“Maintenance is the foundation of eternity” – Isaac Asimov (from The End of Eternity, a novel, in which he actually wrote that maintenance was the foundation of eternity)
“Maintenance is the foundation of eternity” – Isaac Asimov (from The End of Eternity, a novel, in which he actually wrote that maintenance was the foundation of eternity)
Mark Thompson Brandt, Conservation Architect and Author, will discuss why it is important to sustainably upgrade our older building stock, how heritage conservation relates to environmental conservation and to the global and national movement towards the new “Low Carbon Economy”. As co-author of “Building Resilience: Practical Guidelines for the Sustainable Conservation of Buildings in Canada”, he will explore both why we should and how we can make historic buildings part of our “greening” plans. Mark will introduce the key principles of the Guidelines and how they can be applied to a wide variety of building types from homes to large-scale non-residential sites by both professionals and owners. Drawing on his 30 years of experience in practice and his national and international involvement in both the heritage and sustainability fields, he will highlight case studies from Vancouver, Canada and the USA and discuss how we can successfully connect our historic buildings with our sustainability goals.
This is the “pre-tour” lecture of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.
June 1st, 7:30 pm.
What? No bike picture for several days? Here’s one from 1915.
The Kerrisdale village, about 8 blocks across, developed with low-rise to mid-rise apartments/condos from the 1940s to the 1990s. It is the model for giving a focus to the sprawling RS (single family) areas of Vancouver.
At the Urbanarium debate on March 8th about character-house retention, I argued there is little point in adding townhouses or duplexes to the RS areas of the city without giving neighbourhoods a focus – a village. Villages arose historically at crossroads; Vancouver’s current penchant for stringing density along arterials is not building communities, it’s just adding human units to our population statistics.
Furthermore, adding duplexes and townhouses to the car-captive RS zones will merely add more car captives. However, a concentration of population into neighbourhood centres (call them villages or whatever) would give a better opportunity to serve them with transit and, potentially, to create the kind of walkable communities for people at every stage of their lives – something that is definitely not happening with the strips of multi-family buildings along, say, Cambie Street south of King Edward.
So here’s a proposal to plan (properly) the RS areas:
The existing “villages” in green:
Proposed “villages” in red:
17. Jericho Lands will have multi-family and commercial, yes?
18. Neighbourhood shops at 16th and Macdonald-Trafalgar.
19. Neighbourhood shops and a few townhouses at 33rd and Mackenzie.
20. Neighbourhood shopping area surrounded by single-family at 41st and Dunbar.
21. Pearson Lands redevelopment: will it get a Canada Line stop or will everybody be both high-density and car-captive?
22. 49th and Fraser: the partly abandoned Punjabi Village area that has decamped to Kennedy Heights, surrounded by affordable single-family/extended family.
23. 41st and Victoria: a vibrant commercial area in the middle of the sea of detached houses; redevelopment would gentrify and displace many immigrant families.
24. Renfrew and 1st: a vibrant commercial area in the midst of a poor/middle class detached housing area.
Something to mull over as the green slime of winter cloaks the Main Street Poodle.
This is excerpted from the New York Review of Books blog – a post by Jon Day.
‘In 1972, sixteen artists were each given £1000 to produce a site-specific sculpture, to be installed in one of eight cities across England and Wales. The City Sculpture Project, which is documented in an exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, England (on view through February 19), was intended to rejuvenate public sculpture in Britain. The project sought to move sculpture out of the garden and gallery and place it on the streets of living cities, to confront the people where they lived. The people weren’t immediately convinced….
