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A Journey to The End of The Earth: Life on Rapa Nui

When my plane landed on Rapa Nui, I had already taken two classes about the island, read countless books and articles, written about 10 papers, and watched several videos and documentaries. But for all the plethora of research and information that is available about Rapa Nui- or more commonly known “Easter Island”- nothing could have prepared me for this experience.

After leaving Oregon, we had been travelling for over 24 hours before we finally reached the tiny 632 mile island. Since taking off from the bustling airport in Santiago, Chile five hours earlier, we hadn’t seen a single land mass anywhere in the 2,290 miles of ocean we had crossed. It began to feel as though we had left the entire world behind, as if we would reach the end of the Earth. Finally, the island came into view, and we could see our destination. From the air, you can see the entire island easily, with it’s air strip stretching from coast to coast across the width07 of the island, the “airport”- which is just one small building- off to one end.
The utter isolation is exhilarating. Thousands of miles of ocean stretch out in all directions, with no land in sight, and the only connection to the outside world is the one daily flight to and from the island, carrying with it the daily load of groceries. In extreme weather, the island is sometimes completely cut off from the mainland. The island is populated by just over 5,500 people, most of whom live in the village near the airport. Although tourism dominates their economy, their vibrant culture is apparent. The “island lifestyle” is common among most island societies- the laid back attitude, living on “island time”- but on Rapa Nui, this lifestyle is taken to the extreme. Shops open and close when the owners feel like it, and you will often find all businesses closed on Sunday, or during the daily “siesta” from 12-2pm.

When you’ve lived your entire life on one small island with the same few people, you end up knowing every inch of the land and every person in town. While on the island, our group had two local guides that we worked closely with every day. Wherever we went, they knew exactly where we were and exactly who everyone was, greeting every passerby by name. This type of community and culture was entirely foreign to me, and in some ways it was great. The police force and crime rate is exceedingly minimal on the island- since everyone would be able to figure out who committed the crime anyway, people just don’t bother to try anything. In other ways, it wasn’t so great. Everyone knows everyone’s business, and privacy is hard to come by.
Aside from the fascinating culture and the uniquely isolated location, the truly enthralling aspect of Rapa Nui is the richly abundant and accessible history. Most people know of the famous “Easter Island heads,” but most don’t realize how many there are. There are thousands of these statues throughout the island, as well as an extensive collection of other archaeological artifacts. You can’t take a step without coming across an obsidian flake, a stone tool, a carving- all created thousands of years ago. Walking past the monumental statues, looming two or three stories above you, and thinking of the people who have walked there thousands of years before you, who spent years creating these massive stone faces, is awe-inspiring to say the least.
Living on Rapa Nui was a once in a lifetime experience, and probably the closest I’ll ever come to living on another planet. With my program, we were able to spend many days out
exploring, hiking, experiencing the local culture, and collecting research data. We even had lectures and discussions for the class while out at archaeological sites around the island. If you ever have the chance to make this beautiful island your classroom, do not pass it up. I know firsthand- when it comes to Rapa Nui, you have to see it to believe it. dsc_7005-edited-Kayla Bucolo, Summer 2016

