Sunday, September 30, 2012

Architect Franc D'Ambrosio's
Atrium Building in Victoria

In Victoria on the weekend, daughter's birthday lunch at Zambri's and a quick tour of architect Franc D'Ambrosio's Atrium. D'Ambrosio quarterbacked the Downtown Design Guidelines (Urban Planning Institute of BC Award for Excellence in Planning) here in Nanaimo. Collaboration with artist Bill Porteus. The concierge/security guard volunteered detailed background on the developer, the architect and the artists (paintings and wood sculptures by Porteus on display). He also offered opinion questioning the wisdom of the provincial government's privatization of real estate assets that were housing ministry offices, even generating revenue to help cover costs by leasing commercial space. Tenants include BC Ferries and provincial ministries. Good for my company he said but maybe not so good for the taxpayer. Great airy light filled space and a real effort made to draw activity into the space from shops and cafes, but made me appreciate all the more the buzz of Safdie's main library atrium in Vancouver.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing Final Report

REPORT SUMMARY This Council report presents the final report from the Mayor’s Task Force of Housing Affordability (Bold Ideas Towards an Affordable City) for Council consideration, which includes a summary of the results of the re:THINK HOUSING competition and the webbased Place Speak survey. This staff report also seeks Council direction to implement the priority City actions identified in the body of the report and in the attached priority action plan (Appendix A). PDF here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Caine's Arcade 2: The Global Cardboard Challenge & Imagination Foundation

Caine's Arcade 1:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Santiago Calatrava's Gorgeous Oriente Station "Looks Lighter Than Air"

When's the last time you were in a major city's public transit center? Odds are you didn't depart feeling weightless and more in tune with nature. If the churning crowds and dismal interior didn't leave you gasping for air, it's likely that the smell of trash and vehicle emissions did. That's not the feeling designer Santiago Calatrava wanted people to take home after passing through the Portugese “Oriente Station” in the city of Lisbon, so he created a beautiful daylit building topped with a leaf-like canopy that looks lighter than air.
More at Santiago Calatrava's Gorgeous Oriente Station is Topped With a Leaf-Like Canopy That Looks Lighter Than Air | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

Sunday, September 23, 2012

From — American Cities
Fight Imaginary ‘Beast’: Heavy Traffic

Wikimedia Commons/Jugni
"... [C]ities and taxpayers spend big money to build, expand, and maintain roads; drivers speed more with wider lanes and fewer cars; and development space (that could otherwise be used for housing, office, or retail space) is wasted to build parking lots and structures because of limited street parking."
[Author Charles] Marohn is no city planning amateur. He’s a professional engineer and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He also runs a fantastic blog, Strong Towns. And he has a few ideas for what he would change about Kansas City today if he could. More at American cities fight imaginary ‘beast’: heavy traffic | SmartPlanet

Saturday, September 22, 2012

From Urban Times — 10 Ways to
Improve Your City Through Public Space

Union Square, New York City. Image source:

Public spaces are increasingly being recognized as a crucial ingredient for successful cities, and for their ability to revitalize and create economic and social development opportunities. But actually finding ways to build and maintain healthy public space remains elusive to many municipal governments, especially in thedeveloping world. The vast web of streets, parks, plazas, and courtyards that define the public realm is often lacking, too poorly planned, or without adequate citizen participation in the design process.

Recognizing these challenges, the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) released earlier this month a draft of their handbook Placemaking and the Future of Cities. It’s intended to serve as a best practices guide for those wishing to improve the economic, environmental and social health of their communities through the power of successful public space.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Design Thinking and Social Innovation

Image credit: Fraulein Schille
In Design Thinking for Social Innovation, an article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, authors Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt of IDEO describe Design Thinking as an approach that “taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. Not only does it focus on creating products and services that are human-centered, but the process itself is also deeply human. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as being functional.” Read more: Sylvia Cheuy, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement: Design thinking and social innovation

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Do You Live In A City? Hmmm....
Let's Find Out : From

Urban life is multifaceted and complex. But, sometimes you need to just go with the flow and this chart may (or may not) show you if you're really an urbanite.

