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Monday News Roundup

Dec 03, 2012

Happy December! Below you’ll find a round-up of links to some of the more eye-catching articles we found in the last bit of November:

UK Plans to Retrofit Shipping Containers from Amsterdam Into Housing to Help Fight Homelessness

Photo credit: Inhabitat (Shipping container photo from Shutterstock)

UK Plans to Retrofit Shipping Containers from Amsterdam Into Housing to Help Fight Homelessness (Inhabitat)
Shipping containers offer a surprisingly versatile foundation for small-scale, sturdy homes – they’re readily available, relatively inexpensive, and easy to retrofit. Now the UK is planning to capitalize on cargotecture by transforming recycled shipping containers from Amsterdam into housing to help fight homelessness.

A Genius Dad Made a Flying Quadrocopter to Walk His Kid to the Bus Stop (Gizmodo)
A genius dad invented something to make dad life easier: a flying, camera-equipped quadrocopter that could follow his kids to the school bus stop.

Behold, the Single Family Skyscraper (The Atlantic Cities)
Like a downsized multifamily residence, Dutch architect Hans van Heeswijk’s concept for a minimalist prefab dwelling reimagines the single-family home as a compact tower-villa. Each floor is dedicated to a specific activity (eating, sleeping, lounging, working), and levels can be added or subtracted to accommodate more or fewer functions.

Artist Recycles 65,000 CDs as Shiny, Floating “Water Lilies” (TreeHugger)
British artist Bruce Munro’s “Waterlilies”– done for Longwoods Garden in Pennsylvania — was Munro’s first work in the US. Comprising of 100 6-ft foam lilies and 100 8-ft foam lilies topped with 65,000 recycled CDs, the waterborne artworks are giant lightcatchers meant to catch and reflect patterns of light.

Your Office Is On Your Bike (TreeHugger)
The concept combines a mobile workspace with the Dutch cargo bike. This means that ‘urban nomads’ no longer have to use their bike to get to their favorite workplace, but their bike becomes a workplace in itself.

The Rise of ‘Urban Ecology’ (The Atlantic Cities)
Earlier this year a trio of ecologists analyzed where other ecologists conducted their research and discovered that, by and large, it wasn’t in cities. The group categorized some 2,500 studies published in ten influential ecology journals between 2004 and 2009 and found that only 4 percent targeted “densely settled” areas.

The Evergreen Line is designed as an 11km rapid transit line in Metro Vancouver. It seamlessly connects 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.

Here’s a bit of insight into VIA’s station design process:

Transit Planning Influences


Evergreen Line Station Alignment

Lougheed Town Centre Station: Engage the Existing

Platform canopy and vertical circulation addition designed to respect and enhance existing station architecture

Burquitlam Station: Development Interface

Curving walls and generous canopies lead patrons from bus stops to entrance portals –
asymmetrical roof forms respond to street conditions, existing retail malls, future development and views

Port Moody Station: Transit Connector

Entrance locations and sweeping roof forms provide strong visual clues to aid patron understanding of the pedestrian circulation system inside the intermodal station

Ioco Station: Establishing a Hidden Presence

Distinctive curved facades and bookend roof forms provide strong visual recognition of the dual entrances of this otherwise below grade station

Coquitlam Central Station: Protection from the Elements

Roof and facade elements enhance the experience through environmentally sensitive design

Douglas College Station: Community Connection

Dual entrances respond to current pedestrian crossings serving City Hall, Douglas College and future connection to Cultural Center


Thriving, Vibrant Communities

Transit stations are hubs for transportation, but become truly integral to the urban fabric when they form community hubs. This can be achieved by striving to build upon a community’s existing social and cultural connections, rather than focusing solely upon the physical connectedness of a neighbourhood.

Monday News Roundup

Nov 19, 2012

Happy pre-Thanksgiving Monday, everyone! Below are just a few of the most interesting finds from the last couple weeks–

The Architectural Spectacle That Is Munich’s Metro (The Atlantic Cities)
The Munich metro system, known as the U-Bahn, began running in 1971 in advance of the ’72 Olympics. Over the years, its stations have evolved from a style that might be called simplistic and functional into one better described as curvaceous and kaleidoscopic.

Controversial Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Island For Sale (ArchDaily)
Petre Island (sometimes called Petra Island) is an 11-acre, heart-shaped island 47 miles from Manhattan. While Wright hand-picked the site himself in 1949, and drew up plans for a 5,000 square foot ”dream house” the following year, budget concerns forced him to scale down his vision, resulting in the construction of a smaller guest cottage.

