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VIA is currently participating in the 8th annual HEADLINES exhibit at the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments. The exhibit displays a preview of unbuilt work, both local and international, providing an overview of the design influence and innovation that northwest practitioners contribute to the region and across the globe.

The HEADLINES exhibit, which represents the work of more than 50 local design firms, highlights projects that are currently “on the boards.” By focusing on projects that are still in design, the exhibit facilitates a dialogue between the region’s professional and academic communities about design concepts and ideas, and it allows the public a glimpse of how the studio process shapes the early stages of a project. Each entry features a “headline,” a word or phrase that describes the project’s principal design concept, and is limited to one display board on which to communicate the essence and primary features of the project.

After spending two weeks on display at the University of Washington, the exhibit will travel to other schools of architecture throughout the Northwest. Past exhibits have been displayed at the Architectural Institute of British Columbia in Vancouver; Washington State University; Montana State University; Portland State University; and the University of Oregon.

The annual HEADLINES exhibit is organized by the Department of Architecture Professionals Advisory Council (PAC). The PAC is made up of local architects and other design professionals as well as members of the UW Department of Architecture. The group bridges the professional and academic realms of design practice in order create and facilitate a dialogue that includes both an awareness of marketplace realities and trends of the professional world as well as the issues and concerns faced by educational institutions. VIA has been an active member of the PAC for the past four years and is a regular contributor to and supporter of the HEADLINES exhibit.

HEADLINES 2013: Architecture Looking Ahead will be on exhibit through April 25, 2012 at Gould Court in the main exhibit hall at the University of Washington College of Built Environments.

by Jemae Hoffman, Director at VIA Architecture

Community leaders held a press conference on March 26th at Rainier Beach High school, announcing that they are banding together in an ambitious effort to renovate Rainier Beach High into the greenest high school in the State.

photo credit: Rainier Valley Post

Southeast Seattle parents, community members, the Rainier Beach Foundation, and the Rainier Beach Empowerment Coalition have rallied support from the City of Seattle and Denis Hayes (Bullitt Foundation and Point32) for a consultation on retrofitting Rainier Beach High School as the first LEED Platinum Green school in the State.  VIA has been supporting the Rainier Beach Community in implementing their vision for the light rail station area; laying the groundwork for an Innovation District.

Rainier Beach High School is one of the few schools that were not prioritized for renovation in the recent school levy funding package passed by voters.  That fact upset some Rainier Beach high school students so much that they staged a walkout.  The student organizers were inspirational in their hopes for a better future for their community, and a highlight of the press conference was their Principal giving these students a glowing introduction.  Denis Hayes commented:

“This is the first time I have ever heard a Principal glowingly introduce students who organized a walkout”

Another great quote was from LaCretiah Claytor , with the Rainier Beach Empowerment Coalition and PSTA:

“As James Brown said ‘Don’t give us anything, open the door and we will get it ourselves’”

The high school, often known for its academic and social failures, is on the rise to becoming one of Seattle Public Schools’ most thriving institutions, and one of the most thriving in the State. Rainier Beach High School will soon be certified as an International Baccalaureate (IB) brand, while its CTE programs evolve with Microsoft TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) which places Microsoft engineers in a team teaching role within classes in grades 9 to 12 to teach computer science in cooperation with an existing in-service teacher.

It’s still unknown what renovation cost will be, and there are no current funding commitments; however, spearheaders and supporters are committed to creating an innovative building that they believe would complement Rainier Beach’s innovative programs. The first fundraiser is scheduled for May 11 at 6pm at the Sho­Ware Center in Kent, where some of the nation’s best high-school basketball players are expected to participate in a West Coast All-Star Classic game. Current NBA players who graduated from Rainier Beach High are also are expected to participate.

PeterJansenPeter Jansen was VIA’s IT wizard for nearly twelve years, based out of our Vancouver office. Peter had been fighting with cancer for almost a year, and we are sad to announce that on Saturday morning he lost that battle. Peter will be sorely missed. He was a special person with a huge and generous spirit, always wanting to help others, and was infinitely patient with all of our questions and problems. VIA will not be the same without him.