‘…One of the few original works to survive the intervening years (most have been lost or destroyed—the exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute consists mainly of plans, photographs, and maquettes) is Nicholas Monro’s equally blatant King Kong, a huge fiberglass gorilla originally installed outside the Bull Ring, a Brutalist shopping center in Birmingham. It now stands—face grimacing, arms stretched in welcome—outside the Henry Moore Institute. Like Kimme, Monro thought obviousness was what the people wanted. “In this case they will like him won’t they?” he said at the time. “Because they can understand it and appreciate it. He’s a giant gorilla.”…
‘…The loss of most of the original City Sculpture commissions is a shame, as the exhibition doesn’t really convey what must have been their real point: their unsettling, provoking, or glorious real-world presence. Nor do we get much of a sense of how they interacted with their environments, what it might have been like to walk close to them, to touch them, or to climb them. Many of the sculptures were located in modern, redeveloped areas: Kenneth Martin’s Sheffield Construction, 1972, a rigid tower of nineteen blue boxes, stood alongside a concrete flyover in Sheffield; Robert Carruthers’s Timber Framed Complex, a series of wooden constructions which was part stylized pagoda, part children’s playground, peeped out from the middle of a traffic intersection in Colmore Circus in Birmingham. Many of these were works designed to sit alongside—indeed to draw attention to or contrast with—Britain’s equally contentious post-war architecture. ‘
[I had to revert to the old-fashioned way of stealing content as I couldn’t find this brief story from the business section of The Globe on-line.]
Their gadgets may be 21st century, and the building itself may be oh-s0-sustainable, but people come and go from it just like they did in the heyday of 20th century office parks.
Architecture critic Martin Filler eviscerates the World Trade Centre development in NYC in this long and worthwhile article from the New York Review of Books; readers who care only somewhat about Manhattan will still enjoy the Battle Royal between architects, developers, politicians and, indeed, critics.
Filler reviews three books on the subject, and at one point quotes Lynne Sagalyn: “This was not city building. Architecture may be art and city building calls for art-like understanding of the fabric of a place, but a city is not a blank canvas to paint at will…”
Filler has never been a fan of Santiago Calatrava: “The most architecturally ambitious portion of the ensemble, Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transportation Hub (commonly called the Oculus), opened to the public in March 2016, though with no fanfare whatever, doubtless to avoid drawing further attention to this stupendous waste of public funds. The job took twelve years to finish instead of the five originally promised, and part of its exorbitant $4 billion price will be paid by commuters in the form of higher transit fares. The fortune spent on this kitschy jeu d’esprit—nearly twice its already unconscionable initial estimate of $2.2 billion—is even more outrageous for a facility that serves only 40,000 commuters on an average weekday, as opposed to the 750,000 who pass through Grand Central Terminal daily. Astoundingly, the Transportation Hub wound up costing $1 billion more than One World Trade Center itself.”
Is there a cautionary tale here for Vancouver and the nascent plan to redo the downtown waterfront, including expanding Waterfront Station into a larger, more effective transit hub?
This comes from artist Gary Sim, who will be giving a lecture on Surviving While Being Creative, about artists’ historic travails in BC, to the Vancouver Historical Society at the MoV on Thursday February 23rd at 7:30 pm.
On one street in Otavalo (a town about two hours north of Quito), the lamp posts have faux stained glass panels of trees, birds and buildings – I’ve never seen “beautification” like this elsewhere. Unfortunately, the globe lights don’t make the panels really glow after dark. (And yes, that’s a Cyclo Via a.k.a bike lane…)
I had the opportunity to spend 4 days in Lima and 2 days in Quito, but only briefly had my PT/urbanista hat on.
From Wikipedia: “with a population of almost 10 million, Lima is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru and the second-largest city in the Americas (as defined by “city proper”), behind São Paulo and before Mexico City.” By comparison, Quito is slightly under 5 million – more the size of Toronto or Sydney. Ecuador appears to be a much more orderly country with better infrastructure, reflecting its history of stable democratic governments.
Peru has had long-running problems with corruption and the fabled insurrection of the Maoist “Shining Path” guerrillas in the central valleys, leading it to have a cash economy and a tax-avoiding, independent population exemplified by its taxi drivers, roadside vendors and numerous markets. The towns we saw were charming but pretty shabby, as were parts of Lima, with favelas climbing up the hillsides north of the city centre. However, Miraflores, the Lima oceanside suburb where we stayed, was a lovely, prosperous, sophisticated sub-tropical place, with lots of street life, boulevard cafés and smart shops.
The Metropolitano rapid bus in Lima (Wikipedia photo)
Lima’s traffic is horrendous, reflecting its lack of serious infrastructure spending. Although there is a one-line Metro (which we never saw) and the Metropolitano rapid bus that uses the separated centre lanes of the expressway running from the coastal suburbs into the Centro Historico, the vast majority of transit is small “collectivo” buses that run (illegally) like jitneys, as well as hordes of taxis, some of them legal and registered (taxis convienza), some of them not. It is free enterprise on steroids rather than a public-funded system like Translink.