Saving Seattle’s Neighborhood Authenticity Through Better Buildings (The Atlantic Cities)
Writer James Howard Kunstler gives his thoughts on how ugly buildings are degrading American life in a new documentary pondering the fate of Seattle’s South Lake Union, a developing waterside area that’s home to sloops and schooners, biomedical facilities and Amazon’s sprawling campus.

Can cities help you forget your troubles? C’mon, get happy! (Better! Cities & Towns)
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks life evaluation, physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, work environment, and basic access. Once our basic needs are provided for, increased wealth does not increase our happiness appreciably, nor does unemployment effect us as much as we might think. Instead, happiness is due to our sense of belonging, and not our income, confirmed by John Helliwell, professor of economics at the University of British Columbia.

The Power of Bicycles in Disaster Recovery (The Atlantic Cities)
New Yorkers are learning things from this storm, and from the relief efforts that are ongoing even as another weather front sweeps through this afternoon, forcing another round of evacuations. Practical things. They are learning where to go for help, and how to help each other. They are learning how to get around when the transportation system fails, and the importance of redundancy and resiliency in all kinds of infrastructure.

Vertical Farm Opens In Singapore, Sells Out Instantly (Treehugger)
There is not a lot of room to grow vegetables in Singapore; they mostly grow condo towers. According to Sky Greens, only 7% of demand for vegetables is met locally, and fresh vegetables are often unavailable in the monsoon season.

Downtown Project: A Community Driven Urban Plan for Las Vegas (ArchDaily)
It began with the relocation of the Zappos Headquarters, now owned by Amazon, from its offices in Henderson, Nevada, to the former city hall in downtown Las Vegas: an idea to transform the struggling part of downtown Las Vegas into a vibrant community with economic opportunities for young professionals along with an incentive for a variety of companies to build their foundations providing jobs and income for the city.

by Katherine Idziorek, Urban Designer, VIA Architecture

Our most recent VIAVOX event, Chandigarh 2.0: A Discussion on Urbanization + Growth inthe Global and Local Context took place last month at Zeitgeist Coffee in Seattle. 

The VIAVOX is a tradition that supports our firm culture of building ideas and seeking to advance dialogue about design beyond the scope of our projects. The idea of the event is to provoke conversation about design and to give a voice to current issues affecting the practice of architecture and urban planning. Past VIAVOXes have focused on topics such as affordable housing partnerships, connected senior urbanism, and the renewal of neglected cities.

At our October event, VIA hosted Professor Vikram Prakash from the University of Washington College of Built Environments, who presented his ongoing work on globalization and urbanization in Chandigarh, India and facilitated a discussion focused on recognizing common issues faced by Seattle and Chandigarh as well as exploring strategies for dealing with rapid growth in a mid-sized city. Colleagues from our Vancouver office as well as area design practitioners and students from the University of Washington joined us in conversation.

Dr. Prakash teaches in the Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design and Planning programs at UW and is Director of the Chandigarh Urban Lab, a multi-year project and collaboration with the Chandigarh College of Architecture that is dedicated to researching small and mid-size urbanism in globalizing India. The author of several books on non-Western architecture, modernism and culture theory, Dr. Prakash is currently working on the forthcoming Chandigarh 2.0: The Modern City in Neoliberal India and a new textbook the history of Indian architecture.

Chandigarh, a rapidly growing, mid-sized Indian city, is an icon of modern planning and design. Its master plan was developed in 1951 by a team of architects led by le Corbusier, who oversaw the planning of the city as well as the design of many of its institutional buildings. Chandigarh was envisaged as a “new town” that reflected the ideals of a newly independent India and the modernist thinking of the time. The plan’s first phase of 70 square kilometers was mostly built out by 1965 – this area is now regarded as the city’s “historic core” and its organized grid is surrounded by subsequent rings of development of a completely different character.

Over the past 50 years, Chandigarh has become a thriving metropolis and an economic hub of northern India. Originally planned for a population of 500,000, the city is now home to 1.8 million. Once well-defined and contained, the urban area has grown far beyond the boundaries of the initial Corbusian grid. The city is currently working on a new master plan to guide future growth and to help manage the effects of India’s booming population on both Chandigarh’s historic core and the ever-expanding ring of urbanization beyond.