Our Seattle office would not exist without Peter.  His knowledge of networking allowed us to envision what a fully connected, cross-border practice would look like, which was no mean feat in the early days of networking.  Everything we have available to do our work, from dual processors to up-to-date software to spam filtering to nightly synching between offices — all of this happens because of Peter’s efforts.  His family joked that he bled VIA blue, and there was a truth to this — his loyalties were fierce, and we were so glad he was on our side.

Peter had a passion for many things.  One of those passions was the music of Led Zeppelin. So the next time you hear a Led Zeppelin song hold a special thought for Peter.

Peter leaves behind his wife Tina and his 7 year old son Taran, and they have a tough road ahead without Peter.  Please keep them in your hearts and thoughts, and be grateful for health and family.

Dr. Wendy Sarkissian goes to a public open house event after speaking to VIA about the need for LOVE in discussions of density.

Dr. Wendy Sarkissian goes to a public open house event after speaking to VIA about the need for LOVE in discussions of density.


In March, VIA Architecture’s Vancouver office was delighted to host a presentation by Dr. Wendy Sarkissian. Having just finished series of lectures with Harvard’s Graduate Design School, Wendy stopped into Vancouver on her way back to Australia, where she lives and bases her practice. She talked with our staff and guests about public engagement needed when engaging communities with density and about an underpinning need for love in planning and design processes.  Using the city-building fields’ “psychological” roots to explore the social and emotional dimensions of housing, Wendy enquires on what is missing in higher density housing in North America and Australia and why NIMBYism persists.

Canadian-born Wendy Sarkissian has worked as a social planning consultant and academic in Australia since 1969. The author of eight books on community engagement, planning and housing, she is a Life Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia. Wendy has worked in a great variety of planning contexts, including inner city and suburban community renewal, high-rise housing evaluation and innovative community engagement programs. Her engagement and thinking about the social aspects of housing has roots in her teaching at UC Berkeley in the late 1970s, her forty years of professional practice and her co-authoring (with Clare Cooper Marcus) of a classic book on the social aspects of housing design: Housing as if People Mattered (University of California, 1986).

Nimby Density and Loving Attention in Planning:

The West End of Boston was razed in urban renewal projects that were common in the second half of the 20th Century. Similar devastating impacts are still felt by many communities, and have tainted redevelopment and urban intensification efforts ever since. Photo credit: West End Museum

The West End of Boston was razed in urban renewal projects that were common in the second half of the 20th Century. Similar devastating impacts are still felt by many communities, and have tainted redevelopment and urban intensification efforts ever since. Photo credit: West End Museum


Offering her Homing Instinct model, Wendy proposes that if we are to design community engagement processes to address delicate, sensitive psychological issues about our core territories of housing and home, we are going to have to start by showing a lot more love, care and emotional intelligence than we have in the past.

Sarkissian presented to the group that Not-In-My-Back-Yard sentiments often have legitimate underpinnings. Change is threatening, especially where design products are not identifiable or are disconnected to the lives and living of those that will be impacted by development. In many cases the unitary products of dense housing design are not identifiable as “housing” and especially not as “homes”. She suggests that there are 30 years of existing literature and work on the psychology and frameworks for humane housing design. When we ignore the impacts of inhumane design we risk creating palpable impacts, and can reasonably expect that communities will reject and even fight those impositions in their “Back Yards”.

In Seattle NIMBY action halted renewal associated with the Alaska Way Viaduct, which came close to removing the now celebrated Pike Place Market. Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives.

In Seattle NIMBY action halted renewal associated with the Alaska Way Viaduct, which came close to removing the now celebrated Pike Place Market. Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives.


Root Shock, the real grief experienced when a sense of place is lost due to neighbourhood restructuring or disaster, fears of potential futures. The NIMBY cases often react to such fears, and neighbourhood restructuring in North America and Australia has a history of massive impacts to communities and neighbourhoods. Wendy spoke of the West End of Boston where redevelopment ripped out the heart of immigrant communities and where she could feel echoes of loss and pain in now desolate places.