Collectivos at a stop in Miraflores
The majority of the traffic appears not to be private cars but rather “shared” vehicles – the collectivos and taxis – plus service vehicles such as trucks, and it approaches gridlock for many hours of the day. Is this how the future will play out in other cities, as “share” services such as Uber et al clog the streets with constantly moving vehicles, some of them empty – maybe some of them driverless?
Public wifi in the Parque Kennedy in Miraflores
And yes, Virginia, there is a bike lane. It’s amazing how few people cycle given the pleasant climate and relatively flat topography.
Condo marketing is only slightly more audacious than Chez Rennie…
In Quito, Volvo triple-buses run at quite high speeds on dedicated lanes, even on the narrow streets of the Centro Historico…
A typical glassed-in station in Quito; you enter through a turnstile having paid your 25 cent fare, then board the bus through all doors very quickly when it arrives.
Jason Vanderhill, collector and historian extraordinaire, posted this newspaper clip on FB about the pending demise in 1946 of a section of “Skid Road” and the characters who were to be displaced. Hard to read in the image below, but this is how it begins:
“It appears, that in the interests of better town planning, certain experts have expressed the opinion that the entire block down in the old Skid-Road district bounded by Water, Carrall, Cordova, and Abbott streets must be razed to the ground in order to provide room for the parking of more motor vehicles.
“Should this be done, I suppose we must bow to the inevitable march of time and accept this harsh decree. However, the destruction of all these old landmarks, peopled by ghosts of the past, will wrench the very heartstrings of many old-timers.”
As it turned out, the block from Water to Abbott survived long enough to be re-imagined by Larry Killam and others in the late 1960s; the commercial and aesthetic potential of Gastown was a key element in the coalition of ideas that formed to fight the freeway in the early 1970s. The concession made to cars at the time was the big parkade, for Woodward’s, which took a chunk out of Water Street a block to the west – part of it became the “Historicum” [sic?] attraction and is now …. ?
The best claim-to-fame for the parkade is its appearance as a set in Jackie Chan’s classic “Rumble in the Bronx.”
From The Guardian: another kind of collateral damage as tech marches on….
Despite threats of legal action from the department of motor vehicles (DMV) and California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, Uber refused to back down on Friday, claiming its rejection of government authority was “an important issue of principle”.
Concerns are mounting about how the cars behave in dense urban environments, particularly in San Francisco, where there are an estimated 82,000 bike trips each day across more than 200 miles of cycling lanes.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has released a warning about Uber’s cars based on staff members’ first-hand experiences in the vehicles. When the car was in “self-driving” mode, the coalition’s executive director, who tested the car two days before the launch, observed it twice making an “unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane”.
That means the car crossed the bike path at the last minute in a manner that posed a direct threat to cyclists.
The linked article came in as a response by reader Sylvain to an earlier post about how “sharing” is fuzzy-talk for renting. It’s from the Harvard Business Review, not a regular part of my breakfast reading.
It describes the missteps some companies have made in believing that consumers actually want to share with others. The entire piece is worth reading; here, for example, is a comment about the “car share” field:
Our own research on Zipcar demonstrates this point. When consumers use the world’s leading car sharing service they don’t feel any of the reciprocal obligations that arise when sharing with one another. They experience Zipcar in the anonymous way one experiences a hotel; they know others have used the cars, but have no desire to interact with them. They don’t view other Zipsters as co-sharers of the cars, but rather are mistrustful of them, and rely on the company to police the sharing system so it’s equitable for everyone.
This insight − that it is an access economy rather than a sharing economy – has important implications for how companies in this space compete. It implies that consumers are more interested in lower costs and convenience than they are in fostering social relationships with the company or other consumers. Companies that understand this will have a competitive advantage. For example, we are currently seeing the rise of Uber in the short-term car-ride market. Uber positions itself squarely around its pricing, reliability, and convenience. This is encapsulated in their tagline, “Better, faster and cheaper than a taxi.” In comparison, Lyft, which offers an almost identical service, positions itself as friendly (“We’re your friend with a car”), and as a community (“Greet your driver with a fistbump”). Lyft has not seen nearly the same amount of growth as Uber, and a contributing reason is because they are putting too much emphasis on consumers’ desire to “share” with each other.
