Halloween is an urbanist holiday (shhh don’t tell anybody).
Halloween as a Holiday – more than any other – is about neighbourhood. It is a holiday that teaches and surpasses what it means to be part of a community. I have a strong connection to this holiday, and as an adult still dress up in costume to both enjoy the night with my neighbours and to hand out candy to children and compliment their costumed efforts to keep that neighbourly tradition alive. However, as a planner and urban designer, this holiday taught me a great deal. As a child dragging a pillowcase full of sugar treats through the night, I learned a lot about city-building, even if I wasn’t aware at the time.
This is a holiday that survives on social capital, but is also innately reliant on the built environment. The basic premise is right in the phrase joyfully screamed at each doorway: “Trick-or-Treat!” It is a social contract that demands participation from both sides (I give more candy to those with more effort and heart in their costumes), but is also inherently connects that participation to the larger community. The act of decorating yards with jack-o-lanterns is to be explicit about participation as a “neighbour”. The young, going from door to door, are shown their connection to their community and their place with each glowing pumpkin or “scary” display, expressing connection and distinctiveness of each “home”.
Best Neighbourhoods for Trick-or-Treating
The tradition of Trick or Treating, as it still exists, by its nature of going from door to door is a very urban act. One thing it teaches a child (or at least this planner-to-be) is about livable density. Because my family had moved through a number of neighbourhoods when I was young, I started realizing that not all were built equally for the door-to-door quest. The desire for MORE CANDY forced into me a realization that some neighbourhoods were hard to walk through and garnered little loot, while others left me with more candy than my small arms could carry.
The main metric for success of a trick or treater, at least as Seinfeld reminisces, is to “GET CANDY”. What made these neighbourhoods different was their form.
Legends of wealthy suburban houses giving out full size candy bars, didn’t chalk up to the knowledge that I could fill a pillow case to capacity if I went through the socialized row houses and tight packed smaller houses of inner-city working class family neighbourhoods. At a young age I worked out a simple equation: More doors to the street per block = MORE CANDY= better.
At VIA, we like to back-up our poetic declarations with mathematics, so I have decided to ruin my inner child’s favorite holiday with math homework.
I looked at three representative neighbourhoods in Vancouver, BC (where I grew up) to calculate where a child could get the best candy haul.
I have bounded those areas into a 200m (700ft) square. This 4 hectare (10 acre) box gives us at least a couple of blocks to examine and explore as a hypothetical trick-or-treater. As a planner it also gives us some consistency of built form.
As a trick-or-treater, any door to a street is a possibility for candy. Participation varies, but let’s suggest most houses will participate in handing out candy. For this I will assume that each house represents a piece of candy, and that some houses will give out more candy, making up for non-participants – who will have their houses rightfully egged. I have also broken down the units by frontage types:
Doors to the Street [represented below with an Orange candy]: These units have a stoop or door facing public space.
Potential Doors to The Street [represented below with a Blue Candy]: These units have access that could potentially be opened to the public, but face what is often shared or private open spaces. In the case of houses, these could also be counted for secondary dwelling units.
Retail Frontages [represented below with a Red Candy]: These sometimes participants should not be excluded from the festivities especially in mixed use neigbourhoods.
Above Grade Apartment Units [represented below with a Black Candy]: These units are often not directly accessible to the street and were not counted. These inaccessible apartments show why a direct unit-count might not be as useful of a metric, especially in terms of filling a pillow case. I have not included these in the count.
In order for an accurate experience of trick-or-treating to be presented I felt it was worth showing the amount of approximate linear distance a child would have to walk to complete their bon-bon run.
I should note that I calculated this as a general distance and did not include the small movement into and out of yards for individual houses. To show this movement, sets of footprints on the diagram represents about 100m (300ft) of walking and generally how far someone would have to walk in order to knock on all the doors of the neighbourhood.
By The Numbers, What Are the Best Neighbourhoods for Trick or Treating?
Inner City Neighbourhoods
The old streetcar neighbourhood that I examined is pretty typical of Vancouver or many inner-city streetcar era neighbourhoods across North America. It has lanes, ~10 m (33 ft) wide lots, regularized streets, and many single family homes.
