here If you want to learn more about Seattle’s pilot program or get involved in one of the 13 parklets already being planned, consider checking out SDOT’s project website. And remember, these little parklets are being funded completely by our communities, businesses, and neighborhood organizations so if you’re short on time but still want to support the mission of these little gems, you can always help by donating! If you’d like to contribute to the 25th & Union Parklet, you can do so at this parklet’s online Crowdrise campaign.

by Brendan Hurley, VIA Architecture

The VIA team kicked off the Walk at Burrard SkyTrain Station

On Sunday May 4th, planners and architects from VIA kicked off the 2014 Jane’s Walk with a twist: our “walk” included transit, which is an integral part of the history and future of development in Vancouver. Our 2.5-hour-long urban exploration covered more than 44 km (27.5 mi) of Vancouver’s urban development context and history by including a ride on the SkyTrain.

The intent of the Jane’s Walk is to celebrate the life and works of urban thinker and activist Jane Jacobs by presenting free community tours that examine elements of what makes a city work. Our tour focused on building and enhancing walkable, connected communities by viewing transit as an extension of being a pedestrian. It revolved around the past, present, and future of transit-defined visions of the Vancouver region and its neighbourhoods.

An Ongoing Tradition of Rapid Transit

The tour covered a lot of ground AND track, but followed the historic path of transit in Vancouver. We started on the Expo Line, the oldest line of the SkyTrain rapid transit system, where portions of it followed the path of the Central Park Interurban Line that ran from 1890 until the 1950s, connecting downtown Vancouver with New Westminster. In some places, evidence of the system of 120 years ago is still exposed below the pillars of SkyTrain. The modern system is a dream of a region-connecting “people mover”—part of the legacy of the 1986 World Exposition.

As a …

As part of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, VIA opened the office to young people ages 8 to 18 who wanted to learn more about architecture and planning.

Director Catherine Calvert, who participated with 14-year-old relative, Meegan, said, “Today provided not only a great opportunity to share our profession with a curious young person, but it also allowed all of us to think back to our fascinations at that age and remember why we were drawn to the idea of becoming architects.  Almost everyone we spoke with said that they ‘just knew’ that they wanted to be a designer from a young age, and sought every possible opportunity to build, to draw, and to create.  Meegan was able to see and hear about many of VIA’s projects currently ‘on the boards,’ and learned about the profession from a variety of people at different stages of their careers.  I look forward to further conversations with Meegan about what she learned today, how she can feed her creative spirit, and how she can prepare herself for her own eventual career.”

More than 37 million youth and adults participate in Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at over 3.5 million workplaces each year, and the program has been in place for 21 years. The theme for 2014 was “Plant a Seed, Grow a Future.”

by Kate Howe, Director + Lead Planner, VIA Architecture  

At the start of 2014, the sharp criticisms of one state agency against another made California planning headlines. The State Smart Transportation Committee (SSTI), in a report to the legislature, called out Caltrans as “archaic,” incapable of adapting to a changing transportation environment, and lacking resources needed to lead in the modern, post-Interstate building era. The report enumerated the problem with a Caltrans which is at direct odds with other statewide agendas to promote smart growth, sustainability, and reduced GHG emissions through SB 375. A culture change is in order.

Taking the report at face value and diving into the wake it opened up, Caltrans’ Director, Malcolm Dougherty, together with the Leadership of Transportation Secretary, Brian Kelly, is leading a swift response.  A new mission statement published in February redirects the agency from that of “master builder” of roads and highways to an emphasis on its role as a partner within the context of an integrated and mature transportation system.  The intention is to allow for better collaboration with “self-help” counties who bring a large share of local dollars to the table for infrastructure projects, as well as a major policy realignment toward all forms of transport, that brings the department up to date. In the end, perhaps it might look more like San Francisco’s SFMTA Department of Sustainable Streets, as statewide Complete Streets in chief.

Dougherty’s comments given Tuesday at UC Berkeley, that “land use matters,” reflect the inner struggle of an agency …

Graham McGarva, Founding Principal of VIA Architecture, will be speaking at Cascadia Cities: Then + Now which is presented in conjunction with the Urban Land Institute’s The Cascadia Experience: Behind the Emerald Curtain event, exploring the unique market drivers that shape the cities of Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. The lunch program takes place Tuesday, 08 April 2014, from 12:30 – 2 pm at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle, WA.

Graham will be presenting the Vancouver perspective, alongside a panel that includes former Mayor of Seattle Norm Rice, and Scott Andrews of Melvin Mark in Portland. His presentation will include a recount of the history of Vancouver, the successes it has seen along the way—including the advent of the pencil tower, the planning and development of the False Creek area, and growth of regional transit—as well as current issues, and what the city faces in the future.

The program will cover how the geographic, cultural, economic, and environmental elements of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada have yielded unique communities. For more information visit