In public engagement processes, respect for the legitimacy of community fears must be balanced and addressed with anticipatory processes about finding products that can and could be. Sarkissian presents a necessity to go back to the power of the literature from around the time of that “summer of love” and respond to NIMBY concerns with models and processes rooted in “LOVE”, where:

L is for Listening, ensuring that ideas and concerns have a place to be heard and recorded;

O is for Openness, to provide inclusivity to realize the array of voices and acknowledge those who may be otherwise unheard;

V is for Validation, where respect for local views is also diligent in addressing the contexts of influence and power in decision making that can overwhelm or undermine the impact of engagement for individual and marginalized community members; and

E is for Education, where the process is about expanding on both sides community capacity, literacy, and understanding in terms of sustaining our living earth, with the understanding that our engagement and design activities with regard to density are being carried to enable a sustainable future.

There are many strategies to engaging communities with this “LOVE”, but Wendy warns of the crucial need for diligence in engagement.

A process must understand that people think, process, and produce differently. Wendy referred to Neural Linguistic Programming, wherein the way a world is understood creates and requires products that engage multiple senses. Some people will need multiple formats to deal with the same information, spatial maps, visual imagery, experiential story telling, social interaction, written word, among many need to be thought of and included to facilitate a clear projection of how people are engaged together in a place.

There is a need to be clear and complete on recording and analysis.  “The Kookier the process the more anal retentive the analysis”, she told the group. Creativity, and whimsy is critical in engaging people in the process, but we must make sure that the concepts and valuable inputs are not lost in the pageantry of an event.


Public engagement is like a relay race where there is a stringent sequence of events and crucial information needs to be carefully passed forward. Photo credit: State Library of Queensland.

Public engagement is like a relay race where there is a stringent sequence of events and crucial information needs to be carefully passed forward. Photo credit: State Library of Queensland.


Navigating contexts of power in an engagement process demands understanding of what VIA principal Graham McGarva calls “pathways to getting to yes”. Wendy presents this carrying of knowledge as running a baton relay race. Unless you are actually in the race, start on time, are at the starting line, running in a lane, carrying a baton [local knowledge or information], are able to jump hurdles on an uneven track, keep the baton in your hand and pass it to someone who can cross the line and hand it to an “expert” [who will inevitably have a “blind spot”], your views have little or no chance of having “influence”.

I had the fortune, after her talk, to accompany Wendy to a City of Vancouver public open house for the Marpole Community Plan. A relatively empty school gymnasium greeted us, along with dozens of boards, so densely packed with text information that they presented a wall of information that inferred [despite the notations requesting comments] that the plan was finished and that comments were only superfluous. While it is noted that the Marpole plan amongst others has gone through a rigorous process, but that the City’s standard Open House engagement model falls short of providing a process where the community feels listened to and LOVE’d about a changing community.

We can do better. We hope to be part of better.

The Open House format of engagement, while dense with information had difficulty clearly reflecting the impacted community's input, ideas, and value. Photo credit: Brendan Hurley.

The Open House format of engagement, while dense with information had difficulty clearly reflecting the impacted community’s input, ideas, and value. Photo credit: Brendan Hurley.

Thanks Wendy for showing us some ways to be better, more authentic, more loving, community facilitators for better cities.


News Roundup

Mar 18, 2013

Happy almost-Spring Monday! Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting and most shared articles from the last couple weeks from VIA’s Twitter and elsewhere around the ‘net:

photo credit: ArchDaily courtesy of Central House of Architects, full article below

Can the Longest Remaining Stretch of the Berlin Wall Be Saved From the Threat of Condos? (The Atlantic Cities)
It’s all happening so fast that locals can hardly believe it. In a move first announced publicly only on Thursday afternoon, Berlin developers attempted this morning to tear up and remove one of the last still-standing pieces of the Berlin Wall. Part of an intact 1400-yard stretch flanking the eastern bank of Berlin’s River Spree, a 25-yard chunk has been abruptly slated for removal, despite being protected by national monument status.

New Skyscraper-Deconstruction Technique Harvests Energy from Demolition Process (Inhabitat)
Demolishing tall buildings is typically a loud and messy process that produces a lot of dust and not a lot of building materials that can be salvaged. But Japan’s Taisei Corporation is pioneering a new technique that preserves building materials and actually generates energy from the demolition process.