Rowing Across Seas

I consumed nearly 100 “kugeln” (scoops) of gelato during my 6-week study abroad trip to Vienna, Austria. While that may sound like the early stages of diabetes, it was only a small fraction of what made this trip so incredible. For most of the trip, every day was a new adventure with friends. Luckily, I was never truly lost because the transportation system in Vienna is highly efficient and easy to use. Four hours of class in the morning lead to numerous excursions in the afternoon. After the first week, I already felt like I had meshed into the Austrian lifestyle. Our program director, Karen, did an amazing job with scheduling all of our excursions. We made the best use of every day and explored the culture of Vienna while also learning about the marketing behind some of Austria’s biggest companies. This meant trips to museums, businesses, art galleries, famous restaurants, historical sights, mountains, dark caves, and of course, gelato shops.img_9127
While I could write a novel about the all the wonderful trips we embarked on during our stay in Austria, I want to focus on a particular experience. Before heading to Austria, I realized that being away for 2 months might make it a bit difficult to continue my training for rowing. While summer is usually a maintenance period, it’s extremely important to stay fit because fall comes around fast img_6389you don’t want to be the one out of shape in the boat. In addition, I knew that my passion for food would be a double-edged sword, especially in a chocolate filled city like Vienna. With that being said, I contacted a few rowing clubs in Austria and decided that Erster Wiener Ruderclub-LIA would be the best choice. They are the oldest club in Austria and they are notorious for winning at major global rowing events. Might as well train with the best, right?
I joined with the intention of staying in shape while abroad, but along the way I made numerous friends that all shared the same passion as me. The rowing community itself is extremely friendly and being abroad, it becomes a bit more difficult to make new friends. Reaching out to LIA changed everything though because I was now making new friends every day and learning about Austria img_8583first hand from those who lived there. From workouts to sharing meals, my new friends helped me feel like Vienna was becoming my new home.  I was even able to help out and witness their popular annual event known as the Vienna Night Row. With nearly 100 entries and different countries competing, boats race in a 500-meter stretch while decked out in creative light decorations. With plenty of food and music, the event goes long into the night and is certainly one that I will not forget. Matter of fact, I hope to set up something similar along the waterfront in downtown, Portland so that more people become interested in rowing. I cannot thank my Austrian pals enough for how welcoming and friendly they were. They helped make my study abroad experience much more memorable, and I look forward to visiting them again in Vienna.
Everyone has something that they are passionate about. If not, I am more than sure that there is something you really care about or don’t mind spending countless hours on. When traveling abroad, I advise that you find a club or organization that shares your interests and get in contact with them. They are more than likely going to be excited to meet you and become your friend. Making new friends while abroad makes the trip a million times better, but you already know that. You don’t have to be attached to your university group. Making friends abroad will help you integrate into the culture much faster and in the process you could be making friendships that last a lifetime. Also, you never want to eat gelato alone. Even if you go nearly every day of the trip.img_0723



-Emi Purice, Marketing in Vienna

Summer 2016

NGOS in Southeast Asia: A Travel Blog

Our adventures began before the trip did! Those of us who arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand a bit early didn’t waste time in exploring the city. Hopping in an infamous tuk tuk we headed up the windy road to visit Wat Palad, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Ratchwarawihan, and the Hmong village of Doi Pui. This day provided my first impression of Chiang Mai and set the tone for the remainder of the trip. Our first destination was Wat Palad. This temple was one of my favorites of those we saw throughout the trip, (and we saw a lot)! This temple was tucked away into the jungle and completely surrounded by nature. It was very peaceful to explore the area following footpaths and stopping to look at Buddha statues or the incredible view of the city.  img_20160623_105634383

Day 3 commenced with our first of the NGO site visits, Art Relief International (ARI) and Child’s Dream. These two organizations could not have been in starker contrast to one another. While ARI is Western run and staffed, Child’s Dream recognized the importance of having local staff members for their organization. The age and stability of the organizations were also very different, as Child’s Dream has formed a long duration of stability, financially and otherwise. It will be interesting to see how these two organizations transform in the future.
img_20160621_104623730Our last full day in Chiang Mai was spent at the Save Elephant Foundation’s Elephant Nature Park. While during our visit to the Elephant Nature Park we learned an extensive amount about SEF from our tour guide Ten, we did not have a formal meeting with a staff member as with the previous two organizations, but rather took on the role of the tourist and visited the park for a tour.

We then traveled as a group by plane from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, Thailand. While I knew how large of a city Bangkok was, it blew away my expectations. Bangkok is huge. Surrounded by skyscrapers and traffic that would put New York City to shame, I realized just how much I had underestimated the city of Bangkok. However, what really shocked me about Bangkok was the stark contrast between the wealthy and the poor. Even in such a large city with an amazing sky train system and designer fashion in malls as massive as MBK Center (which we visited), there was still an extensive visual representation of poverty along the streets. While this can be said of large cities in the United States as well, the contrast was more defined in Bangkok. My expectations had been that of the exact opposite.img_20160626_074037710

