I’m not sure if it was Carlos Thays who introduced the jacaranda tree to Buenos Aires – but the city certainly adopted it as a signature species. We were there when the thick summer foliage was a monochrome green – but it would be worth it to revisit in November when city streets and parks become tunnels of violet.
Here’s a sense of what BA looks like at the height of jacaranda season in this video by a major real-estate firm. So yes, a view of the northeast side of the city: rich, sleekly modern, beaux-arts elegant – and no visible graffiti.
While there are major parks along the riverfront, what partly makes up for the lack of local green space are the street trees – mature leafy deciduous trees in abundance.
It seems like all the streets in the older neighbourhoods are lined with them, almost unbroken in their canopy and coverage.
Like the street we stayed on in Palermo:
Does BA have the best urban forest for its size in the world? It must be in the counting. (I’d welcome other nominations.) And there’s a reason.
Street trees have been a vital part of the city since the 19th century. And the person who likely gets the most credit is Carlos Thays – born Jules Charles Thays in Paris, arrived in Argentina in 1889, became infatuated with the young country and was named BA’s Director of Parks & Walkways (interesting that they specified “walkways” back in 1891.) “This position gave him significant influence over the design of the city’s open spaces, and his legacy is still strongly felt in the city’s open spaces today.”
From above, to a Vancouverite’s eyes, there’s something odd about Buenos Aires:
Where’s the green space? – the parks and fields scattered across the city, like here:
Not surprising then, to find this item under “Urban Problems” in the Wikipedia profile of BA:
Buenos Aires has below 2 m2 (22 sq ft) of green space per person, which is ten times less than New York, seven times less than Madrid and five times less than Paris.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in its concern for public health, produced a document stating that every city should have a minimum of 9 m2 (97 sq ft) of green space per person. An optimal amount would sit between 10 and 15 m2 (161 sq ft) per person
Or another comparison:
Hell if I can figure out how to convert 2.75 acres per thousand residents to square meters per person. Or even if that’s the right number, depending on what’s being counted. Help me out here.
In any event, we’re talking a difference in culture too. Latin American cities generally do not have the ‘garden city’ tradition of the British-settled Commonwealth. But where, I wonder, do the kids play futbol, since I never once saw a soccer field even in the larger parks, nor pick-up games in the streets or plazas.
Greater Buenos Aires is a big urban region. Over 13 million people.
In the City of Buenos Aires, however, there are about three million porteños (people of the port) – a population which has stayed steady since the Second World War.
Why not much growth in the city’s population? Low birth rates and a migration to the suburbs. Indeed, the surrounding districts in the Province of Buenos Aires have expanded five times over.
So: three million in the City; 10 million in surrounding suburbs. That ratio is not far from Vancouver’s: 600,000 in the city; 2.5 million in the region.
The population density in Buenos Aires proper is over 14,000 per square kilometre (in an area just under one and a half times the area of the City of Vancouver, with its population density of about 5,000 per square kilometer).
Our West End, by comparison, is about 44,000 people in its two square kilometers.
So think of the City of Buenos Aires as almost one big West End, plus Kits and downtown.
Turncoats is a series of debates will rugby tackle fundamental issues facing contemporary architectural practice with a playful and combative format designed to foment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.
Say what you will about a Trump presidency, it will be good for business. When the leader of the free world is a real estate developer, architects will still just be service providers, and that’s okay. Architects shouldn’t be political. Some of history’s most celebrated buildings were built under regimes with stomach-churning track records. Getting upset about policy is a distraction from doing great work. Spare us your hysteria! Buildings outlast politicians.
AnnaLisa Meyboom is an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture at UBC and Director of the Transportation Infrastructure and Public Space Lab at UBC, and owner of the design practice, InfrastructureStudio.
Jennifer Cutbill is a project Architect at Local Practice Architecture. She is also a Regional Director of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada, and acting Chair of its national Environmental Committee.
Alicia Breck is an adjunct professor at the School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture at UBC and a project manager at Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency.
May So is an Associate at Henriquez Partners Architects whose work is driven by social justice.
I was having a great time photographing Buenos Aires when there in early January, and posting images on Instagram as I took them (seach for pricetags – Gordon Price). But then my phone camera filled up, and strange things happened. Something to do with the cloud.