Source: The Brookings Institution,,, Department of Housing and Urban Development,, Federal Bureau of Investigation,

Credit: Nelson Hsu, Natalie Jones, Melanie Taube, Tanya Ballard Brown / NPR
Do You Live In A City? Hmm. Let's Find Out : NPR

"Sprawl is a Ponzi Scheme
Taxpayers Left Holding the Empty Bags"

The Fiscal Conservative's Case Against Sprawl - Politics - The Atlantic Cities

"We already have more infrastructure than we can afford to maintain and this imbalance, combined with the massively inefficient development pattern it has induced, is the real drag on the economy. Building even more infrastructure on this same model is simply digging the hole deeper." — Chuck Marohn, Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volume 1)

Related blog post: How sprawl is like Bernie MadoffKaid Benfield, Director, Sustainable Communities, Washington DC

And my email to Mayor/Council June 16:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Vancouver Urban Forum
Edward Glaeser and Architect James Cheng

Architect Cheng's repurposing proposal for the long despised Sears building (aka the ‘Great White Urinal’) in downtown Vancouver is to be unveiled today. Here's a terrific chat at the recent Vancouver Urban Forum between Cheng and Harvard economist Glaeser, author of Triumph of the City — How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

From polis — Spanish Town Marinaleda
And its "Robin Hood" Mayor

It is unusual to come across a town website with menu items like "struggles (successes)," "social democracy" and "utopia." But there aren’t many towns like Marinaleda.

Located in rural Andalusia in southern Spain, Marinaleda is a settlement of 2,770 inhabitants that has been run as a farming cooperative since 1989. But the town's olive groves and 3,000-acre ecological farm are not its only innovative elements. 

Read more: polis: Marinaleda: The Road to Utopia?

From Project for Public Spaces
Re-Focusing Communities Around Markets

The breathtaking central hall of Cleveland's West Side Market, a major hub in the host city for this year's International Public Markets Conference (Sept. 21-23) / Photo: PBS NewsHour via Flickr

Picture yourself at the supermarket, awash in fluorescent light. You’re trying to stock up for the next couple of weeks, since it’s a busy time of year. You grab some granola bars (and maybe even a box of pop tarts), some frozen dinners, a box of macaroni with one of those little packets of powdered cheese stuff. And oh, they’re running one of those promotions where you can get ten cans of soup for, like, a dollar each. Perfect! Dinner for the next two weeks. On the way to the register, you swing by the produce aisle to grab a bunch of bananas. Like many people these days, you’re trying to eat healthy, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Now imagine that your neighborhood had a public market–the kind of place that’s easy to pop by on the way home from work to grab fresh food every couple of days. Before you reach the open-air shed, you’re surrounded by produce of every shape and color; you can smell oranges and basil from half a block away. As you follow your appetite through the maze of bins and barrels, you bump into your neighbors, and make plans to head downtown to the central market over the weekend to take a cooking class and pick up some less common ingredients. You may even make a day of it and check out the new weekly craft fair that takes place the next block over.

More at: You Are Where You Eat: Re-Focusing Communities Around Markets | Project for Public Spaces

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Alan Broadbent Cities of Migration
Why Municipal Leadership Matters

People move to cities because that is where opportunity exists at scale. They move for work, school, entertainment, acceptance and love. They go to the city for economic success, as they move into and upwards in their careers. They extend their education in higher learning, meet their mates and begin families, and find a place in neighbourhoods and communities. In the city they find people interested in the same things they are, and culture in a vast array of expression.
They move from the hinterlands and rural areas in a relentless internal migration.
And they move from around the world, historically from farms to farms, then farms to cities, and now from large cities to large cities. In every country the biggest cities are becoming bigger at a faster rate of growth than secondary or tertiary cities.

Cities know and feel both urbanization and immigration profoundly. At the national and sub-national levels, urbanization and immigration are policy issues. At worst, they become xenophobic political issues as politicians stir fear of immigrants. At the municipal level, though, they are primary lived experience. And at the city level is where we find the political and community voices that embrace immigrants, knowing they bring strength, vitality, and innovation.

More at: Why Municipal Leadership Matters: Alan Broadbent | Cities of Migration

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From Lisa Rochon's chasing home
Exhibit Wins Top Prize at Venice Architecture Biennale: 700 Families Squat Abandoned Caracas Office Tower

An abandoned office tower in the middle of Caracas – that deeply troubled and dangerous city – has been squatted by more than 700 families. An exhibition and installation by architecture critic Justin McGuirk, Caracas-based Urban-Think Tank and Dutch photographer Iwan Baan which documents the ingenuity and will to survive in the Torre David skyscraper has received the top prize at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. Read more: caracas hits venice « chasing home

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From Time Lightbox
Portraits of Quebec Mohawk Ironworkers Who Worked on the WTC Towers

Peter Jacobs
32 years, Connector/Signal-man

“My whole family, from my dad’s side right on down, is in the business. That’s how I got into it. Seeing my father and grandfather, I always wanted to be an ironworker since I was 9 or 10 years old.

It’s been an honor to build the tallest building in the United States. I can tell my grand-kids that I helped build this. The WTC, Tower 1, would be the highlight of my 30-year career as an ironworker. Knowing the height of the building and what it means to the people who lost their loved ones…it is like a victory for us and the people.”