Nordic Wood Festival of Wooden Architecture (ArchDaily)
Between March 15th and March 27th 2013 the Central House of Architects will host the Nordic Wood festival of wooden architecture in Moscow where the most interesting examples of wooden architecture in Scandinavia, the Baltic states and Russia will be on display.

Japan Turned the One Surviving Tsunami Tree Into a Gigantic Sculpture (Gizmodo)
Two years ago, Japan was ravaged by a horrible tsunami. And right on the anniversary of the disaster, a new memorial went up to the people and things who lived through it: the “miracle tree” that survived the surge has now been converted in a sculpture.

The Floorplans Of Famous TV Shows (1 Design Per Day)
Spanish artist Inaki Aliste Lizarralde has recreated the floor plans of famous TV shows. Among the apartments featured in Lizarralde’s ongoing series are Joey and Monica’s apartment from ‘Friends,’ Penny and Sheldon’s apartment from ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from ‘Sex and the City’ and Frasier Crane’s apartment from ‘Frasier.’

Take a Secret Peek Inside the Spire of the Chrysler Building (The Atlantic Cities)
Despite our ability to look at entire cities from outer space, the built environment still has an air of mystery about it. In one hand, you spin around the globe, stopping periodically to zoom in on your browser to inspect a peculiar geographic feature or building form, while with the other you clutch your morning bagel — all the while gazing up at the tower just outside your window. Or that’s what my morning looked like today, anyway. What goes on up there, at the tops of skyscrapers? And why doesn’t the internet have an answer?

An Abandoned London Power Station Could Find New Life As a Stunning Roller Coaster (Gizmodo)
The Battersea Power Station is an iconic London building, but it’s been tragically unused since it was decommissioned in 1983. Now architectural firm Atelier Zündel Cristea wants to turn that around with a proposal to make the abandoned spot a roller coaster.

Old 8-storey tall grain silos re-adapted for ice climbing (TreeHugger)
A handful of unused grain silos in Iowa, United States have been converted into eight-storey tall ice climbing walls, prompted in part by the immediate region’s lack of vertical surfaces.

Urban Cycling Basics (Global Site Plans)
Becoming a new urban cyclist can be extremely intimidating. But armed with some basic knowledge, anyone can become a confident urban cyclist.

Big Wood: Building Sustainable High-Rises in Wood (eVolo)
“Big Wood” is a prototype on mass timber construction that offers the possibility to build more responsibly while actively sequestering pollutants from our cities. Sited in Chicago; “Big Wood” aims to write a new chapter in high-rise construction.

Today is International Women’s Day and in recognition and celebration, we polled our team to see which female architects, planners, and designers have made an impact on them. This is who they came up with (in no particular order):


photo credit

Jane Jacobs
Author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a seminal and inspirational book for any urban planner/designer/architect or pretty much anyone who lives and breathes in a city.

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, and yet her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve, and fail that now seem like common sense to generations of architects, planners, politicians, and activists.

Jacobs saw cities as ecosystems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. With a keen eye for detail, she wrote eloquently about sidewalks, parks, retail design, and self-organization. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies, and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centered approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighbourhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing on urbanism, economies, and social issues until her death in April 2006.



Billie Tsien
Billie Tsien was born in Ithaca, New York. She received her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Yale and her Masters in Architecture from UCLA. Billie Tsien has worked with Tod Williams since 1977, and in 1986 they formed the partnership of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in New York City.

Their compelling body of work includes the American Folk Art Museum in New York; the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California; Cranbrook Natatorium in Michigan; Skirkanich Hall at the University of Pennsylvania; a conference center at Bennington College; the Asia Society in Hong Kong; and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Projects in construction include a performing and visual arts center at the University of Chicago; a dormitory at Haverford College; an information technology campus for Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai, India; two new skating rinks for Brooklyn’s Prospect Park; the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University; and an addition to Savidge Library at the MacDowell Colony. Projects in design include an addition and renovation to the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College as well as the New United States Embassy Compound in Mexico City.



photo credit

Francine Houben
Meccanoo Architects, The Netherlands
Wrote book: Mobility: A Room With a View which analyses traffic corridors around the world and how those can be improved.