Good news: I’ve found the images I thought I lost, plus others I subsequently took – so it’s time to start posting again. But not, this time, on Instagram; it’s too hard to type the commentary and post multiple images. So I’ll be using this blog, posting an image or two at a time throughout the week, but with a more extended commentary on that great city.
Your comments and additional insights are, of course, welcome.
Price Tags did award a 2016 Gordie to the Trump Tower for being one of the most polarizing planning issues of the previous year. In our comments we noted-
Trump Tower –”what are they thinking low hanging fruit, definitely a huge sore spot. Official opening postponed, although much of the building is in every-day use through the back door.”
Price Tags has visited the Trump Tower on business in New York City and noted that the interior was-well-kind of early 1980’s, complete with lots of outdated marble finishes, and a lot of what could only politely be termed as Las Vegas glitz. However Price Tags was fascinated to learn that the Vancouver Trump Hotel that is still not opened already has a load of reviews, as noted in the Metro News.
“If you’re looking for a luxury hotel offering “unpresidented” guest service, “only takes Russian Rubles” currency, and “sucked, bigly,” look no further than the bizarre Google reviews pouring in for Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver…At time of publishing on Tuesday afternoon all but two of the 58 anonymous, user-submitted written reviews for the hotel that accompany its Google listing are negative — most of them mocking the Trump brand using the President-Elect’s own insults and idioms. “Unpresidented care for guests,” quipped Grant Moore, who gave the hotel just one-of-five stars. It was a reference to Trump’s Dec. 17 tweet in which he misspelled “unprecedented.”
While some Trump Hotels have been rebranded “Scion” hotels, Vancouver’s Holborn Group has not indicated that any rebranding will happen at the Vancouver Trump Hotel due to be opened any day. Until then, the Google listings are the only hotel reviews available for Vancouver’s Trump Tower.
From the Richmond News the City of Richmond has decided to create a bylaw restricting the size of houses built on the ALR (the Agricultural Land Reserve) in that municipality. A couple of things-if you purchase farm land you do not have to pay the 15 per cent foreign owner tax. And if you can crop blueberries or have a calf born on the property you can claim you are a farmer and have the land taxed as agricultural instead of as a large house executive estate.
“Last year, a Globe and Mail investigation found wealthy investors bought farmland in Richmond without any intention of farming and took advantage of tax incentives to pay meagre property taxes while, in some cases, operating illegal hotels. The investigation found local and foreign buyers enjoy large tax breaks meant to encourage farming. Last week, Richmond councillors voted to ban short-term rentals such as Airbnb.”
One of the City Councillors Harold Steves said “so-called monster homes built in 2015 on the ALR surged in size to an average of 12,087 square feet, compared with 7,329 square feet in 2010.” In a report expected to create a lot of controversy staff will be regulating house size and set backs as well as the size of other buildings on the properties contained in the ALR. The Province and the Agricultural Commission do not provide regulations across the province, instead assuming that each municipality will limit the size of estate houses on ALR farmland.
Consultation meetings will be held in March. Options include limiting floor area to 5,382 square feet for a principal residence based upon provincial guidelines, or using Delta’s zoning guidelines restricting building size to 3,552 square feet on lots smaller than 20 acres. Given the importance of maintaining the richest agricultural lands in Canada, Richmond will work to “minimize residential development on agricultural lands and increase farm viability” . Kudos to the City of Richmond for doing the right thing.
Joe Wai needs no introduction to Vancouverites-this extraordinary advocate, citizen and architect has shaped how we think about place, culture and our responsibilities to our city. If Joe saw you walking by on the street he would run across to say hello, shake your hand, and ask you how you and your family were doing. He quite simply personified all that was good in community and neighbourhood, and worked hard to make good things even better.
If you were to check Joe’s “Linked In” profile, he has written very simply “I have been around for a while“. That is typical Joe Wai and also a very typical understatement. Joe received his bachelor’s and master’s in architecture from the University of British Columbia and worked for iconic architects in Vancouver and in London England before setting up his own practice in 1978. Joe was involved with the Strathcona Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA) who successfully challenged the expropriation of housing for the creation of a public housing project and a freeway that would have carved into Chinatown.
Joe’s energies and interests were legendary. As The Tyee notes “Joe has been involved with senior/social housing and a volunteer in Chinatown community issues for over 40 years. He is also the architect of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the Chinatown Millennium Gate, the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, the Chinatown Parkade and Plaza, and the Commemoration of Block 17 as well as many restorations of the early Chinatown Society buildings.”