Read more, full screen recommended:

From Apathy is Boring —If City Hall Really Wanted You to Know What They're Doing and Really Wanted Your Input, This is How They Would Communicate With You

Apathy is Boring - What is the TCWP?

See also:

Monday, September 10, 2012

From The Province
Communities Began with Transit

"There was a wonderful sense of what a street has," said Beasley. "It had a food store, a drugstore, a liquor store. It usually had day-to-day services that people need, such as dry-cleaning, shoe repair, and it has the thing people really like, the places to socialize. The cafés, the bars, the restaurants.

"For that to happen, you need enough people in the area to support those things. You need at least 10,000 between a five-and seven-minute walk, and it's better when it approaches 20,000. And you need to have the social and community infrastructure as well. If you would ask people to draw their ideal neighbourhood, they would draw that."

— Larry Beasley

Read more at Communities began with transit

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Exciting New Public Space at the
New Strip Mall in Downtown Nanaimo

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Shared Public Space in Graz

Over a three-month period in 2011, Austria’s second-largest city turned its central Sonnenfelsplatz into a shared space, an urban design concept to create a balance between traffic and the social life, culture and history of the space in question, and thus to improve quality of life.

More at: Public Space in Graz

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Planner Keesmaat on "Fear Based" Reasons Kids Don't Walk to School: "As a family we won't enter the world based on fear."

Jennifer Keesmaat, newly appointed Chief Planner, City of Toronto, in this TEDxRegina talk reminds us of a simple yet meaningful pastime -- the walk to school. This talk was filmed May 16, 2012 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

From Ciudades a escala humana
The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs

Is Jane Jacobs a commonplace? How is it possible that ideas developed some decades ago, in a very different world, are in the spotlight? What makes Jane Jacobs’ thoughts so appealing today? Is it justified? These are some of the questions addressed in this complication of articles edited by Sonia Hirt and Diane Zahm (associate professors in urban affairs and Planning at the college of architecture and urban studies at Virginia Tech)in an interdisciplinary and international (with case studies from Beirut, Kansas or Chiang Mai) review of the impact of Jane Jacobs´ intellectual and activist work. 

Read more: Ciudades a escala humana: The urban wisdom of Jane Jacobs

Monday, September 3, 2012

From — Metro Logos

Most metros have logos or symbols to mark their station entrances, rolling stock, and printed matter such as maps or tickets. Since most metros around the world are indeed called 'metros' (only few are called subway, underground, U-Bahn, T-bana or something else), many metro logos are more or less fancy variations of the letter M. More at: Metro Logos -

Email to Mayor, Council: Oh no! Murphy
Has More to Say About Port Place

Date: September 3, 2012 12:43:13 PM PDT
To: Mayor&
Subject: Oh no! Murphy has more to say about Port Place.

Mayor Ruttan and Nanaimo City Councilors,

Ok, we have noted that the promised residential component of the Port Place redevelopment has been dropped. The other element of the renewal plan that was promoted by the developer and your Planning Department was a "connector street" to align with the Gabriola Ferry Terminal and would, we were told, make a considerable contribution to "de-malling" the site. Enthusiastically embraced by Council but also not delivered as promised by the developer. It ends abruptly at the edge of the new strip mall and in its place: (wait for it) more surface parking. First Capital have not shown themselves to be good corporate citizens here and your Planning Department have let you down badly.

Frank Murphy

Sunday, September 2, 2012

From polis — Mobile Placemaking and
The Web-Enabled Food Vendor

Off the Grid, a weekly street-food event in San Francisco.
Cities across the United States are becoming hotbeds for mobile-food entrepreneurs benefiting from an online social networking culture. The mobile food-vending phenomenon is a rich environment for examining the development of technical, social and economic dimensions of contemporary urban life through the mobilization of services and social activity in both virtual and physical space. Although the number of mobile food vendors in cities has nearly doubled over the past decade, few studies have addressed this trend’s impact on the current and future urban fabric. More at: polis: Mobile Placemaking and the Web-Enabled Food Vendor

From Urban Peek
Top 10 Most Hated Cities in the World

To kick-off this post without any misunderstandings, the following cities within the countdown are not hated for being the worst cities in the world – as a mater of fact, a couple of them are ranked as the most livable - it’s because they’re the most bugging and annoying cities to visitors according to survey underwent by CNNgo. These cities prompt plenty of critical conversation, meant in the most positive light. In other words, this post can be named “10 cities travelers most love to hate”, so here’s the countdown: Top 10 Most Hated Cities in the World