If the billionaires behind Uber and Car2Go can offer “ride shares” and “car shares,” as in an earlier post, how about “the gig economy.” How positive and liberating that sounds!
“I don’t have a job, I have a gig!”, says the 20- or 30-something working hard with no tenure and no benefits. Benefits? Apparently it’s mainly the employers who have them under this system.
“Inside the Gig Economy” offers some insights from the FT Alphaville site.
FT Alphaville has been tracking the gig economy’s transformation into a neo-feudalism movement for a while now. What we’ve discovered is that those who use, love and defend the apps don’t always have a good understanding of what really contributes to their convenience. Many will do and say almost anything to protect them, whilst failing to grasp the key point of the criticism: none of this is necessarily sustainable or representative of a productivity efficiency.
(Should I [personally] care about this? I’ve been freelance since 1979, but the world I got established in is a totally different one from today’s. I may have made only a few hundred dollars a month when I was starting out, but if rent was $100 I was laughing.)
One of the recent triumphs of branding has been the acceptance of the word “share” for what is, in reality, a straight rental transaction. Except for the enabling technology, which allows a share car to live for free on the public street rather than returning each day to a privately-owned, taxed compound (à la Hertz), why is a Car2Go four-wheeler different from an Avis rental?
Are any of the sharing companies really sharers, as in co-ops?
•ZipCar is a subsidiary of car-rental giant Avis
•Car2Go is a subsidiary of Daimler
•Mobi, Vancouver’s new “bike share” a.k.a short-term rental, is owned by Shaw and CycleHop
•Evo is owned by BCAA, which is a non-profit federation, better fitting the sense of the word “share”
•Modo is a co-operative.
The word “share,” as it is now used, has such a positive, Millennial connotation – no wonder highly profitable companies have jumped to it. Even Airbnb “shares” accommodation, which is a very different thing from a few friends pooling their money to share an apartment. And Uber is a “ride share,” somehow different from me sharing a taxi with its driver.
I want to make a list. Are there other brave new words (or brave new meanings to simple old words) to add?
Sue Halpern writes insightfully about technology for the New York Review of Books. Below are a few excerpts from an essay/review of Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead, by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, MIT Press, 312 pp., $29.95.
The article is ‘locked’ – for subscribers only. The quotes below are, I hope, within the realm of “fair use.”
For generations of Americans especially, and young Americans even more, driving and the open road promised a kind of freedom: the ability to light out for the territory, even if the territory was only the mall one town over. Autonomous vehicles also come with the promise of freedom, the freedom of getting places without having to pay attention to the open (or, more likely, clogged) road, and with it, the freedom to sleep, work, read e-mail, text, play, have sex, drink a beer, watch a movie, or do nothing at all. In the words of the Morgan Stanley analysts, whose enthusiasm is matched by advocates in Silicon Valley and cheerleaders in Detroit, driverless vehicles will deliver us to a “utopian society.”
That utopia looks something like this: fleets of autonomous vehicles—call them taxi bots—owned by companies like Uber and Google, able to be deployed on demand, that will eliminate, for the most part, the need for private car ownership. (Currently, most privately owned cars sit idle for most of the day, simply taking up space and depreciating in value.) Fewer privately owned vehicles will result in fewer cars on the road overall. With fewer cars will come fewer traffic jams and fewer accidents. Fewer accidents will enable cars to be made from lighter materials, saving on fuel. They will be smaller, too, since cars will no longer need to be armored against one another.
With less private car ownership, individuals will be freed of car payments, fuel and maintenance costs, and insurance premiums. Riders will have more disposable income and less debt. The built environment will improve as well, as road signs are eliminated—smart cars always know where they are and where they are going—and parking spaces, having become obsolete, are converted into green spaces. And if this weren’t utopian enough, the Morgan Stanley analysts estimate that switching to full vehicle autonomy will save the United States economy alone $1.3 trillion a year.
