Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's April Fools and we're letting the City know we ain't nobody's fool - wear a goofy hat, costume or feather boa! Come out and support traffic calming on Prior; a meaningful community consultation process that considers Strathcona, the DTES, Community Gardens, Grandview Woodland, False Creek... coffee, juice and snacks, live music and more! Monday April 1, 9am -10 am Prior and Hawks. twitter: @strathconares website:

From Stroad to Boulevard — — Stroad Economics 101

Stroad Economics 101: Chuck Marohn has posted three one minute videos in which he follows the dollars of public infrastructure investment. Please share them widely.
Some recent local examples that might benefit from this...
More at:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Fairgrounds — Shipping Container Market and Events Space, Washington DC

The Fairgrounds, Washington DC under construction
Getting a peek at the interior of Fairgrounds, the new shipping container market and events space just north of Nationals Park, Washington DC.

Fairgrounds Interior Shots / Photo Gallery - JDLand/Near Southeast DC

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cities Healthy or Unhealthy by Design

A few months ago, we talked about how a great city can be like a great running buddy, calling us to venture outdoors into more active, satisfying lifestyles. The photo-essay accompanying that conversation was on the urbanity of Wilmington, North Carolina. Last week, we were in another North Carolina town, Fuquay-Varina, working to create just those sorts of tightly-gridded, walkable streets connecting convivial, complete neighborhoods. Then perhaps the temptation to walk, bike, and run can overcome the lethargy of our modern lifestyle. More at Healthy, or Unhealthy, by Design | PlaceMakers

Repurposed Shipping Containers
Base for Innovative Social Housing in
Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

We have had a few container homes in Canada but this is definitely the most recent. 12 Containers are being utilised to form social housing for women in the downtown Eastside of the city.
The project is looking to complete by April 2013 and is the brainchild of the Atira Women’s Resource society, which bought a lot in 2009 to buildtraditional housing. Read more: Container Homes Hit Vancouver! |

Monday, March 25, 2013

From — The Rise and Rise of the Architectural Shipping Container

Dekalb Market in Brooklyn
The advent of the shipping container as architectural module and medium probably originated in the late 1950s before being seriously considered in the ’70s, when economic and oil crises provoked new readings and applications of architecture. The idea has recently developed into a full-fledged trend over the last few years, if the proliferation of container-themed projects–everything from schools andhomes to think tanks and pavilions, and plenty more–being uploaded daily to our database is to be believed. But an entire market where everything is housed and sold from stacks of shipping containers? More at: The Rise and Rise of the Architectural Shipping Container

The Ongoing Effort to Reclaim a
Walkway from a Driveway

The car rules in Nanaimo. From the grandest high speed thru-way to the smallest pedestrian pathway. I have been pointing out to the Island Corridor Foundation and the Heritage Planner at the City and anyone who'll listen (including my poor long suffering wife who has to hear me go on about this stuff) that our newly restored Train Station features a "walk"-way that connects to the Rail Corridor Trail. Car access is not restricted so of course people with business at the Station (including a great Irish Pub style restaurant) park in this area. I have finally received clarification  that the problem is in fact merely semantics. The folks who park here are apparently in fact "accessing" the Train Station building. This is a permitted use, parking is not. What we have I'm told is an "access driveway".  Here's examples of an email thread where logic and the English language itself are put under considerable strain:

The Arrogance of Space

Unfortunately, the myth persists. The sum of our knowledge after 100 years of traffic engineering is that if you create more space for cars, more cars will come. Period. Again, time to move on. A more perfect world is within our reach, once we get a flock of misconception monkeys off our backs. More at: - Bicycle Culture by Design: The Arrogance of Space

Sunday, March 24, 2013

From Sustainable Cities Collective
Lack of Green Spaces?
Pocket Parks Are the Solution

Pocket parks are the solution to this common “lack-of-green-spaces” problem. Pocket parks, also known as vest-pocket parks or mini-parks, are just a smaller version of a regular park. All that is needed is a vacant lot between, or even behind, a couple of blocks of flats. As you can easily imagine, the less money, the more creativity!