The tour of Angkor Village was equally as breathtaking. The history could be seen throughout the area and was very powerful. We learned that during the Khmer Rouge, Angkor village became a battlefield between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese army as the Vietnamese tried to push the Khmer out. As a result, some statues are missing and many have been beheaded as was seen on our tour. It’s a powerful feeling to know you’re standing on a place of such strong history. During our tour we visited Angkor Wat, Angkor Ta Prohm, and Angkor Bayon.
We later visited schools run by the Ponheary Ly Foundation, the Kor Ker school in a rural area outside of the city of Siem Reap and the Knar school closer to town. It was so much fun working with the kids to make their lunch, getting to watch some lessons take place, serving the kiddos as much ramen as they could possibly eat, and then playing with them afterwards.
We also stopped at the Cambodian Landmine Museum. This Museum was very powerful. Aki Ra, founder of the Museum and attached Relief Facility, laid thousands of landmines as a child soldier with the Khmer Rouge. Today, it is estimated that he has cleared over 50,000. I spent most of my time at the museum at one exhibit in particular. A wall displayed the photographs and stories of children who were affected by land mines. Each of the stories was incredible. One boy wrote that at 8 years old while feeding the cows with several other children, he watched a friend pick up an unknown object. The object exploded, killing three boys, taking off one girl’s arm, and his leg from the middle of the thigh down. It’s impossible to fully comprehend what it might be like to live in constant fear of a tragedy like this. There are still estimated to be thousands of landmines that haven’t yet been cleared. While living their daily lives, such as feeing the cows, there is the constant threat of an explosion. I can’t imagine the feeling of insecurity that this must have on people.img_20160627_113616772

We then visited our last three organizations, Groupe Energies Renouvelables, Environnement et Solidarites (GERES), Better Factories Cambodia, Daughters of Cambodia, and Equitable Cambodia.

On our last day our group said our farewells and departed on our next adventures. While some students were headed home, others had further travel ahead of them, including three month internships with NGOs, a study abroad opportunity in London, personal travel, or like myself and a fellow graduate student, continuing travel with our Professor to assist with research in Laos! While we left exhausted from our busy time together, the lessons we learned from the NGOs we met with were irreplaceable. This experience shaped me as a traveler as well as my knowledge of NGOs around the world. Time will tell just how very valuable this experience has been.

-Emily Edwards, Summer 2016

Picturesque Urbanism and Kinetic Architecture in Vancouver, BC

This Pacific Northwest adventure began after arriving in Seattle, Washington with many bikes and luggage in tow. There, we toured premier architectural offices such as Miller Hull, Mithun, and Olson Kundig. We also toured the workshops of Turner Exhibits, who specializes in custom fabrication, kinetic architecture, and permanent exhibits. The designers at TE would later review our kinetic architecture studio work, offering the program their seasoned expertise and insight. All this in preparation for our destination and home for the next 11 weeks, none other than the dense, diverse, and beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Such as in Portland or Seattle, Vancouver, BC is a prime cultural and economic metropolis that embodies the principles of Pacific Northwest regionalism. Specifically, strengthening its connection to its sublime setting by preserving natural vistas along corridors, valuing its environmentalism with the rehabilitation of native ecologies, and valuing its regional artistry and craftsmanship that is manifest in its urban life culture. Nature surrounds and defines this city with mountains setting the backdrop, while ocean waves set the soundtrack.


Situated within the thriving West End neighborhood, our hotel balcony view gazes at the city below, with it’s typical “tower and podium” buildings scattered in between single or two-story mixed-use commercial and residential typologies. At dusk, the sky ignites in dramatically warm sunset spectrums, giving the nearby beach goers an evening spectacle worth a thousand words. While some nights are full of skyline photo opps, most will be spent imagining creative solutions for the two design studios we have undertaken for this spring term.

Our main studio space and digital media lab were hosted generously by the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. ECUAD itself is located a quick bike ride or water taxi across False Creek on Granville Island, a famous case study of industrial manufacturing area turned into a hotspot for tourism, cultural arts, and creative industries. Granville Island is also the key focus of our urban studio project, which would first identify potential program, explore massing concepts, investigate structure and light, and finally refine tectonics into a comprehensive aesthetic that is representative of its place and time.


Coupled with the main design studio, we explored the application for kinetic architecture with a second studio project, divided into small groups. In order to design and engineer working mock-ups, we needed a crash course in a few software programs unconventional to the typical architectural education: Solidworks and MODO. These programs allowed us to quickly 3D-model parts into assemblies, and animate the results, giving life to our kinetic creations. This exploration was helpful to bridge the divide between architecture and engineering, while experimenting with the possibilities of architectural visualization.

Beyond the fast and furious workload this program demanded, there were several respites with a more recreational form of education. Curling, skating, and kayaking, to name a few. We also had more professional events by visiting a premier Vancouver design firm, Michael Green Architecture. But my ultimate favorite was the guided bike tour around the Vancouver waterfront by one of Vancouver’s senior urban designers, Scot Hein. It was very inspiring and memorable zipping from one urban design precedent to the next along the city’s extensive bike lane infrastructure, gaining first-hand insight of the challenges and successes to each project.