Henry Yu has written a memory of Joe Wai that describes more of Joe’s work and philosophy. You may also want to leave your own thoughts and stories about this extraordinary Vancouverite below. He will be greatly missed.
When the Price Tags Editorial Board was considering the 2016 “Gordies” award for the most puzzling planning work, the new Vancouver Art Gallery design did come up. There was a quick scuffle online to find that the design was actually revealed in September 2015 and therefore could not qualify for the 2016 most puzzling planning work award.
In 2014 Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron were chosen to come up with a design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery, but not at the current site at 750 Hornby Street. The Hornby Street location is the 1913 Rattenbury designed courthouse that was renovated in 1983 by Arthur Erickson to accommodate a 172,320 square foot gallery. The new art gallery was to be located at 688 Cambie Street on land provided by the city on a 99 year lease. The original report to council in 2013 proposed a new art gallery that was double the size of the current gallery with 85,000 square feet of gallery space.
The project was to cost 350 million dollars in 2013. The Federal government and Provincial governments conditionally pledged 200 million dollars with the remaining $150 million to be raised by private fundraising. It should be noted that this amount of money has never been privately fundraised for one project in Canada. To get people excited about the new gallery, Herzog and de Meuron who have also built the Tate Modern in London and the National Stadium (the Bird’s Nest) in Beijing drew up a conceptual drawing and model.
Herzog and de Meuron-Tate Gallery-London, National Stadium-Beijing
When the new design was released by Herzog and de Meuron, reaction was mixed. This is a firm that likes the grand gesture without scaled interest on the ground plane that would be warm or welcoming to building visitors. Critics noted that there were also plans to fence in the bottom for more exhibition space, and there was no vision on how this space would work with that of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre’s open space across the street.
Herzog and de Meuron proposal for New Vancouver Art Gallery, 688 Cambie Street
This 310,000 square foot wood clad building would be approximately 20 storeys high but have seven floors for the public and two floors below grade for storage and parking. There would be 85,000 square feet of galleries, a new education centre, an auditorium, and library and archival services.
There’s not been much news about the new gallery’s progress at the new location on Cambie Street. The current 750 Hornby Street location with the wonderful lions at the entrance still functions as one of the city’s primary places to meet, greet and people watch. Price Tags is watching too.
A compelling video from 2014 (quoting 2014 budget prices) is narrated by Vancouver architect Peter Cardew about how the current Vancouver Art Gallery could be renewed and expanded. Peter Cardew was commissioned to look at the gallery spaces a decade earlier, and his take is very similar to that of the late architect Bing Thom’s-the current location of the art gallery is the centre of pedestrian traffic and importance in the downtown. Bing Thom Architects developed a “post-gallery” plan below the building’s North Plaza.
Like many Vancouverites, the late Bing Thom architect extraordinaire loved the current site of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Hornby which is the place to sit, to people watch and functions as the navel of the city. Bing proposed a remarkable redo of the old gallery once vacated to include a light-filled entrance to a 1,950 seat underground concert hall, a multi-use theatre and retail stores. Importantly he also proposed reopening the Georgia Street entrance of the building and focusing a new plaza on Georgia Street as the City’s primary public space and square.
Peter Cardew thought the Vancouver Art Gallery should stay on this site. In this article Peter Cardew thought “ as much as 176,000 square feet of additional space can be added to the historic courthouse building by creating additional underground spaces underneath the outdoor plaza facing West Georgia Street. It includes an underground “Grand Hall” measuring approximately 300 feet long and 70 feet high that incorporates a glass ceiling from the plaza to allow natural light to stream in. The vision also proposes to renovate the existing gallery spaces and repurpose UBC Robson Square into added space for the museum.”
At that time in 2014 dollars, Peter Cardew estimated that the cost of changes would be $100 million less than the proposed $300 million dollar Larwill Park site on Cambie Street across from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. And there are precedents-both the Louvre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London expanded their facilities at existing galleries.
“I don’t know any gallery in the world that has such a prime site as the Vancouver Art Gallery does. If it were a vacant site that is where the Vancouver Art Gallery would be.” -Peter Cardew
In Europe horrendous incidents have occurred with large trucks used as weapons in cities where people are gathering and celebrating. In medieval times city walls, moats and watch men protected citizens.