A mini-park could include spaces for relaxing, a playground that you can visit with your children on a sunny morning, a small space for events, or even a small café where you can meet with your friends during your lunch break. More at: Lack of Green Spaces? Pocket Parks Are the Solution | Sustainable Cities Collective

From Background —
2004 Downtown Nanaimo Urban Design Plan

This 2004 Downtown Nanaimo Urban Design Plan was commission by the Friends of Plan Nanaimo. The FPN was an organized and effective, if ultimately unsuccessful political movement. It opposed the construction of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre and  was fundamentally opposed to towers in favour of low rise densification for the downtown. It also opposed the elimination of Nanaimo's Urban Containment Boundary. While it did lose all these battles it added badly needed opposition to a manipulative and flawed process. Population growth and economic development in the Downtown area are stagnant, the conference centre limps and bleeds quite badly. One FPN principal rode the momentum to a seat on Council but there's no evidence that he brought any of the FPN human scale development ideas with him. (It's as if Nanaimo thinks it can be the one city in North America to finally make the sprawl and mall model work) As effective as it was, it unfortunately burnt itself out and wasn't around to play an effective role  in opposing later equally retrogressive developments: a suburban style shopping centre in the heart of downtown, precincts redeveloped piecemeal without master planning, extremely expensive arterial road infrastructure that chases "congestion" from one place to the next, provincially funded social housing clumsily imposed on neighbourhoods without proper integration into the social fabric. The FPN commissioned Vancouver Architect Lewis Villegas to oversee the design charette and The Nanaimo Downtown Urban Design Plan document. Full report pdf available here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Nanaimo Traffic Engineer Tells Council
We're Stuck With Island Highway
Ripping Thru Our Neighbourhoods

Listen to the logic behind Nanaimo Traffic/Transportation Engineer G. Foy's
presentation to City Council on March 11.

He explains to Council ( ) that because it only saves 10 minutes to use the Parkway bypass, "we feel the Island Highway will continue to be a major corridor within the city for a long time." 10 minutes and he accepts as fait accompli and authoritatively  (a Master Plan is being developed but apparently "we", whoever "we" are, have already made some decisions) informs Council that this destructive commercial highway is here to stay. Based on faulty and discredited logic. Nevermind that it's hostile to pedestrians and destructive to neighbourhhods, depresses both property values and general economic development on either side of it.  Mr. Foy would be well advised to familiarize himself with research being done by organizatons like Strong Towns and I'd recommend he read Jeff Speck's Walkable City. At City Hall the quality of life in our neighbourhoods should be everyone's number one priority. Even (and maybe especially) the Traffic Engineers.

Nanaimo Council to be Asked
To Approve Concept Planning Process
For the South Downtown Waterfront

Details of the Planning Department report to Council on the Monday March 25 agenda: pdf here.

The Official Community Plan Implementation Strategy identified the need to undertake an Urban Nod13 Plan for Downtown Plan Study Area #2, which is the area commonly known as the Wellcox Yard and Assembly Wharf area south of Downtown, as a priority in the short term. 

From streetfilms —"You need to change how the street functions, make it feel slower for drivers. You need traffic calming."

Traffic calming takes many forms and can describe any measure taken to reduce traffic speeds, improve safety, and make using the street a better overall experience. The most effective traffic calming measures are those that influence drivers to “behave in a civilized manner...” MBA: Traffic Calming from Streetfilms on Vimeo. More at" Streetfilms | MBA: Traffic Calming

Thursday, March 21, 2013

From — Life and Death on The World's Most Dangerous Roads

More than 1.2 million people are killed on the roads every year and three-quarters of all road deaths are among young men. Where are the worst places for road deaths and injuries? What is being done to improve the highways for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers? Explore data from the WHO's latest report on road safety, and experience a ride on one of the world's most dangerous roads More at: Life and death on the world's most dangerous roads – interactive | Global development |

From The Atlantic Cities
The Best City Time-Lapse Videos of 2012

More at: The Best City Time-Lapse Videos of 2012 - Eric Jaffe - The Atlantic Cities

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Density & Built Form in Canada

[It] is possible to achieve high-density — in the order of 100 units per acre — using fee-simple, human-scale product. ...The quartiers or neighbourhoods that result are highly supportive of social functioning. They present values of community and values of place lacking in the Modern suburbs and tower neighbourhoods. Read more: Density & Built Form in Canada | lewisnvillegas

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bicycle Culture by Design:
Closing Streets to Cars - for Good

Post-pedestrianisation in Copenhagen's City Centre.
FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. This is the general feeling when drivers know that the street they usually drive on, may soon be closed to vehicular traffic. This feeling has, to some degree, been used by those who decide to build new roads. In other words, we still live according to Henry Ford's motto, “With mobility comes freedom and progress”. As someone who works with urban planning this can be viewed as when the ends actually justify the means – cities scratched by black tar marks, roads planned and built with eyes closed. Read more: - Bicycle Culture by Design: Closing Streets to Cars - for Good

From BK to BXL — Envisioning a
Food Market for New York;
Looking at Markets Elsewhere

Earlier this week, a public hearing was organized by the New York City Council concerning the future of South Street Seaport. One of the key issues at hand for many people was the future of the Fulton Fish Market site - the site of a historic market that operated in publicly owned facilities for 183 years. New Amsterdam Market, the organization that has been operating a weekly, seasonal, outdoor market at the site since the fish market moved in 2005, circulated a petition and rallied people to attend the hearing, calling for the buildings to be preserved as market space and to remain publicly owned. Mark Bittman, of the New York Times, wrote a great piece in support of the proposal, stating that a grand urban market can anchor a neighborhood, or even a city, and that people would likely visit a market on the historic waterfront in droves - possibly even trumping the highline. Read more: From BK to BXL - Envisioning a Food Market for New York; Looking at...

