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Barcelona 19 – The Diagonal (2)

July 30, 2014

The redevelopment of the north end of  The Diagonal was very much in the Barcelona tradition: Have a big event – International Exhibitions in 1888 and 1929, the Olympics in 1992 – and rebuild big chunks of the town while you’re at it.

The decaying industrial area of Poblenou was the opportunity after the Summer Games and before the World Forum – proposed as a kind of cultural Olympics in  2004.  The results are apparent in any panorama of the city.

Glòries can be easily spotted, anchored by the Agbar Tower (centre right),  looking suggestive as ever:

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Running to the left  is a long line of mid-rise blocks, creating a streetwall corridor all the way to the next cluster of towers, known generally as Diagonal Mar.

Diagonal

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Diagonal

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Some of it is very good indeed.  Around Glòries, The Diagonal looks like this:

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These are great streets – some of the world’s best.   Barcelona knows how to do Ramblas.

You might even make out the tram behind the trees on the right, on its own grass right-of-way.  Further down The Diagonal, it looks like this:

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But the area at its northeasterly end … not so great.  The urban design of its public spaces and rights-of-way ranges from the mundane to the mysterious.

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The mystery is why.  Why would Barcelona do something so lifeless, so street unfriendly, given its traditions and the evidence of generations of city-building?  Was it a rejection of this very past, the desire for novelty, the dictates of corporate developers, cost considerations, the rush to complete before the 2004 World Forum?

Barcelona is not unique in developing a section of the city to serve the needs of multinationals, to allow a place for highrise towers, infrastructure to serve the automobile and internal malls: Paris has its La Defense, London its Canary Wharf, Vienna its Danube City.

And Barcelona its Diagonal Mar.

Ordinary Stats: The Education-Transit Connection

July 30, 2014

Roz Kaplan, my colleague in Continuing Studies at SFU and Director of Liberal Arts and Adults 55+, just did some geobatching with the addresses of those who registered for her programs.

Here’s one map that reveals a not-unexpected pattern:

 

geobatch 1

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I had a hunch that the majority of our students heavily utilized the transit system, and were more likely to live near the most frequent services.  Roz confirmed as much:

In a Seniors Program Demographic Study completed in the winter of 2013 by 455 senior students, they reported that 94 percent either walked, road a bike or took public transportation.

That matches up with informal surveys the City Program does at lectures and classes.  And why I say “ordinary stats:”  the education institutions of the region are heavily dependent on transit services to serve their students, whether young, old or in between.

And why it makes so little sense to see new universities built on tops of mountains or greenfield sites on the urban edge.  I’m thinking of you Nanaimo, Kelowna, Prince George and, of course, Vancouver.

Just to confirm, here’s another of Roz’s map where the connection to rapid transit couldn’t be clearer:

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geobatch 2

 

Extraordinary Stats: The Bike-Transit Comparison

July 30, 2014

The Buzzer Blog has been doing a series on #WhatsTheLink – what TransLink is responsible for in the region.  (They’ve been trying for years to emphasize that they are not just a transit agency.)

Here’s the summary graphic:

 

WTL_Wrapup_Long_v08
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Roads, as you see, have been put on top.

But notice: 418,000 passengers a day on transit.  And 107,000 bike trips a day – one cycle trip for every four on transit.

Frankly, wow.  Would not have thought it that high.

Transit advocates emphasize the consequences to car drivers if everyone on a bus started taking up their equivalent space on the road.  You’ve seen the illustration:

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Bike_Car_Comparison

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So the argument applies – to some degree – if the transit system had to accommodate those on bikes.

The question, of course, is to what degree?  A comment from Jimmy MacGregor (new to PT?) with respect to bikeshare makes the point:

I don’t understand how bikesharing is a viable substitute for or complement to public transit in a city that rains six months a year. …  Long term, I fail to see how they would do anything to solve congestion.

Most of us fail to see how anything solves congestion if roads are treated as a free good – but at least the alternatives take some of the pressure off and provide a choice.  The truism here is that this applies to every aspect of the transportation system: Every mode depends on the others to avoid the consequences of its overuse.

Ray Spaxman: “To stimulate reflection and discussion”

July 30, 2014
Ray has some thoughts on the new Urban Design Award Program underway at the City of Vancouver – thoughts that sum up much of what he brought to urban design during his career:
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The inaugural Vancouver Urban Design Award Program is underway.  …
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Only owners of projects or their project team members can submit entries to the program. Only buildings that received occupancy permits after Jan 1, 2012 are eligible. The jury (all design professionals) will be announced later and the award ceremony will occur in September. 
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While I have concerns about the submission limitations, the idea of an awards program in Vancouver is a welcome one. …
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It is a complex subject that has been under discussion at least since 30 BC when Vitruvius noted that the three essential elements of great architecture are “Commodity, Firmness and Delight.” …
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While working out how the building can best be laid out to best function for its intended purpose (commodity) and ensuring that it will be structurally sound and weatherproof (firmness) is complex but a relatively objective exercise within well refined standards and rules.
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Delight is another matter.  But even that has been fully explored and refined over the centuries.   Well trained and experienced designers and developers are aware of the elements that contribute to this in buildings. Important to that product is the designers innate ability to conceive and shape the three essential elements into a place that evokes a sense of delight.

Read more…

Who We Are: At the Fireworks

July 30, 2014

Three times a year for the Celebration of Light, the city closes off the West End to traffic and invites the region to show up on foot – a good time to stand in the middle of a major street and randomly snap away with a camera or phone.

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Not a scientific sample, of course, but the results are a reflection of who we are.

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With a special nod to these guys:

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Cartoon Classic – 2: Dr. Dan explains gentrification

July 30, 2014

This one is from 1980 – by Garry Trudeau, of course.

 

DoonesburyClick to enlarge.

 

Barcelona 18 – Impressions (5)

July 30, 2014

The tower at the end of The Diagonal …

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Centro Comercial Glòries
Centro Comercial Glòries
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