4 hectare (10 acres) of this older urbanism has the ability to present 73 doors to knock on.
19 doors per hectare (8 per acre)
With 1100m (0.7mi) to walk that’s 7pieces of Candy per 100m (300ft)
With the inclusion of secondary suites (I only counted five explicit side doors, but there are likely more) and laneway suites that count could increase substantially. I easily see it filling to 30 more and filling the pillow case up beyond 100 candies and ten pieces per 100m. But that would come with official addressing and legalization of those suites.
Sub Urban Neighbourhoods
The loop and lollipop suburban neighbourhood that I looked at was in the far south-east of the City. This is not a common layout in Vancouver proper, but is very typical of most of the City’s post-war auto-oriented suburbs. It has no lanes, 15m+ (50ft+) wide lots, curvilinear and disconnected streets, and only single family homes.
4 hectare (10 acres) of this auto-oriented form has the ability to present 58 doors on which to knock.
14.5 doors per hectare (6 per acre)
With ~900m (0.56mi) to walk, that’s six to seven pieces of candy per 100m (300ft)
This is a thinner pillowcase of candy. It is difficult for neighbourhoods like this to grow without changing how they are laid out, but there is potential for infill and secondary suites here. I will however note that this area in Champlain Heights is adjacent a number of housing complexes that are much denser and connected than these houses. In fact they are an older analogue to our last examined neighbourhood type.
This mixed-use redevelopment in the Cedar Cottage neighbourhood infills the typical urban grid of Vancouver, but adds a layer of new development and new connections. It activates all of its edges with doors directly facing the street and lanes. This is not as typical in Vancouver, but is a development type that is gaining traction in many recently re-planned areas. Many of the design lessons here are connected to the older housing complexes in False Creek South and Champlain Heights (great trick-or-treating neighbourhoods in their own right). It has lanes and a mix of lot sizes, but tight frontages and minor, to even non-existent, setbacks.
4 hectare (10 acres) of this pedestrian- and transit-oriented form has the ability to present 121 doors facing the street on which to knock.
30 doors per hectare (12 per acre)
With 1400m (1.1mi) to walk, that’s 8.5 pieces of Candy per 100m (300ft)
With the inclusion of the second layer of rowhouses and retail frontages the number of potential candy doors increases to 195. That is 14 pieces of candy per 100m (300ft). I will also note that this neighbourhood is only a little more than halfway through its redevelopment and that future potential is not counted in this analysis.
WINNER: This is the most overflowing bag of candy. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: Parents from other neighbourhoods, please don’t take advantage of these nice people.)
Jack-o-Lanterns on the Street
Anecdotally, I have found that the densities of frontages also mean that more people participate in making front door displays and giving out candy. It becomes part of a localized culture. Intrinsically, I knew other things about these neighbourhoods as well: they are more likely to have more movement choices and access to transit and they were more likely to have a mix of uses, including some retailers that would give out treats (unfortunately less likely to be coveted chocolate). I am observing that retailers have an increasing role in this holiday, and now indoor malls often have day-time trick-or-treating events as well. In many suburban areas these malls may be the strongest concentration of doors that children will know… but I still feel it pales to true night time trick-or-treating.
I also want to note that I am not including the apartments in these calculations as they are inaccessible to the candy searchers on the street. If these neighbourhoods were made of apartments with lobbies, such as those commonly built in many core neighbourhoods in the 1930s through 1970s, the number here could drop to as low as 25 doors accessible to the street. In this way, the densest neighbourhoods could by far provide the lowest number of treats (one to two candies per 100m of effort) for local children.
I have found, as a planner, that this jack-o-lantern metric holds up as a definer of urban livability. It is a function of density, but it is also about neighbourhood connection and activation. If a neighbourhood has more units with more connection to its streets, the likelihood of those streets being part of a child’s territory is also increased. These are generally healthier neighbourhoods with active opportunities for interaction and social capital-building. They are healthier, save for the increased risk of cavities carried in their heavier pillowcases and treat buckets every October 31st.