“Architecture must appeal to all the senses and is never a (purely) intellectual, conceptual or a visual consideration alone. Architecture is about combining all of the individual elements into a single concept. In the end, what counts is the arrangement of form and emotion. Architecture should touch all the senses.”

– Francine Houben, architect/creative director Mecanoo Architecten.

Always looking for inspiration and the secret of a specific location, Francine bases her work on both analyses and intuition. She enjoys interweaving social, technical, playful, and humane aspects together in order to form a unique solution to each situation. Francine Houben combines the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, and landscape architecture in an non-traditional way; with sensitivity for light and beauty. Her use of material is expressive; she is known as one of the most prolific architects in Europe today. Her wide-ranging portfolio comprises an intimate chapel built on the foundations of a former 19th century chapel in Rotterdam (2001) to Europe’s largest library in Birmingham (2013).



photo credit

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara
Principals at Grafton Architects

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara graduated from the School of Architecture at University College Dublin in 1974, where they began teaching in 1976. Both lecture and teach internationally. They are also founding members of Group ’91 Architects, winners of the International Competition for the Regeneration of Temple Bar, Dublin. Together, they are co-founders of Grafton Architects established in 1978 in Dublin. The practice has been engaged in the design and building of university buildings, schools, housing, houses, mixed-use buildings, and institutional buildings, together with urban design projects. In 2008 they won World Building of the Year Award at the for Universita Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy (also shown above).



photo credit (left), (right) M. Bougot

Eileen Gray
Neglected for most of her career, Eileen Gray (1878-1976) is now regarded as one of the most important furniture designers and architects of the early 20th century and the most influential woman in those fields. Her work inspired both modernism and Art Deco.

Her design style was as distinctive as her way of working, and Gray developed an opulent, luxuriant take on the geometric forms and industrially produced materials used by the International Style designers, such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, and Mies Van Der Rohe, who shared many of her ideals. Her voluptuous leather and tubular steel Bibendum Chair and clinically chic E-1027 glass and tubular steel table are now as familiar as icons of the International Style as Le Corbusier and Perriand’s classic Grand Confort club chairs, yet for most of her career she was relegated to obscurity by the same proud singularity that makes her work so prized today.



photo credit (left) Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times, (middle) Ola Robbins, (right) Wave Field, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Maya Lin
Trained as an artist and architect, Maya is best known for her large, minimalist sculptures and monuments. When she was only 21 and still a student, Lin created the winning design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Her most famous buildings have political and aesthetic motivations that elicit strong emotions in people, partly based on how they encapsulate their age. Maya unexpectedly won the design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while a Yale student, and it threw her into a huge storm of controversy. The controversy over Maya Lin’s design showed the raw emotional wounds that still had not healed when it erupted in 1980, and Maya Lin’s finished memorial showed the power of art to affect people and touch upon important issues of society.



photo credit Inhabitat

Michelle Kaufmann
In Prefab Green, architect Michelle Kaufmann shares her vision of creating thoughtful, sustainable design for everyone. Her work blends sustainable home layouts, eco-friendly materials, and low-energy options to create a “prepackaged” green solution to home design. Kaufmann tells about five eco-principles that are present in every design her firm creates–smart design, eco-materials, energy efficiency, water conservation, and healthy environment–and how each work together to create homes that make a difference.



Clare Cooper Marcus
Clare Cooper Marcus is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. She is internationally recognized for her pioneering research on the psychological and sociological aspects of architecture, land-use planning, and landscape design – particularly urban open space.

One of her many books on the subject, People Places, is considered a Gold Standard for Plaza and Public Space design.



photo credit (left) Jeff J Mitchell ©2011 Getty Images, (right) Hufton + Crow

Zaha Hadid
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Zaha Hadid was the first woman to win a Pritzker Architecture Prize. Her work experiments with new spatial concepts and encompasses all fields of design, ranging from urban spaces to products and furniture.


Did you know?