"3 issues—wealth, health, sustainability—are, not coincidentally, the 3 principal arguments for making cities more walkable" @jeffspeckaicp

A Proposal — A Recycled Shipping Container Public Market for Nanaimo's
Pioneer Waterfront Plaza

As a project for my online SketchUp course I'm looking at Nanaimo's Pioneer Waterfront Plaza, a Port Authority property designed by local architect Ian Niamath. If design elements alone could make a great public space this plaza would be quite wonderful. The entrances to it are dramatic and thoughtful. Pattern in the surface hardscaping align to a circular fountain. The concrete and landscaping treatments echo Erickson and Oberlander.

But, in fact it is almost totally deserted all but a very few days a year. It's the top of a 2 level parkade on the waterfront. About at grade to the downtown streets to the west. The east side is part of Nanaimo's most loved public space, where the shops and cafés (there's even a tea room) and the float plane terminal edge the harbourfront walkway. This seawalk extends past and through the working harbour — commercial fish boats, pleasure craft, serious ocean going sailboats, bubble boat ferries put-putting across to the islands in the harbour and Puget Sound mini-cruise ships (The Port Authority is in the process of leasing the harbour to a private firm, a 30 year lease and neither the NPA or the proponent seem to have, at this point, credibly addressed any of the local opposition to the plan. Some background.)
My configuration for a public market on the site has 14 charter vendors in recycled shipping containers, 6 10 foot and 8 20 foot. I'm suggesting the Port and the City of Nanaimo build a canopy over the site and supply utilities. The core vendors would include the small merchants who left the inner city or have disappeared entirely in cities such as Nanaimo where large national corporations have been permitted within the planning parameters to locate in remote areas only accessible by car. (That the crazily expensive infrastructure that facilitates this business model amounts to a subsidy is best left for another post perhaps.) These would include the butcher the baker and probably not the candlestick maker, but you get my point. The fish stall, cheese specialties, coffee and tea. And of course fresh produce. The 1 day a week market and the craft market for cruise ships that now use the site can be accommodated as well. All participants would benefit from the traffic generated by their fellow vendors.

I think the idea warrants research and a feasibility study and for these reasons:

● The repurposed shipping containers offer an economical way to expand existing small enterprises. I'm suggesting that these be purchased by the vendors and that they commit to a lease of the space for a period of time.
● The cost sharing between local small business people and the Port and the City is beneficial and has the potential to add up to more than the sum of its parts.
● The containers offer the important ability for the individual vendors to put their small satellite shops into lockdown, effectively stopping almost all expenses in times of reduced or no revenue.
● It may be practical to remove the containers during the winter months making the businesses quite viable and sustainable from busy summer months revenues.
● The contribution to the enhancement of walkable community-building downtown can't be overestimated. Lots of lip service to "place making" but the public market "walks the walk". Local government providing a public market that supplements other forms of commerce in our towns and cities is the norm in most of the world.

And a SketchUp animation (set resolution to HD for better results):

From Stroad to Boulevard
On Broadway and Robots and Debt

Yes, robotaxis. Or google-cars, autonomous vehicles, whatever you want to call them (I like including the word taxi because that makes it clear they’re not individually owned). Anybody charged with long term transport investments must be aware of the state of this art, and the forecasts that are measured in handfuls of years.Unlike some, I see electric robotaxis as being enablers and catalysts - not threats - to walkable urbanism, like a cheaper, more convenient version of car-share or taxis today. Read more: Stroad to Boulevard • On Broadway and robots and debt

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

From urbansynergies
Crowd Control at Comiket Market in Tokyo

Found this time lapse video of crowd control for the Comiket market in Tokyo, Japan. I was first struck by the immense crowd that the market draws and then the ballet like nature of the movement of consumers. Wish we had something like this in Toronto helping us to support individual publication and artistic expression. Read more: Crowd Control at Comiket | urbansynergies on 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

From The Atlantic Cities
Jane Jacobs Was Right: Gradual Redevelopment Does Promote Community

ERIC JAFFE  The results showed quite clearly that a mixture of buildings indicated strong social ties. Mid-century housing age was significantly associated with all four types of social relations, while recent construction had a negative association with social control in particular. Once King controlled for other demographic factors, only housing "age diversity" kept its significant link with all four social metrics she measured. Read more: Jane Jacobs Was Right: Gradual Redevelopment Does Promote Community - Eric Jaffe - The Atlantic Cities

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Passeig de St Joan, Barcelona

When the city dweller leaves his home or the homes of people he knows personally, he is surrounded by strangers… the world of strangers which is the city is located in the city’s public space.” — Lyn H Lofland. A World of Strangers: Order and Action in Urban Public Space, 1973. page 19 Click photo for hi-res enlargement.