There may be a 21st century approach to these measures in cities like London that have identified their historic “Square Mile” as being under threat of a terrorist attack. The “Square Mile” is the nerve centre of global financial interests and holds nearly 10 trillion pounds in banking assets. Securing access to this area is the City of London’s responsibility, with powers and laws that have been given to the City since medieval times.
The BBC News reports that upon the recommendations of MI5 and counter terrorism police rising street bollards and crash proof steel barricades have been proposed to thwart any “hostile vehicle-borne security threat”. This type of barricade was first introduced in the early 1990’s as a response to the IRA (Irish Republican Army) bombing of the Baltic Exchange. The Gherkin building now stands on the site of that building.
Manned checkpoints are also going to be reinstituted, something that was phased out after the 1994 IRA ceasefire. It is expected that the 5 million pound (8.2 million Canadian dollar) security steel ring may be in place within five years, providing a band of security around the square mile.
After years of being vacant, a DTES property (95 W Hastings at Abbot) is to become a 10-storey 132-unit market rental building, with retail, built by the Holborn Group. Just as soon, that is, as they get their Trump Tower into operation and their Little Mountain 17-building, 15-acre 8-year project past planning stage. It will be another change in an area that has been moving away from dereliction for years.
Rental units (132) consist of 83 studios, 3-1 BR, 46-2 BR. Parking for 74 vehicles and 167 bicycles. Three commercial / retail units at street level. Floor plan detail HERE. None of the units is large.
Check it all out from 5 to 8 pm on Thursday, January 26, 2017 at Vancouver Community College (255 West Pender Street), Room 240, with the applicant team and City staff available to answer questions. Online feedback welcome HERE.
As renovations continue on the venerable art-deco themed 1932-era Burrard Street Bridge, here is an architectural detail of the new sidewalk lighting. To me, these are lovely and stylish echoes of other details on the original bridge structure. And so are the pillars they rest on.
Another article on our doomed Chinatown by Kerry Gold in the Globe and Mail:
Gentrification isn’t just nibbling at Chinatown’s edges. Thanks to rezoning changes, it’s taking major bites out of the neighbourhood. … Class inversion is happening in cities throughout North America. Urban cores used to be the domain of low-income groups, while the wealthier demographic lived in the suburbs. In recent years, wealthier groups are choosing urban living and pushing low-income groups to the outskirts, or further.
“You have to ask, ‘Where is this coming from? Who are you serving?’” asks Kevin Huang, executive director of the Hua Foundation, a non-profit for young Chinese-Canadians. Mr. Huang is also committed to supporting the people who form the tight-knit Chinatown community, and who are now under threat of displacement. …
“With this rezoning, I think this is a battle for the soul of Chinatown, and what does it mean for us as a city in terms of diversity and inclusion,” Mr. Huang says. …
“We seem to be treating Chinatown as a development site instead of a community,” civic historian John Atkin says.
The old mom-and-pop shops are already hurting, faced with mounting property taxes and aging ownership. The educated next generation doesn’t always want to take over the old business. And those new corporate retailers wouldn’t be able to buy from within the neighbourhood or from small local farms the way current businesses have for a century. The old local economy of Chinatown – a model of sustainability before it became a buzzword – would be destroyed….
Melody Ma, a self-professed “policy wonk,” grew up attending dance classes in Chinatown. Both Ms. Ma and Mr. Huang see the city’s failure to prioritize people, with their histories and traditions and lives, as the problem. Other cities have adopted culture as an integral part of their urban planning, including New Westminster and Montreal, so they’ve asked Vancouver City to consider doing the same. …
“That means developers will have to make sure they consider the needs of the community prior to even talking to city hall – that we’re recognizing the culture and history and the aspirations of the people who live there,” she says.
It’s more than the buildings. Unless the culture is preserved, the place becomes commodified and soulless, she says. To thwart displacement, the city offers up bigger building potential in exchange for a few units of social housing. But what good is social housing if a community is wiped out? …
Small businesses such as Mr. Mah’s face deeper challenges if the city doesn’t craft policies to protect them. …
But pressure on the community will only intensify because the area is in the crosshairs of future densification. A couple of blocks away, the viaducts will come down and the new St. Paul’s Hospital will transform the historic area into a hub of high-tech medical care.
Ms. Ma says “it was a mountain to climb” just getting council to agree to consider culture as a priority.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘How do we place a culture or community first – rather than just follow finance?’”