International Women’s Day is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia. The tradition sees men honoring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day, where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. For more information on IWD, visit

News Roundup

Feb 12, 2013

Hello VIA Blog readers! Here are a few of the last couple weeks’ most shared and talked-about articles from the VIA Twitter, Pinterest, and beyond.

One of 21 amazing off-the-grid houses shared by Gizmodo, full article linked below 

5 Pearls of Wisdom for Architecture Grads (Arch Daily)
Phil Bernstein is a Vice President at Autodesk and teaches at Yale. This post, originally published in 2011 on his blog as “Winter Commencement,” offers timeless advice for architecture students about to enter the job market.

Traveling the Entire Length of California by Local Transit (The Atlantic Cities)
Local transit maps tend to stay local. Some designate connections to other lines or systems but it’s not really their purpose to expand the map beyond the metropolitan area — say, the way road atlases do. Recently a California design team did what local agencies don’t: created a statewide rail map with more than 500 destinations served by ten rail authorities plus Amtrak, ferry, and major bus connections.

Bridge Built from Shipping Containers Is Trendy, but Inefficient (Treehugger)
Over at Designboom, they’re featuring a new bridge design made from shipping containers by Israel’s Yoav Messer Architects. The firm says that “repurposing the containers is fast and easy work that can be done off-site and later assembled, minimizing invasive construction. A new steel truss will be integrated with the metal boxes as the primary structure of the bridge.” But is it smart design?

How to ‘Rightsize’ a Street (The Atlantic Cities)
The concept of a “road diet” has become increasingly popular, as an inelegant engineering analogy that implies the slimming down of traffic lanes as if they were so much excess fat. Got a four-lane boulevard in a now quiet residential borough? Bring in some transportation planners and trim that beast down to two!

21 Amazing Off-the-Grid Houses (Gizmodo)
Real talk: Between diminishing stores and oil wars, fossil fuel-dependance is officially a bad deal. In the future, as these resources get scarcer, we’re going to have to figure out how to live in a little more harmony with Mother Earth. Here are 21 houses that are already doing it right: eschewing the power grid for solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources.

Are Exterior Airbags the Future of Bike/Ped Safety? (Planetizen)
Although the Netherlands remains one of the safest countries in the world, pedestrians and cyclists make up about a third of all traffic fatalities. With that in mind, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment gave the research organization TNO 1 million euros to develop technology to make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists by outfitting automobiles with exterior airbags.

McBarge: Abandoned Floating McDonalds to Be Given New Life As a Marina in Canada (Inhabitat)
An old rusting ship is all that remains of a once grand idea for a floating McDonalds, constructed in the mid ’80s for the Expo ’86 World Fair. It has been dubbed the McBarge by residents of Vancouver, where it has been left abandoned for the past 23 years, surrounded by other industrial wrecks and machinery. But now the McBarge is set to be renovated, with plans underway to create a brand new waterfront marina in Mission, British Columbia.

Ghost Cities Around the World (Arch Daily)
Abandoned cities are an unfortunate consequence of life and growth on our planet. The reasons for abandoning a city are as varied as the people who once inhabited their buildings and walked their streets. Many of these cities are forgotten and simply line the pages of history. Some are examples of poor urban planning; some the result of the depletion of natural resources, while others are poignant reminders of the fragility of life in a nuclear world.

Happy Birthday, Grand Central Terminal (Treehugger)
“Railway termini and hotels are to the nineteenth century what monasteries and cathedrals were to the thirteenth century. They are truly the only representative buildings we possess.” So wrote the Building News in 1875, according to Apollo Magazine. Grand Central Terminal was built quite a few years after that and opened on February 2, 1913, but certainly has the drama of a great cathedral.

The City That Never Was: How LA Almost Became New York (Architizer)
As modern metropolises go, Los Angeles and New York couldn’t be more different. But it only took a few failed proposals from the early 20th century to send LA into a self-reinforcing spiral of freeways and sprawl. If a couple of prescient planners had had their way, the city might have grown into a model of urbanism besting the Big Apple (or at least Portland), with hundreds of miles of subways and elevated rail, thousands of parks linked by parkways, and even a raised bicycle freeway connecting Pasadena with downtown.

by Brendan Hurley, Urban Planner, VIA Architecture

Southeast False Creek, Vancouver

Southeast False Creek, Vancouver

Stepping Stones
Vancouver has just been named Canada’s most walkable city. Walk Score ranked Vancouver against other cities using their online algorithmic tool that looks at the connections and places within urban areas. Vancouver received top marks based on the mix and density of uses, places, activity, and connectivity.