Coming out of this program, I am emboldened with a passion for urban design and wanderlust. I have learned to look around, ask “why?” and “how do we respond to future development?” I have also learned the formative power of travel and witnessing the world in shaping my perceptions and building an experiential foundation as a designer. The history and evolution of the city was not without challenge, nor is it perfect now by any means. Vancouver is nonetheless a cherished living precedent of what nature and recreation within urban life can look like. It has captured the hearts and minds of many, including myself, and for that I am grateful.





– Nathan Korol, 2016 Spring Architecture in Vancouver

An Unexpected Adventure in Lapland

Studying abroad was always an aspiration of mine, so once the time came for me to embark on my spring semester exchange, at Uppsala University in Sweden, I was overcome with immense excitement. I will never forget the numerous incredible people I met, who quickly became friends for life, the challenging but worthwhile courses I took part in, and the incredible countries I had the privilege of exploring. Eager to begin exploring the fascinating cities of Europe, I began planning trips within weeks of arriving in Uppsala; the city that would become a place I can now call home. Before I even embarked on this study abroad journey, I had the idea that to make the most of my time abroad I needed to travel to as many places as possible. I neglected my home country a great deal. When I had a free weekend, I almost never spent it in Sweden. Reflecting on my time abroad, I have discovered that the most meaningful memory of mine is one that took place within my home country, where I was surrounded by people that I will forever be grateful for.Photo (2)
After around a month in Uppsala, and trips to Latvia, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic, a friend of mine suggested we go on a trip to Lapland, which is the northernmost region of Finland, Sweden, and Norway. I never dreamed of going there, I was not even aware of what Lapland was. That’s the funny thing about studying abroad; you never know what you’ll experience and that’s part of the thrill of it. I quickly agreed to the trip, and we got some of the best people to come along the journey to Lapland with us. The trip began on March 16th, 2016, and I had plenty of time before then to dream about the vast winter wonderland that awaited me.
The day finally came for the roughly fourteen-hour bus ride to Korvala, Finland. It was not as miserable as it sounds. Of course sleeping on a bus is far from pleasant, but spending time with some of my favorite people made the bus ride worthwhile. The first day of this Lapland adventure was full of firsts, which included trying a bit of ice fishing, struggling to trek through the woods in snow shoes, gazing up at one of nature’s most beautiful displays; the Northern Lights, attempting to withstand a Finnish sauna, and jumping into a frozen lake. The first full day of this trip solidified my love for the Scandinavian countries, and gave me confidence to say that choosing the study abroad program I did was the best decision I could have made.

Photo (5)We then set off to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi Finland, then to Kiruna, Sweden. While staying in Kiruna we made dinner together and watched the Northern Lights dance about across the sky. A tour of the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden was in store for us the next day. The Icehotel was phenomenal, and one of those experiences that will forever be ingrained in my mind. This day was another day of firsts as I ate reindeer pizza, went dog sledding, and went snowmobiling. Each and every experience I had on this trip was a phenomenal one that I will always cherish deeply. The days that followed involved a visit with a Sami family and their reindeer in Rensjön, Sweden, a day of exploring the Norwegian city of Narvik, gazing upon the fjords of Norway and the Arctic Ocean, exploring Abisko National Park, attempting to cross the frozen Torneträsk lake, and drinking glogg together under a teepee. The bus ride back to Uppsala was filled with reflecting on what an incredible trip this was, and talking with people whose friendships with me grew immensely stronger through the shared experiences we had.
Trips to The Netherlands, Norway, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Ukraine, Denmark, and Iceland followed this trip to Lapland. Each trip opened my eyes to the wondrous world we live in, and each trip brought me closer to the people I went with. I will always cherish the memories made throughout the different adventures I embarked on during my study abroad program. Yet I will value my travels around Sweden the most. I discovered that exploring your host country is just as rewarding as any other country, if not more so. I realized that you do not need to travel far to make amazing memories. Most of all I discovered that the true magic of studying abroad is finding a second home halfway across the world, and the family of friends that develops along with it.Photo (4)