Although the history and genesis of our cities are quite different, the kinds of issues that Chandigarh is grappling with are not unfamiliar to those we face in Seattle as we seek to shape the form of urban development and accommodate increased density within our city.  Chandigarh also shares many characteristics with Seattle. It is a prosperous, well-educated city. High-tech jobs are an important part of the local economy, and its real estate is highly valued. The two cities are comparable in terms of population, and both sit within stunning natural environments. Both are facing challenges of increased urbanization: managing growth, providing access to transit, and guiding new development in a manner that is responsible and sustainable.

These issues became the focus of many of the questions that were raised during our discussion:

  • How do we accommodate urban growth in our cities? What is the role of growth management, and how does is shape the urban periphery?
  • What modes and systems of mass transit are most effective? What are the benefits of a line (underground) system vs. a grid (at-grade) system?
  • What role does urban agriculture play in a globalizing and urbanizing city? What are the concerns about food security and conservation of agricultural land as the urban core expands into areas that were once its hinterlands?
  • How can our cities retain their identities as they develop in an increasingly globalized and commercialized world?
  • What is the nature of the ecological relationship between the city and the outlying urban and natural areas? How can the natural environment be conserved in the face of development pressures?
  • How can we maintain equity in the planning process? How (if at all) are different groups represented? Does everyone have a voice?

Any one of these topics that was touched upon in our conversation could launch a discussion on its own, though talking about them in combination presented a useful overview of the issues affecting both Seattle and Chandigarh and began to churn up some ideas about how we might be able to share strategies and learn from one another’s urban experiences. Expanding the discussion into a global dialogue gave us Pacific Northwesterners an opportunity to think beyond the Seattle paradigm and imagine new ways of perceiving and dealing with the urban issues that we face.

So what’s next? Keep an eye out for a potential future “VIAVOX: Chandigarh 2.1.” In the meantime, let the dialogue continue!


A VIA-designed project, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in beautiful Ucluelet, BC, has won a Readers’ Choice Award from Condé Nast Traveler. You can view the full project detail on our website by clicking here.

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is situated on a rock promontory in Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, with 8.5 acres of rainforest and 1,300 feet of waterfront. The resort consists of 134 whole ownership units comprising 72 suites in the main lodge and 62 suites in the 14 oceanfront cottages scattered throughout the site, all of which sold out within four hours in August 2005.

Click here to view the Award’s highlight page on!


Good afternoon VIA Blog readers!

As you may have read on our (now) old blog, we at VIA have undergone a bit of a face-lift,  and have moved our blog here– to our new and improved

This move will allow our blog followers to also experience, directly through the blog sidebar, a bit more of what VIA Architecture has to offer. We will still be providing the same urban design, planning, architecture, local interest, and design-related content (and more!)– but with a new face.

Thank you all for joining us here at, and stay tuned for more VIA Blog content!



the VIA Team


Monday News Round Up

Oct 22, 2012

Happy brisk fall Monday, everyone!

Here are just a few of the interesting articles we found last week:

Teen Finishes 130 Sq. Ft. Mortgage-Free Home (Treehugger)
Austin Hay has trimmed his wardrobe down to the bare minimum, he’s reclaimed materials from the salvage yard and his own bedroom, and he’s built the entirety of this 130 square foot home for $12,000 while creating only three trash cans full of waste.

Vancouver Covers Its Sidewalks With Giant Pillows (The Atlantic Cities)
Commissioned by the City of Vancouver, “Pop Rocks” is an architectural installation that aims to transform the city’s downtown area using repurposed industrial materials.

To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets (The New York Times)
In the United States the notion that bike helmets promote health and safety by preventing head injuries is taken as pretty near God’s truth. Un-helmeted cyclists are regarded as irresponsible, like people who smoke. Cities are aggressive in helmet promotion. But many European health experts have taken a very different view.

Car Parks as Icons (Price Tags)
While Vancouver is busily tearing down parkades (parking structures or garages, as others call them), other cities see them as architectural opportunities.

The Farmery is a Farm and Market Set in Four Recycled Shipping Containers in North Carolina (Inhabitat)
The Farmery is comprised of four shipping containers that are each outfitted with a gourmet mushroom growing system on the inside and growing panels on the outside walls where small crops are grown. The system saves space, energy, and time, and the crops are sold in a mini farmer’s market snuggled in the space between.

World’s Tallest Skyscraper To Be Built…In 210 Days (Arch Daily)
Sky City will shoot up to its 838-meter (2,750-ft/220-story) height thanks to its pre-fabricated assembly (up to 95% of the materials will be assembled in modular form before on-site construction even begins) in 210 days once construction begins.