At VIA, one of our driving principles is how to make cities exciting, connected, and valued places to live; an experience. So when one of our home towns gets lauded for doing what we hope it should and believe it can, we believe that distinction deserves reflection.

Vancouver getting awards for livability seems old hat at this point. As one of the perennial poster children for urban livability, this young West Coast city has more feathers in its cap than some feel it deserves, sometimes being described as a “Setting waiting for a city.” While this statement may have been true in the past decades, the efforts of planners and city builders to improve the vibrancy of urban life in this region have helped shaped a new existence for the Terminal City. By focusing on the urban environment and the connective nature of complete communities, design and planning – including the efforts of the VIA team – have shifted to not only capturing the power and beauty of the West Coast setting, but creating an urbane city all of its own.

The Importance of a Walking City
Walkability is about more than just having pedestrian paths. It’s about developing meaningful connections that improve the function and experience of places. In the end, and with few exceptions, being a pedestrian is how we interact with the City. Walking is the beginning and ending stage of almost all other transportation modes and, as such, those modes act as an extension of our pedestrian experience. Mid-century North American planning, enamored with the automobile, lost sight of this experience, and the pedestrian life of many cities degraded to a point where a simple walk was just not an option. The cores of communities became devalued, and urban life left with the people. This is still the case for many jurisdictions today, but over the last few decades the tide has been changing.

Vancouver has reached hard to make changes to its structure and how it sees itself. The 1970s saw successful Freeway Revolts and policy redirection, with a Livable Regions Plan to focus energy toward walking and transit- not only in the City’s core, but also in the cores of suburban “Regional Town Centres.” Creating livable places and a walking-first attitude was at the center of this urbane new Vancouver. VIA’s master planning projects, like False Creek North, redeveloped an inhospitable industrial waterfront into a showpiece for urban livability. The Seawall, a key element of this plan, has been stated as one of the key elements that make Vancouver a joy for locals and visitors to walk. Later on, the design for Southeast False Creek model sustainable community would expand and refine these concepts with pedestrian spaces that connect to the City and its environment, at both grand and personal scales.

Recent Efforts
Recent initiatives by the City of Vancouver showcase how far the City has come- but there is a lot left to do with this change in direction. The Greenest City Initiative looks at urban sustainability as a central driving goal for the City. Street-life with pedestrian activity as its primary mode is one of the core principles of the City’s Transportation 2040 Plan. In this plan, pedestrian, cycling, and transit modes are expected to dominate the City’s transportation system over the next 30 years. Biking infrastructure has made headlines, but these infrastructure improvements have gone hand-in-hand with improvements to Vancouver’s pedestrian experience. New greenways are slowly connecting a walkable core for the City. VIA’s Vancouver studio is adjacent to one of these incoming greenway corridors – the Helmcken-Comox Greenway – and a large percentage of VIA’s Vancouver-based team members use corridors such as this in their walk or cycle commute into the office.

Transit improvements and transit-oriented development are also expanding the role of the pedestrian regionally as more commuters take transit through and between cities of the Lower Mainland; Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy continues the tradition of urban cores connected by rapid transit. VIA has played a key role in extending the walkable nature throughout Vancouver and its urban region through our transit-oriented community design and transit planning. VIA’s work on the design of the Millennium Line, connecting Vancouver to North Burnaby and Coquitlam, treated the stations and transit as a functions of expanding the role of pedestrians throughout the region, while focusing on activity and connections in each community.

VIA’s mixed-use design of Plaza 88 at New Westminster SkyTrain Station has extended the idea of an urban town centre and a refocused renaissance for the core of New Westminster, where pedestrian activity and density is focused, while remaining interconnected with the rest of the City’s core. Other station area plans throughout the region have pushed the pedestrian as the primary urban actor, and have focused development to improve the pedestrian experience. Human-scale designs, like the Roundhouse Community Centre, have examined what brings joy to the pedestrian, and how/why we, as walkers, experience and explore our City and its special places.