I am a loss to understand what is wanted for Chinatown – or what is even possible.
Should it be a goal to “prioritize people, with their histories and traditions and lives,” if it means we’re intending to preserve a cultural product that was a consequence of one of the most racist periods in our history. Chinatown was a ghetto in the worst sense of the word.
Is the desire to exclude anything that doesn’t reflect that era?
And even if there was an inherent racism in that assumption of exclusion, how can a zoning code preserve or even encourage businesses no longer wanted, no longer viable?
The forces of time and change mean there is essentially no hope to maintain the cultural moment of Chinatown. Surrounding development forces, the removal of the Viaducts, a new St. Paul’s and changing demographics guarantee that.
Why would we set ourselves up for failure?
Shaping urban form and use is the purpose of zoning and development bylaws. Saving a culture is not. And that’s as true for the gay village on Davie and the Punjabi Village on Main as it is for Chinatown on Main.
A close friend of mine from my days at the University of Waterloo’s Civil Engineering program is now completing his Master’s degree, with a focus on concrete. Jeffrey Ianni, P.Eng, describes a way to reduce carbon emissions in concrete production by up to 15%:
Concrete is the most used building material in the world. In the face of rising CO2 emissions due to human development and increasing global populations, any effort to find material efficiency can contribute to the solution for attaining global sustainability as a species.
In 2007, CO2 emissions from cement production represented 4.5% (377 million metric tons) of the global CO2 releases. Current concrete supply practice typically uses only two grades of aggregate: fine and coarse, causing “gap graded” or “poorly graded” concrete pours.
“Well graded” aggregates can save up to 15% of cement paste required. Therefore, aggregate selection can potentially reduce 15%*4.5% = 0.675% of global CO2 emissions.
Poor or gap graded aggregate requires more cement to fill in the gaps, and therefore requires more carbon in production. Credit Civil Engineer’s Forum
Gap Graded Aggregate
Well Graded Aggregate, credit Portland Cement Association
The above image represents what “well graded” aggregate looks like: a perfect amount of every size of stone from sand to pebble. Well graded aggregate can reduce porosity, permeability, and shrinkage, which improves performance and durability. It also makes for a more consistent finish, which I heararchitectslove. Furthermore, A reduction in cement content can lower crack vulnerability, making concrete less susceptible to corrosive damage and future repairs, which reduces the life-cycle CO2 costs of concrete and litigation costs due to failed concrete.
If you are an Architect on a project and you can’t get around using concrete, you can require your contractor to provide this kind of aggregate to reduce on emissions. Concrete with exposed aggregate finishes illustrate whether or not the pour was “well graded”; I would love to have included a photo of what “well graded” concrete looks like, but its use in the field is exceedingly rare due to the aggregate industry primarily supplying mostly two sizes of stone to contractors. This could conceivably be addressed by changing our energy codes.
“It took Gates seven years and $63 million to build his Medina, Washington, estate, named “Xanadu 2.0” after the fictional home of Charles Foster Kane, the title character of “Citizen Kane.”At 66,000 square feet, the home is absolutely massive, and it’s loaded to the brim with high-tech details.
The property is worth $124.99 million as of this year. Gates purchased the lot for $2 million in 1988.Per public filings, he paid $1,080,443.17 in property taxes in 2016.
Half a million board-feet of lumber was needed to complete the project.The house was built with 500-year-old Douglas fir trees, and 300 construction workers labored on the home — 100 of whom were electricians.
A high-tech sensor system helps guests monitor a room’s climate and lighting.When guests arrive, they’re given a pin that interacts with sensors located all over the house. Guests enter their temperature and lighting preferences so that the settings change as they move throughout the home. Speakers hidden behind wallpaper allow music to follow you from room to room.
The house uses its natural surroundings to reduce heat loss.You can change the artwork on the walls with just the touch of a button.Situated around the house are $80,000 worth of computer screens. Anyone can make the screens display their favorite paintings or photographs, which are stored on devices worth $150,000.
The pool also has its own underwater music system.The 60-foot pool is in its own separate, 3,900-square-foot building — the large brown building in the photo above. People in the pool could swim underneath a glass wall to come up to a terrace area on the outside.
The 2,100-square-foot library has a dome roof and two secret bookcases, including one that reveals a hidden bar. On the ceiling you’ll find a quote from “The Great Gatsby” that reads: “He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.”