How LEED-ND Can Improve Older Neighborhoods (The Atlantic Cities)
An inner-city neighborhood in Boston is providing a strong example of how the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system can be used to guide improvements to an older community.

The Zen of Affordable Housing

Housing affordability is a critical ingredient of sustainable development in cities, but also one of the most vexing challenges. Not surprisingly, it’s also an issue that often gets tangled up in contention and misunderstanding.

If we hope to accommodate growth in a sustainable fashion by creating dense, walkable, transit-rich urban centers that also have economic diversity, it seems we could all use a little Zen-like focus and clarity on what we’re dealing with. And so I invite the reader to meditate on the following wonky koans…

click here to keep reading at CityTank

Please join us…
Chandigarh 2.0:
A Discussion on Urbanization + Growth in the Global and Local Context

Prof. Vikram Prakash
University of Washington College of Built Environments

Thursday, October 25th
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Zeitgeist Coffee
171 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98101

While massive urbanization is broadly accepted as one of the grand challenges of our times, few realize that most of that urban growth, according to the UN World Urbanization Prospects, will take place not in the megacities of the world like Mumbai or New York, but in the vast numbers of small and mid-sized towns of fast growing nations. Prof. Vikram Prakash of UW College of Built Environments, has been taking studios to Chandigarh, India for the last few years to study how this iconic modernist city is responding to the pressures of globalization. As one of India’s fastest growing mid-sized cities (population 1.8 million), Chandigarh today is facing development challenges – managing growth, transit, sustainable development – of the kinds that we are very familiar with in Seattle. Of comparable size, Seattle and Chandigarh, are kindred ‘sister’ cities of the future that potentially have much to offer, and learn from, each other.

Join VIA Architecture for VIAVOX: Chandigarh 2.0 where we will discuss the possibilities of an urban dialogue across Seattle and Chandigarh, with a presentation by Dr. Prakash followed by open discussion.

Please RSVP to Racheal Bellinger by 10/22 to

by Jihad Bitar, PhD
Urban Designer, VIA Architecture

Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the City of Surrey collaborated to create an educational two-module course entitled SFU & City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program. The overarching goal of this program is to inform and spread knowledge about the role of transportation in shaping our cities, using Surrey as the case study, as well as to reach out to the local community and get some serious ideas established relating to transportation and the City of Surrey by the end of the course.

I had the privilege to be in the first group of professionals to participate in this program and, as a participant, was asked to give back my personal opinions/ideas/suggestions about what I think it means to the future of the City of Surrey.

Through the SkyTrain windows on my weekly trip to the SFU Surrey campus, I noticed that the first scene to welcome us to Surrey is a substantial swath of land covered with dirt, car junk yards, construction sites, webs of highways, train lines, and big machinery taking over the landscape of Surrey’s gateway. In fact, this area is the industrial zone of the City, so something needed to be said about it– and the course was the best platform for me, personally, to try to answer the challenging question of industrial zones, transportation, sustainability, and community interaction in this area.

A sustainable industrial zone is essential for the future of any city, and the connectivity of these zones to our cities through a healthy transportation network is the key for a prosperous future. Dealing with industrial sites is a very challenging matter; some cities may decide to rezone those areas to a more residential use like the Pearl District in Portland or like the Distillery District in Toronto. Others they may use it simply for commercial or cultural use, similar to Granville Island here in Vancouver, or as heritage museum sites where there is a dying industry such as coal mining, as they did at Zollverein Heritage Site in Essen, Germany. However, the success lies, in my opinion, in keeping the land industrial while upgrading it to become a reflection of our times’ industry.

Industrial areas are the real engine room for the prosperity and functionality of our cities. Regardless of how dirty, rundown, or even toxic our industrial zones may become, they are the workplace of our citizens; they are the first step for any idea to materialize and be manufactured– before it has its own life that will go on to aid in our cities’ financial and physical growth.

Keeping that in mind is the key element that will keep our industrial zones moving along, however, we also have the duty to upgrade those zones to reflect the level of development we reach, and to make those zones sustainable both environmentally and financially, while keeping them safe at the same time without losing the core purpose of these zones.

I’m sure that we have a very long way ahead of us before mastering and perfecting the way we use, build, and maintain our industrial zones, but we need to start somewhere– this is the best time for the City of Surreyto start on the correct path.

The video below is the proposed idea that I, in collaboration with colleague Andrew Fayn from MXD Development Strategists, put together during the lecture program: