Philosopher’s Cafe: Housing or Parking? – May 1

Housing crisis or parking crisis?

How are mobility rights to be weighed against other human rights? Does our current political culture privilege car parking over housing people and traffic safety over pedestrian safety?

Moderator is Alex Jürgen Thumm, a graduate student in the Urban Studies Program at SFU.


Monday, May 1

7 pm

Commercial Street Café – 3599 Commercial St. (at East 20th Ave.)


Looking For Blossoms?

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival has prepared this guide to what’s currently in blossom and where it is. Looks like the 40,000 or so blossoming cherry trees in Metro Vancouver are spread among dozens of cultivars that all have their own timetable.

There’s a live map, too, with database links to lotsa nifty info, including blossoming date range.  Here’s a screen clip from the map.

A Look At Vancouver’s Look

The Capture Photo Festival has two events that focus on Vancouver’s look, and specifically caught my interest.  There are plenty of other Vancouver-related photo events in the festival, if you’re interested.

Herzo.Modern.ColourAt the Equinox Gallery, my photo hero Fred Herzog is showing some of his street pix from mostly early days, as published in the terrific new book “Modern Colour“.  Mr. Herzog is among the few at the top of the game when it comes to colour pix, along with Eggleston, Shore and the other big doggies in this world. But most of Herzog’s work is from the streets of Vancouver.  As such, his view shows a side of Vancouver’s heritage as almost a byproduct of the photos.

The New York Times lists this in the top ten photo books of 2016.  Here’s a review from Kenneth Tanaka via Mike Johnston at The Online Photographer.

At the same time, we get a collection photos of Art Deco architecture and design at The Lost Vancouver: An Art Deco Tour. At the Space Gallery, 552 Clark Drive.

This exhibition around art deco architecture and design in Vancouver draws a parallel between the work of British Columbian photographer Simon Desrochers and its interpretation by Parisian illustrator Mathieu Persan.

The Lost Vancouver also raises questions about the place and the future of the arts, and their necessity in the development of Vancouver.

Arbutus Greenway – Provisional Progress

Just north of Broadway, the temporary Greenway surfaces are coming into shape. All the better to encourage many types of user, and so to improve breadth of commentary during the final design consultations.

A huge heap of bark mulch (for walking) awaits spreading on 2 m of the eastern side of the Greenway. Meanwhile, on the west, the asphalt now has demarcations:  1.5 m for walking, 2.5 m for cycling (see plan below).


The plan for a variety of temporary surfaces.

Original Frank Lloyd Wright House For Sale-

There is no doubt that the work of the west coast architects in developing the northwest coast style was greatly influenced by the revolutionary work of Frank Lloyd Wright and his extraordinary rethink of what a midwest house should look and feel like.

Via Adele Weder comes this gem of an original Frank Lloyd Wright House originally commissioned by the same couple now selling it. The couple now in their nineties are selling the house-completely untouched-for about 1.4 million dollars in US dollars.

“The three bedroom, two bathroom home sits on 3.77 “extremely private acres at the end of a quiet cul de sac” in St. Louis Park, just seven miles from downtown Minneapolis. Inside its 2,647 square feet, there are vaulted ceilings and walls of windows that take advantage of the “incredible light” in the home’s breathtaking great room, which also features a stunning brick fireplace. The floors throughout are done in the architect’s signature hue, Cherokee Red.”

This project commenced in 1958 and was completed in 1960. Most of the furniture inside the house was designed by Wright and the  “property has extensive built-ins, as well as dining chairs, lamps, and even cabinet pulls created from Wright’s original designs. The place even has a finished basement, quite a rare find for a FLW house.”

The home is currently listed with Coldwell Banker for $1.395 million, or approximately 1.86 million dollars in Canadian currency.


Where the Colour Becomes the Message-Paul Smith’s Pink Wall


Its seemed like a simple thing, but became a icon in Los Angeles without really trying. When British designer Paul Smith opened up shop on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood 11 years ago he painted the concrete wall a very very bright pink. Originally thinking that this would attract passing motorists, this wall has become the message for thousands of Instagram photo takers with over 44,000 posts on the tag #pinkwall.

Paul Smith’s Pink Wall has even been featured in where Dani Mau noted One visitor I spoke to even referred to it as a “landmark,” and as of a few months ago, it has its own security guard tasked with preventing cars from colliding with photo-takers and attempting to enforce the no-professional-cameras rule.There wasn’t one moment during my time there that the wall wasn’t at least 70-percent occupied by friend groups, couples and even entire families taking photos without any detectable shame or embarrassment.

Visitors tended not to take a quick shot and leave, but rather spend upwards of 10 minutes crafting the perfect photograph, pausing to look at the results, giggle, and start over with a new pose. The scene was more reminiscent of what might go down in front of Niagara Falls or the Eiffel Tower than your typical Instagram wall. “

Now Paul Smith’s products are not cheap, and certainly many of the folks taking photos with the pink wall may not be able to afford his products-yet. “While knowing about a brand doesn’t translate to sales now, that doesn’t mean it can’t in the future…Well, perhaps 20 years from now, when they’re celebrating a recent job promotion by treating themselves to a new work outfit (Paul Smith) or cocktail dress (Dolce), they’ll remember the brand that provided so many exciting Instagram moments during their youth.”



A Provincial Election, Tolls, and Public Transit

There has been some disappointing rhetoric about bridges, tolls, and congestion coming out of the stirred soup of next month’s Provincial election. While one candidate wants to restrict Port Mann bridge vehicle tolls to a 500 dollar annual upset amount-after that you are driving for “free”-another candidate says they will take away tolls entirely. Of course both of these approaches will induce further demand for vehicular travel, and further accentuate the 20th century approach to motordom where the car is king. Missing in this posturing is the reasoned and prudent approach to encouraging mass transit and car share, moving in the region as if livability and accessibility matter.

Metro Vancouver mayors have been discussing an approach  reported by Marcello Bernardo with CKNW “seeking approval to toll all bridges, so the money collected can be spent on transit improvements, but there’s been resistance from Victoria. The Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges have also been losing money because many drivers take alternate toll-free crossings.”

In Metro Vancouver “Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay says both pledges send the wrong message.You need to pay for this infrastructure somehow and you need to make it a little bit of a social penalty for encouraging people not to drive everywhere in their cars.” Clay is one of several Metro Vancouver mayors pushing for every bridge crossing in the region to be tolled.“Why isn’t it a dollar or two dollars on every bridge crossing?”

Mayor Clay also mentions a conundrum-while gas tax go to fund transit systems, electric cars are not taxed, and  in “some cases, we’re supplying the electricity for the cars, so we need to be very careful about doing things that encourage sprawl and encourage the use of a single-occupant vehicle.”

And the big question-why are the political parties not talking to the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council about how to best move (no pun intended) the region forward? Most mayors will agree further growth and development needs to concentrate on transit hubs and stations, focusing on public transit, not the private automobile.

A Blossom-ful Place

Lots of things change when big things change for the better.

Here at Point Grey Road and Collingwood, you will find “The Haiku Hedge”, installed as part of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.

Click an image to get an expanded slideshow of them all.

Would anyone have stopped to look at these, or even made the effort to put them up, when PGR was a noisy, nasty roaring arterial?

From the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival site:

Vancouver loves its flowering cherry trees, all 40,000 of them! While they bloom from March through May, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival invites you to celebrate their beauty with your haiku.

The ephemeral nature of the blossoming of cherry trees teaches us all to celebrate life now. Similarly, haiku captures a fleeting moment in time with deep awareness and subtle appreciation.

We encourage both budding and seasoned poets to join other poets from around the world (past submissions have arrived from as faraway as Australia, Bangladesh, Croatia, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom) in honouring our awe-inspiring cherry trees.

The festival welcomes haiku submissions that capture the essence of cherry blossoms while honouring our relationships to each other and the natural world.

Point Grey Greenway– Blossoming

Work continues, and is steadily transforming Vancouver’s Point Grey Road from a roaring, dangerous arterial into a lovely place for people on foot and on bikes.

Here, the first landscape plantings are in the ground at the eastern end — and actively blossoming.  In the coming years, this Greenway will be a multi-faceted attraction for everyone in Vancouver. Walk, bike, visit parks, be active, be outdoors, admire the cherry blossoms, be by the sea.
PGR.April.14.2017 Click to expand

Friday Funny — the Next Big Yoga Thing

Now that hot yoga has cooled off as the fad de jour, here comes the next big furry one.

Goat Yoga.

Yes.  Cute little baby goats frisking around while you do the dog.

From the Bangor Daily News:    It’s catching on, and the farm owners are now scrambling to keep up with the viral sensation.

Farm owner Peter Corriveau says they just started classes a week ago, and are already booked through June.

“Who doesn’t love baby goats? There’s nothing cuter than a baby goat”, Corriveau told WGME. “There’s just something about them, their nature.”

The Friday File: Pay Attention to the Zebra in the Streets in Bolivia

The Atlantic Monthly describes the innovative attempts of the City of La Paz Bolivia in  changing driver behaviour in the streets, slowing traffic, and helping pedestrians survive. The “cebritas” program is a hybrid to that first introduced in the 1990’s in Bogota where mimes were sent out on the street to tease and admonish drivers breaking the rules.

La Paz is the highest capital city in the world, and decided to do things a bit differently. They have 265 local volunteers dressed in full-body zebra costumes who nudge “people toward good behavior. “On a lot of busy corners you will have police directing traffic, but their method of doing it is whistling at you, yelling at you, pulling you over, giving you a ticket,” says Derren Patterson, an American who owns a walking-tour agency in La Paz. “Whereas the way the zebras do it, if a car stops in the crosswalk, they will lay across his hood.”  The volunteer zebras are popular at schools and hospitals, are interviewed on media, and participate in parades. Many are students.

The program is so well accepted that there is a “day program” that allows tourists to dress up as zebras and join the La Paz zebras in the streets. As an early program organizer noted ” They may be dressed up as zebras, but they defend what is human about the city.” Last December the Zebras won the  “Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, which recognizes cities and regions with innovative approaches to improving public life. The award’s organizers commended La Paz for its response to a “very serious challenge” confronting cities worldwide—the subordination of pedestrians to cars—with “great humor and understanding,” and said they hoped the project might inspire “more civilized streets” around the world.”

Hofman’s Octopus ties park together in Shenzhen China


Design Boom describes the  whimsical and interactive piece designed by Florentijn Hofman of the Netherlands which is a centrepiece of a public park in Shenzhen China.

This artist is well known for whimsical  animal sculptures, located throughout the world. The concept behind the octopus created in Shenzhen is to create a space that can be explored and enjoyed by kids and adults.   “Hofman worked closely alongside the team at UAP throughout the design, development, and fabrication of the project, investigating the materials required to bring ‘kraken’ to life. providing an imaginative space for families to explore, visitors enter the playscape through the character’s tentacles, where they climb through a netted abyss. upon arrival to the top, a large playable space awaits within ‘kraken’s’ rounded head.”

The sculpture is well-integrated in the site, and its effective adoption by  the community is evident in the photos-everyone wants to interact with this wonderous creature.

Daily Scot – Seattle Public Art

A collage of imagery from my recent trip to the Emerald City showcasing the city’s funky side.

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Sculpture at the Allen Institute

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Street Mural – Ballard

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Street Mural – Downtown

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Hanging sculpture at Amazon Brazil campus

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Decor inside the Capital Hill Link Lightrail Station.

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Playful public service announcement inside the Lightrail car.

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Decor inside the UW/Husky Stadium Link Lightrail Station.

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Sculpture in the U-District.

Trump and Cities: Richard Florida



From City Nation Place via Herb Auerbach:

Richard Florida on Trump and Cities

A new book by city expert Richard Florida, The New Urban Crisis, explores the forces that propelled Trump to the presidency, and offers plenty of analysis about what’s in store for large urban centers around the globe. 

You mention in your new book, The New Urban Crisis, that Trumpism is a backlash against an urban-powered growth model. How so?

I saw it first with Rob Ford in Toronto and I said if it could happen in as progressive and diverse a city as that, more and worse would follow. And it did. First Brexit, then Trump, now the surge in populist sentiment across Europe. This is a direct byproduct of the New Urban Crisis. In fact, you can’t understand Trump and the populist backlash if you don’t understand the New Urban Crisis. That backlash is the political reaction to winner-take-all urbanism—the growing gap between superstar cities and their advantaged residents, and everywhere and everyone else.

How did that work in U.S. voting patterns in November?

You can see it in the vote, which the book breaks down. Clinton took the dense, affluent, knowledge-based cities and close-in suburbs that are the epicenters of new economy. She won the popular vote by a substantial margin. But Trump took everywhere else. In the primaries, his support was concentrated in counties with larger white populations, more blue-collar jobs, larger shares of people who didn’t graduate high school, and also, according to an analysis in The New York Times, with greater shares of people living in mobile homes. In the general election, he took 61% of the vote in rural places compared to 33% for Clinton. He won 57% of the vote in metros with less than 250,000 people, compared to 38% for Clinton. He carried 52% of the vote in metros with between 250,000 and 500,000 people, compared to 34% for Clinton. All told, he won 260 metros, compared to Clinton’s 120. But the average Trump metro was home to just 420,000 people compared to 1.4 million for Clinton.

Why do some Trump supporters see our major cities as centers of corruption and violence?

