Archives for the month of: March, 2010

When we travel, our experience of a place will be directly influenced by the type of place we choose to stay at. I just read an insightful article in National Geographic magazine where the author had stayed in three very different types of accommodation in Rome, while on vacation, and how his experience of the city changed dramatically as he moved from place to place (opulence to basic). He wasn’t focusing on geographical changes, but rather how each place made him feel about himself and how he subsequently related to the world around him as a result. Although there are of course differences, I think the points made in the article are relevant for urban planners when we consider how residents experience a place. The mix of accommodation a neighbourhood offers can have an effect on the vibe and character of that neighbourhood’s public places. Thoughtful lunchtime reading. Plus it has great photos. Read the article here.


Yesterday I was surprised by beauty in an unexpected location. I had to take the car to the North Shore Auto Mall to have some scratches removed that were on the paintwork when we bought it. The guy said it would take a couple of hours so sent me off in the direction of a coffee shop. A coffee shop in the middle of an industrial park. I didn’t have high exceptions. Just a coffee. What I found was Thomas Haas. Not just a coffee shop but a full on patisserie. And very, very busy. In the middle of an industrial park – did I mention that? Admittedly, most people waiting for their treats were clutching car keys, but everyone seemed to know each other and it felt like a little community. From a transport planning perspective, there were cars littered everywhere. But it didn’t matter much as everywhere else was closed and it kind of added to the charm. It just goes to show, never underestimate he ability of people to create something amazing in the most unexpected of locations.

Based on a recommendation by Gordon Price in his blog, my wife and I visited the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery last night to view a photography exhibit called Sacred and Secular. The artist is called David Burdeny and well, the press release says it best:

Sacred and Secular is an ongoing series of photographs that depict urban edge conditions and built environments throughout the world. In the course of Western architecture and urbanism there is a long history attached to the Ideal, Visionary and the Fantastic as notions to create built space. For his newest series Vancouver photography artist, David Burdeny, sees the scale, colour and density of the urban fabric always generating a unique vernacular. When removed from its context, the vernacular simply becomes kitsch such as the Bellagio in Vegas, or Mont St Michelle vs. Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Spanning across the globe, the locations of his new images are often distant in latitude, typology and syntax, commencing with the category defying works of 21st century “Starchitects” and including recent or ancient manifestations in Dubai, China, Egypt, Europe, Greenland, USA and Canada.

Burdeny’s cityscapes, taken from the water around each, opens your eyes to the different massing and built form from different cities around the world. We really enjoyed our visit. The gallery is in Yaletown and the exhibition runs until March 14th.

As a little relief from the Olympics I went for a bike ride round some of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods on Saturday morning. Sometimes, living in downtown, you forget there’s a quieter, gentler but just as attractive Vancouver only a few minutes away. (I only mean relatively quieter by the way. If anyone’s from a small town or village they’d think these places were bustling cities.) Anyway, here’s a few photos from my travels.

This first photograph is at Cypress and First Avenue. I love the little independent stores in this area and with the blossom fully out it really does feel like a fantastic area. plus, Fourth Ave is only a couple of blocks south, and the beach is a couple of blocks north. I don’t know if this neighborhood has its own name. Anyone know?

This is at Broadway and Arbutus. I really like the new development at Arbutus Walk, just a block or two south from here. It has a different feel to it than the areas around it, but it fits in well with the original uses on the site (as far as aesthetics and massing goes), it was originally a brewery. It may be too new to call it a neighbourhood though. What do you think? This dry cleaning and laundry store, Fletchers, on the corner of Arbutus and Broadway though, is a throw back to a bygone era. The curved glass on the left is very 50s, complete with revolving sign.

This final photograph depicts everyday life in Chinatown. Now this neighbourhood IS as busy as downtown. It has a very different feel though. When we travel through on the bus we half feel we’ve been transported to China – a little further than we had intended to go!