VIA is hard at work on the new location for the Tacoma Amtrak Station at Freighthouse Square. The project was featured yesterday in Tacoma’s local new site, The News Tribune:
Nearly two years after state officials unveiled a preliminary design for Tacoma’s new Amtrak station to critical comments from Tacoma citizens and the architectural community, a final rendering is being rolled out this week by the Washington Department of Transportation.
The final image bears little resemblance to the warehouse-like initial concept. The planned station has been relocated from the west end of historic Freighthouse Square to the 100-year-old former Milwaukee Road freighthouse’s middle section. The corrugated metal walls envisioned in the original plan have been replaced with extensive glass walls, some of which will move upward in pleasant weather to make the station area open-air. A second track and an additional loading platform have been added to the station’s south side to allow for two trains to be handled simultaneously. A public corridor also has been added on the station’s street side to connect the two sections of Freighthouse Square separated by the station.
Block Party attendees were invited to try their hand at city planning by placing yellow LEGO® bricks onto a large map of Seattle. The goal of the activity was to educate the participants on how and where Seattle is planning to grow, and what tradeoffs the City must consider when planning for that growth. Participants had the opportunity to shape their own solutions for how to accommodate the 120,000 new neighbors projected to arrive in Seattle between now and 2035.
The VIA team started with a map of the Seattle’s urban villages—areas the City designates in its comprehensive plan as centers for growth. In each urban village, we calculated the approximate number of people that center was expected to add and decided to represent those people with yellow LEGO® bricks, with each brick representing roughly 100 people. The task was to distribute the bricks across the urban villages according to City plans, or to propose one’s own strategy for providing homes for Seattle’s growing population.
What we found was no surprise—while people were interested in learning about the City’s plans, they were much more interested in creating their own rules. Creative new ideas about housing, many from the City’s next generation, included a wide range of approaches—from a new multifamily Space Needle to a neighborhood-sized treehouse to a residential megastructure bridging Elliott Bay.
Many cited proximity to parks and transit when placing their bricks, and others questioned convention by placing theirs over water as well as within industrial districts. Over the course of the event one thing became clear: when invited to collaborate and engage in creative activity, people approach a complex problem in a playful way, crossing demographic barriers and giving rise to a rich diversity of outcomes.
Given all the challenges we face as a growing city, VIA will continue to look for creative ways to engage our clients and the public in a creative dialogue about our common future.
VIA is currently seeking candidates to join our team in the position of CFO/Controller in our Vancouver office.
The CFO/Controller is accountable for the administrative, financial, and risk-management operations of the company, with specific fiduciary duties and reporting to the company ownership. This includes development of a financial and operational strategy, the metrics tied to that strategy, and the ongoing development and monitoring of control systems designed to preserve company assets and report accurate financial results. These are all developed within the overall vision and business approach of the company ownership, with the responsibility of the CFO/Controller to ensure ethical regulatory compliance.
Principal responsibilities, and thereby accountability, lie in three general areas:
The ideal candidate will have a least ten years senior management experience , a related University Degree, as well as excellent communication, judgment, and interpersonal skills.
We offer a comprehensive salary package with benefits commensurate with experience/skill level.
Interested qualified applicants may submit a letter of interest and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please no unsolicited calls or office visits.
We seek a mid-to-senior-level Architect/Project Manager for our growing San Francisco office.
About this position
This is your opportunity to make an impact in our start up San Francisco office while benefitting from the intellectual capital, technical resources, and hands-on work-style of an established mid-size firm. We see this position as an opportunity to learn the “VIA way” to manage and design urban infrastructure while advancing your project management and practice leadership skills and responsibilities.
Responsibilities (subject to change, based on specific strengths and interests of candidate) will generally be those of a project architect and might include:
Applicants must meet minimum experience and skill qualifications to be considered for this position.
Salary and Benefits
Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience. Generous benefits are offered to employees, their spouses, domestic partners and families, including: medical/dental insurance, retirement funds contribution matching, and transit subsidy.
How to Apply
VIA is an equal-opportunity employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, religion, disability, sex, sexual-orientation or gender-identity.
Please submit cover letter, resume and work samples in PDF format (no more than 3MB please).