Walking the Walk
The majority of our VIA team members, both in Vancouver and in Seattle, walk, bike, and take transit to work. VIA’s continued commitment to urban walkability is not surprising. The Walking Paradise Score that our VIA Yaletown Studio’s vicinity attains is a testament to the success of the principles we operate under and have carried forward over the years. We look forward to the next chapters as Vancouver and its neighbours grow and mature as a walkable city.

“Inside every car is a pedestrian waiting to get out”- Graham McGarva, Founding Principal, VIA Architecture


Monday News Roundup

Jan 14, 2013

Happy Monday! Here are a few of the last couple weeks’ highlights from the VIA Twitter, VIA Pinterest, and elsewhere across the web. Have a great week, all!

The ‘Strong Core’ Theory of Los Angeles (The Atlantic Cities)
Samuel Krueger grew up in Portland, where he enjoyed “how the streets are very active with people and shops in the downtown.” He’s lived in Los Angeles since 1998 and now works as a drafter for the city’s Department of Water and Power. “In any place, people who grew up there don’t really think of it from an outside perspective, so they miss some of the obvious structures,” he says.

Could an urban gondola solve the Montlake Mess? (Seattle, The Montlaker Blog)
Light rail in the far corner of campus — the 520 flyer stop a long walk from nowhere — lumbering buses merging left, blocking traffic — bus stops located far from UW Station. If transit is going to be a solution for the Montlake Mess, this tangled knot of bad connections will have to be untied. How to better move buses through Montlake? Don’t. Use an urban gondola instead.

Light Art by Bruce Munro (Contemporist)
British light artist Bruce Munro has announced his second-ever U.S. show. He will return to exhibit “Light,” a collection of 10 large-scale outdoor lighting installations coupled with indoor sculptures at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Case for Walkability as an Economic Development Tool (The Atlantic Cities)
A terrific street redesign is assisting economic development in a southern California community that has suffered from changing economic conditions but is nevertheless seeing significant population growth. This is a story of municipal foresight, excellent recent planning, and green ambition.

Old-Meets-New in Modern Renovation of An Old Church (Design Milk)
This neglected church, once part of the Sant Francesc Convent, was renovated by Catalan architect David Closes. Located in the town of Santpedor, Spain, it was the last building standing from the convent and was badly in need of repair. The project turned the former church into an auditorium and multifunctional space for cultural events.

Goedzak by Waarmakers (DeZeen)
Dutch designers Waarmakers have created sustainable rubbish sacks for discarding unwanted items in good condition, in the hope that they’ll be picked up by a new owner instead of ending up at a landfill site.

Shoffice in London (Arch Daily)
‘Shoffice’ (shed + office) is a garden pavilion containing a small office alongside garden storage space located to the rear of a1950s terraced house in St John’s Wood. The brief required the shoffice to be conceived of as a sculptural object that flowed into the garden space.

The Silo is an Upscale Loft Apartment Built into a 1940s Grain Silo in Texas (Inhabitat)
If you’re looking for a unique experience for your next vacation, check out the Gruene Homestead Inn. Located in New Braunfels, Texas (which is about 30 miles northeast of San Antonio), the inn offers a variety of different lodgings – including The Silo, A one bedroom loft apartment built into a 1940s grain silo, this upscale space can accommodate up to two adults and two children.

One of our Directors, Matt Roewe, gave a presentation on December 3rd 2012 to the Seattle City Council PLUS Committee on the proposed South Lake Union Rezone Legislation. The 70 page slide show is full of graphics and data that illustrate what the proposed heights will look like within South Lake Union, as well as in comparison to the surrounding neighborhoods.

An interesting and informative dialogue transpired with eight of the city council members sitting at the table. To watch the presentation and discussion on Seattle Channel, click here. South Lake Union discussion starts at the 66th minute.

Or you can go through his presentation embedded below. Click the icon in the bottom right corner to view it in full screen, presentation format, or click the title below to open in a new window.

South Lake Union Rezone Legislation