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Bean north

4 May

Can you tell that I’m in the Yukon? The only geographic context of the above image is the haiku on the mug.

This place has a particular geography and culture that is a delight to experience and explore. Even with this sense of appreciation, I immediately sought out every caffeinated watering hole to determine the best brew, baked goods and seating. My first visit to Baked Cafe, depicted above, was a sense of coming home. The indie tunes, free wi-fi and comfortable seating are simultaneously placeless and familiar.

Being there identifies one with a particular culture. Wikipedia’s take on the North American coffeehouse is a blend of Italian roots and counter-culture. For me, it is a familiar and comfortable environment. In a small town, I imagine there is a heightened association with urban existence. Whatever the attraction, we all need a third place that provides contact with like-minded individuals and reinforces notions of identity. Baked Cafe has been an important place in my transition to a new environment.


Purified in Memory

11 Feb

From the National Film Board, a haunting and thought-provoking interactive memorial of a mining town and community that no longer exists.

The mesmerizing exploration of place, community, memory and identity highlights the intersection and fleeting nature of these things. The conclusion:

When I look at people’s faces in the Pine Point photos, there’s no hesitation, no hint that they knew that one day this might all end.

applies everywhere. The phenomenon of scattered relationships and lost places occurs in other ways: established neighborhoods give way to gentrification, farmland becomes subdivisions.

I would love to see an urban version of this project, preserving the memories and images of a soon to be passed time through a myriad of perspectives and experiences.


Landscape is the Solution

24 Jan

The Bean – Millennium Park (trucknroll)

Walking the High Line (walhalla)

High Line Amphitheatre (walhalla)

Olympic Village sparrows (ppix)

Do you know what a landscape architect is? That landscape architecture touches your life everyday? Despite the broad scope of the profession, encompassing the design of anything that is not a building, knowledge and discussion of landscape architecture is noticably absent.

According to Brad McKee, editor-in-chief of Landscape Architecture magazine, the designed landscape “is the most public and shared form of design.” Yet design critique in the media focuses on objects such as technology, household items and buildings. Landscape architecture is a different mindset, dealing with “voids, space, and systems…and bringing spaces together,”  according to Mark Rios, a licensed landscape architect and architect.  

Discussion of landscape architecture tends to focus on what plants are in bloom.
For instance, this article looks at the success of Chicago’s Millennium Park and New York’s High Line and concludes that Vancouver also needs a park created by a brand name designer.  Fernando Caruncho is selected for his planting design, specifically his “boxes of light.” However, the success of the aforementioned parks is the interactions with nature, people and the city that the innovative designs both create and reinvent.

Tonight Jan Gehl, renowned for his work on public spaces, is lecturing on Cities For People. The timing for this talk is excellent. The Olympics increased the quantity and standard of Vancouver’s public realm with projects such as the Vancouver Convention Centre and Olympic Village plazas. I have developed a fondness for the giant sparrows.

“It is no longer optional to not think about this anymore — you have to. People are looking for ways to come together and landscape is the solution.” – Brad McKee

More recognition of such spaces in the city, especially off the water, should accompany Greenest City goals and ever increasing density. The dialogue surrounding Robson Street closure and the Vancouver Art Gallery relocation in particular present opportunities to create a public gathering space in the downtown core. This is a conversation that needs to be in the mainstream media, both for education and to generate public input.

Images courtesy of trucknroll, walhalla + ppix


Walk This Way

1 Oct

Street art in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood by Higher Level Art. I wonder what the on the ground experience is but it certainly is a colorful addition to a neutrally toned neighborhood.