She goes on to describe the technical challenges, such as, what will a car’s “perception” be and how it will be programmed to deal with various life and death situations? She asks: “Will members of car-sharing services have to waive their right to sue if a fleet car gets in an accident? And how will blame be assessed? Was the accident the fault of software that didn’t accurately read the road, or the municipality that didn’t maintain the road? Tort law is likely to be as challenged by the advent of self-driving cars as the automobile industry itself.”
Looking more broadly at the societal issues, she notes: “It does not take a sophisticated algorithm to figure out that the winners in the decades ahead are going to be those who own the robots, for they will have vanquished labor with their capital. In the case of autonomous vehicles, a few companies are now poised to control a necessary public good, the transportation of people to and from work, school, shopping, recreation, and other vital activities.” And, “lawmakers in this country are now using the autonomous vehicle future laid out by companies like Uber and Google to block investment in mass transit.”
What of all the people who will end up on the dole – all the drivers of trucks and taxis, supporting themselves and their families, clawing their way toward a decent standard of living?
Getting into the realm of the creepy, she imagines a scenario of “Google offering rides for free as long as passengers are willing to “share” the details of where they are going, what they are buying, who they are with, and which products their eyes are drawn to on the ubiquitous (but targeted!) ads that are playing in the car’s cabin.”
I was pondering all this as I watched a UPS driver deliver a package to the house next door and imagined a driverless delivery vehicle doing this job. There was nowhere to park on the block, but he managed to double-park on the corner, make his way back to the house, negotiate its latched front gate and pacify the dog, climb the stairs and chat with the customer. Will neighbourhoods have to be redesigned to accommodate robots, or will a human ride along, maybe watching videos or updating his Facebook page, in order to make the delivery itself? There’s a job for you!
Will there ever be a time where a techno-revolution such as this will be banned for not being in the public good?
Richard Glover hosts the “Drive” show on ABC Sydney and writes an occasional opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald; the closest comparison is CBC Vancouver’s Stephen Quinn. An excerpt from a recent column:
The latest attempt to deskill the human race comes courtesy of the “tyre pressure monitoring system” now built into many cars. In Britain, it’s been compulsory in all new cars sold since 2014, with the result that people no longer know how to check their own tyre pressure. The only problem: the systems routinely fail, with the result that four in 10 cars in the UK, according to a study out this week, have at least one dangerously underinflated tyre.
At same time, people put such faith in their sat-nav systems that motorists are routinely ending up in rivers and even oceans. They are, it seems, more likely to believe the view on their phone-screen than the view out their windscreen.
Reading both stories this week, a picture does form of the British motoring public – one moment veering into oncoming traffic on the M1, the next hurling themselves off the pier at Brighton. They are, I fear, taking Brexit a bit too literally.
I also fear that the machines are up to something. Each day they become a little smarter; each day, we become a little dumber.
With the latest-model cars, you no longer need to reverse park; the vehicle does it for you. Driving itself, of course, will be outsourced soon. No one even needs to cook: Google this week unveiled Google Home, a personal assistant that sits in the corner of your room, quietly learning your habits: the barked command “get me food,” will result in your preferred take-away meal arriving soon after.
Given time, Google Home will surely be able to respond to other plaintive inquiries, such as: “how do you spell bourgeoisie?” And “why can’t I ever seem to get a girlfriend?”
“The Sydney of 2026 will have crossed over that magical Australian barrier of the love affair with the motor vehicle,” offers David Pitchford, the chief executive of government property agency UrbanGrowth NSW.
“We will have moved away from everybody having three cars, and we will have moved into a situation like most European capitals, where people under 25 don’t even have a driver’s licence,” says Pitchford.
“And the reason for that is that they don’t need it. Their city is designed so well that they can get around and interconnect without it.”
This series of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald imagines the city in a decade, when its population will have climbed from the current 4.2 million to 5.5 million.
People who really know Sydney – not just the pretty harbour and the historic Inner West and Eastern Suburbs but the sprawling North Shore and the “Western Subs” baking on the Cumberland Plain – will question whether forms of personal mobility could ever be replaced by transit. Distances are great and the spaghetti of arterials connecting the suburbs are badly congested. Most of the investment since 2000 has been in tolled road infrastructure – an orbital freeway and some very long tunnels. The train system looks excellent on a map but is slow to use. And bicycles – such a great interest to many readers of this blog – are practically non-existent due to narrow roads and aggressive drivers.