Email with “Urban infrastructure Architect/Project Manager” in subject-line.
Send to: Kate Howe, Director email@example.com
No phone calls or office visits please.
In collaboration with the Pomegranate Center, VIA’s Community Design Studio is providing design services for a free-standing beach house pavilion in Neah Bay, WA. Situated on the dramatic Pacific Ocean-facing shore known as Hobuck Beach, the pavilion is located near the northwest tip of the contiguous United States. Its covered space will provide the Makah Tribe with gathering space for community events and dance rehearsals, as well as a separate artist studio designed to accommodate carving and weaving activities. The heavy timber columns showcase carved designs by the local artists.
The majority of the structure was completed in the winter of 2014/2015, and it has been named Be?is, which means “Beach House” in the traditional Makah language. From today (Friday, April 10) through Thursday, April 15 the Makah community, the Pomegranate Center, Forterra, and a few representatives from VIA will be participating in a build event to complete the remaining artistic elements of the project.
A total of 40 cedar benches will be constructed and carved. The carved elements are designed such that, when not in use, the benches can be stacked in groups of five to reveal a complete image. During inclement weather, the bench stacks can be placed between the carved columns to block wind-driven rain and allow the events to continue.
Large profile cedar channel siding will be installed on the artist studio, referencing the traditional Makah longhouse construction in a modern way. The leftover live edge cuts from the benches will be used as creative treatment around the doors and edges of the artist studio to make it unique and eliminate material waste. Artists will be creating woven cedar elements which will be cast in resin panels and installed in lieu of glass into the doors to the studio.
An outdoor fire circle will be constructed of stones from the site, along with stepped access down to the beach.
This is going to be a very exciting event, bringing together folks from all walks of life and various communities to create art and realize a vision. Stay tuned for final project images!
The Queensway Transit Exchange in Kelowna British Columbia acts as a gateway to Kelowna’s downtown. While providing transit connectivity to the best of the City’s entertainment, cultural, and employment districts, the Exchange acts as a placemaker and visual enhancement to Kelowna’s core.
This landmark canopy is a single-story, semi-enclosed structure with a curved roof that provides weather protection for the transit island and its eight bus stops. In line with VIA’s Third Idea, BC’s Wood First Act plays an important role in the design and construction of the canopy.
The glue-laminated timber beam and decking panel provide a naturally beautiful structural roof span nine meters wide by 57 meters long. Minimal steel tree columns delicately hold up the roof span, increasing visual access throughout the facility, enhancing overall visibility and sightline safety. A lattice screen, together with wind deflectors, will provide additional shelter from the elements. Seating pods at each of the three wind deflectors will be arranged loosely in an arc under the canopy to encourage transit patrons to sit and congregate while awaiting their next transfer.
This canopy is currently under construction and is projected to be fully operational by the end of April 2015.
We are interested in exceptional candidates with strong analytical and communication skills who are passionate and involved in community-building at all scales. This person will work within our multidisciplinary team to provide management and leadership on high-rise residential, commercial and public transit projects.
Salary and Benefits
Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience. Generous benefits, including medical/dental insurance, retirement funds contribution matching, and transit subsidy.
How to Apply
Please email resume in PDF with cover letter/email, and “Project Manager” in subject-line, attention Catherine Calvert, AIA, firstname.lastname@example.org:
Intermediate Planner/Urban Designer
We are currently seeking candidates to join our team for the position of Intermediate Planner/Urban Designer to manage long-range planning and policy assignments, including station area, comprehensive and sub area plans as well as large scale infrastructure policy and planning. This person will work closely with our cross disciplinary team committed to place-based design.
We are interested in exceptional candidates with strong analytical and communication skills who are passionate and involved in community building at all scales.
How to Apply
Please email resume in PDF with cover letter/email, and Intermediate Planner/Urban Designer in subject-line, attention:
Charlene Kovacs, Architect AIBC, Managing Director
Applicants must meet minimum qualifications for education and experience to be considered for this position.
In 2013, VIA’s Matt Roewe, his wife, and his sketchbooks took a trip through Europe. These are some of his sketches (you may click an image to view it larger).