Public Space: A World of Strangers (two of x) | jellybeancity on

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

From — Bus Rapid Transit

Streetfilms | MBA: Bus Rapid Transit

From — The "Stroad"

When you combine a street and a road, you get a STROAD, one of the most dangerous and unproductive human environments. To get more for our transportation dollar, we need an active policy of converting STROADs to productive streets or high capacity roadways.

From The Atlantic Cities
Shouldn't Pedestrians At Least Be Safe
From Cars on the Sidewalk?

On one day last week, within hours of each other, two women standing or walking on New York City sidewalks were killed by drivers

One of those senseless deaths happened in Manhattan, and one in my Brooklyn neighborhood, where a woman named Martha Atwater stepped out of a bagel store after buying cookies there for her family. A few steps away, she was struck by a sport pickup truck whose driver had mounted the curb and come up onto the sidewalk. When I saw the picture of where the crash had occurred, I had to sit down. I had been in that exact spot about 20 minutes before it happened. Not that there’s anything particularly remarkable in that for anyone but me. I’m just one of hundreds of people who walk that stretch of pavement every day.Read more: Shouldn't Pedestrians At Least Be Safe From Cars on the Sidewalk? - Commute - The Atlantic Cities

Monday, March 4, 2013

From NPR: The Picture Show
Ezra Stoller, The Photographer
Who Made Architects Famous

Design Research, Benjamin Thompson, Cambridge, Mass., 1970
Ezra Stoller probably wouldn't care about this question, but let's indulge it anyways: What makes a "beautiful" photograph?

To a degree, a lot depends on the subject, right? Would Ansel Adams have been half as famous if those landscapes hadn't already done most of the work?

Then again, beauty is also in the eye of the beholder. Bill Brandt didn't design the human body, so how can he take credit for its beauty in his photos? Because he knew how to capture the poetry of all its curves and angles — forcing us, in turn, to see the body in ways we hadn't seen it before.

Architectural photography, though often relegated to its own genre, is no different. The task is to capture the intention behind someone else's design — to distill the philosophy of a building into a single, digestible image that transcends explanation. It's not easy, but when it's done well it looks effortless. So much so that you're left admiring the building alone, and likely never think twice about the person who helped you see it. Read more: The Photographer Who Made Architects Famous : The Picture Show : NPR

From This City Life
Revitalized Public Market Helps
New Westminster Get Back to its Roots

River Market (photo c/o River Market)
When you think of suburbs, you don’t typically think of a charming, local shopping experience. Big box stores, retail chains and sprawling parking lots are more likely to come to mind. But it doesn’t have to be this way, as suburbs like Metro Vancouver’s New Westminster are proving. With its re-invented public market, the city is helping bring back the local shopping experience and attracting a new generation of young families to its historic downtown core in the process. Read more: Revitalized Public Market Helps New Westminster Get Back to its Roots

Maximum City — A Curriculum and
Research Project in Sustainable Urban Design For High School Students

Maximum City is an award-winning curriculum and research project in sustainable urban design for high school students. For the past two summers, select students from a variety of schools across the Greater Toronto Area have worked together with leading experts in architecture, design, transit, and civic engagement to tackle real-life sustainability challenges and planning issues. The unique lessons and expert learning modules developed in the summer program are currently being taught to a broader cohort of students as part of their in-school curriculum. Read more... |

A Plan To Shrink Detroit (Well)

Critics of the status quo call for a type of city planning that is less driven by the wasteful economic development policies of the last several decades, where firms were recruited with tax abatements and grants only to close their doors, deep in debt. They demand that change is less driven by the traditionally dominant "growth" industry of real estate developers, bankers, and large property owners who line their own pockets at the expense of neighborhood quality.

This new model for city change is grounded in a pragmatism based on demographics: if a place is growing, let's manage that growth through new infrastructure and coordination of services. If a place is shrinking, let's manage that shrinkage by right-sizing it. For "Detroit Future City", that means focusing money and resources around the islands of residential and business energy that remain in the city and turning the rest back to nature. Well, not quite nature... Read more: A Plan To Shrink Detroit (Well) | Planetizen

Friday, March 1, 2013