While Trump poses our great cities as centers of pathology and violence, the reality is that they have become our premier platform for innovation and economic growth. Fifteen of America’s top 20 metro areas are sanctuary cities—and they account for roughly 45% of U.S. GDP. The Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles and the Boston-NY-Washington DC corridor generate two-thirds of all high-tech start-up companies in the United States. Trumpism or populism is not just about economics or inequality. It’s about geography and race. It’s a backlash against women, immigrants, minorities, globalism, and it’s a fundamental check on this urban-powered growth model and on the rising living standards of all Americans.

So Trump is a backlash against falling behind by non-city residents?

Our nation has sorted itself along class and racial lines. Trumpism is a backlash against the urban cosmopolitan creative class and its values of diversity, tolerance, multiculturalism, meritocracy and globalism. It comes from parts of the country that are falling behind economically, that are whiter, less diverse, and which feel threatened by the rise of diverse, global urban places and the people who live in them. And this is the case in the U.S. and around the world. So, the populist mind sets sees cities not as centers of innovation and growth but as the places that are undermining traditional family values. Trump gives this a unique spin. Even though he lives in New York, he is unable to see the changes that have happened there. He still sees it as the same kind of distressed city it was back in the 1970s and 1980s when he was cavorting at Studio 54.

City Conversation: Fixing Health Care – Apr 20

Fixing B.C.’s Healthcare System


We’re smug about having better healthcare than the United States. But on the respected Commonwealth Fund’s international scorecard of eleven advanced nations, Canada ranks next to last.

How to make healthcare better?  Presenters are Dr. Stephen Pinney, a Canadian orthopaedic surgeon, former clinical professor at UBC, and former head of orthopaedics at St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver, now practicing in San Francisco. in his new book, How Hockey Can Save Healthcare, he prescribes ways to expand coverage while reducing costs and improving your care.

Dr. Brian Day is founder of Vancouver’s private, for-profit Cambie Surgery Centre. He wants people to have the right to choose private, user-pay health care.


Thursday, April 20
12:30 – 1:30 pm
Room 1600- 515 West Hastings, SFU Harbour Centre
No reservations, but come a bit early to be sure of a seat. 


Film – Brasilia: Life After Design – May 8

DOXA Festival Screening – Brasilia: Life After Design

the Canadian premiere of Bart Simpson’s sublime urban documentary film, BRASILIA: Life After Design (Canada/UK, 2016; 78 min.), followed by discussion with critic of architecture and urbanism Trevor Boddy and documentary filmmaker Bart Simpson.

Part ode, part critique, Bart Simpson’s film, comparable to Jonathan Richman’s tribute to corporate architecture in Lonely Financial Zone, takes the viewer on a surreal and melancholic tour of a strange and monumental cityscape. The camera pans across urban vistas and peers through archways, connecting with city dwellers perched like birds around the vast spaces.


Monday, May 8

7:00 – 9:15 pm

Admission: $15 Adults, $13 Students, Seniors and MOV members. Prices include GST.


Are big city downtown gas stations on the way out?

The gas station might survive – but not the suburban form in urban centres.

From the CBC:

Vancouver is set to lose its last downtown gas station, as the Esso at Burrard Street and Davie Street is now listed for sale. Late last month, the only other place to fill up in the city’s downtown area closed.

The surging cost of real estate in the city is adding pressure to shut down businesses like gas stations, sell the properties, and build dense, lucrative developments like condominiums.


Changing face of transportation

Gordon Price, former Vancouver city councillor and fellow at the Simon Fraser University Centre of Dialogue, says the current business model for gas stations is under threat.

“Some would say this is the end of the gas station in downtown Vancouver, but really, it’s the end of the suburban model for gas stations — the idea where you take the good part of a block, pave it over, put up a few gas pumps and a mini-mart,” said Price. “That model, given the land values, is clearly over.”

Price can foresee a not-too-distant future when traditional gas stations disappear, and a new style of business emerges in their place.

“I do think there is an opportunity for something like an energy supply depot, a place where you might get … gas and other fossil fuels if you need them,” he said.

“Maybe it’s a place you get other transit services [like fares], as well. Maybe it’s a place where you sign up for public bike share — a full utility.”

“When you go to places like Europe, certainly Asia, they’ve been through this before — high land values and very dense urban environments.  You see a very different way to get some gas. Sometimes it might just be a pump on the sidewalk,” said Price.

… downtown Vancouverites will have to drive the extra kilometres to tank up once the final station closes.

“Vancouver would be an exception, only that it’s so extreme because of land values,” said Price, whose only lament about the station closure is that he’ll lose another place to inflate his bike tires.