-Taylor Barnhart Uppsala, Sweden


Italy: Love at first sight

As soon as I set foot in Rome on April 11th my heart was immediately captivated, and as I continued to explore new cities and towns throughout Italy and Europe I only fell deeper in love. My program traveled around to Rome, Florence, Siena and Bologna the first 2 weeks and then we settled into Vicenza, our home away from home for the next couple of months. And it truly did become just that. We became regulars at the café down the street from our apartments and our favorite self-serve restaurant. We spent our evenings drinking spritz cocktails on the terrace that overlooked the neighborhood piazza. We would frequent the grocery stores for group dinners on the weekends and kick around a soccer ball at the local park. Class was typically outside, drawing and taking notes and when we were inside we worked on our studio project redesigning a new building and Piazza for downtown Vicenza.  Although we were finally settled in somewhere that did not mean that we were done traveling. Vicenza was a short train ride away from Venice and many other small Italian towns that we would go on day trips. Lastly, nearing the end of our time together in Europe our group went on a bus tour through Switzerland for week.

The entire 3 months that I was studying abroad I never ceasedIMG_1300 to be amazed by the architecture, art, religion, traditions and culture that seems to fill every nook and cranny of Europe. I like to think that Italy is an architect’s heaven on earth. Studying architecture there was incredible. I was able to see things in person that I had only seen in movies or text books. To be in the colosseum or the Vatican for example, places that I have spent so much of my life dreaming about was surreal. What’s more, those were only two of the countless buildings my classmates and I visited and each one, famous or not, was a masterpiece in its own wright.

Moreover, what lingers in my mind more vividly is the smaller details that make up the fabric of Italy: like the narrow cobble stone streets, the shutters, the laundry hanging outside of windows, the small alters for Mary and Jesus that are mounted on to the sides of buildings, soccer playing on the television, ordering a cappuccino, the smell of cigarette smoke, the smell of pizza being made and the lengthy greetings shared in Italian with the coming and going of every friend. These are the attributes of Italy that truly won my heart. I don’t miss the museums and the buildings, I miss getting lost in the streets of Italy and the people, sounds and smells that you run into along the way. Being immersed in a different culture is life changing. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. Traveling not only made me appreciate things about my life back in the U.S but also made me realize where IMG_2012I see room for improvement.

The people are also what last in our memories forever, more than the sites and tourist attractions. I didn’t know a single person in my program and by the end of my 3 months I can call every one of them a dear friend, including my professors. People with different backgrounds and lifestyles coming together over common interests in learning and exploring to create timeless friendships. I learned so much from each of my peers, my professors and the random acquaintances I made along the way. I feel a new sense of independence that I didn’t have before this trip. Now I have confidence in myself that I am capable of navigating the world, but this is thanks to the support and companionship of my new friends.


  • Eden Haskins-Dahl, Architecture in Vicenza

Finding A Home Away From Home

Sophie and I are two public relations college students from California, studying abroad in Segovia, Spain, for three weeks in the middle of the summer. We had previously expressed concerns relating to our host mother to our program coordinator, Marian Rubio, an exuberant blonde-banged Segovian with rich burgundy lipstick that pops just as much as her outwardly bouncy personality. But even with her help, the communication barrier continued to make it impossible to live comfortably. Marian is the Site Director of the GEO Study Abroad center in Segovia, vigilantly working to ensure that each student has a rich and exciting homestay experience. She finds families only through recommendations from colleagues and friends whom she trusts, interviews the prospects, and then visits their homes to make sure the housing situation is a comfortable one for students.

“At the beginning it was very hard to find families, but step-by-step people started to know us and trust us,” says Rubio. She has an intensive process she goes through when matching students with host families that involves evaluating housing situations and identifying compatible personalities. Homestays occasionally don’t always work out as planned.  “The family can be great, the student can be great, but sometimes the chemistry is not there. Maybe there is a misunderstanding or a difference in thinking. But since I have more than 300 families; I can change the family for the student immediately.”

It is very clear to Rubio that when somIMG_1810[2]ething goes wrong with a family, it may not be the fault of the host family or the student. The relationship is always a two-way street. Often the issue is only that of miscommunication or differences in lifestyle.

“Our families are like your families. Some are very rich, and some of them are not. Some of them are very good cooks and some of them are not. Some have swimming pools and some don’t. Just like your families. Different,” says Rubio. This is part of the reason it is so important to keep an open mind when anticipating living with a homestay in another country.

Micah Collamer, a college student studying in Segovia, Spain, is taking three classes in Spanish: art, grammar and history. I met him in the lobby of the globe-shaped Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid. I began to explain to him the unfortunate living situation Sophie and I had stumbled into. After exchanging only a few sentences back and forth, we figured out that other than both being students at the University of Oregon, an awkward living situation was something else we had in common.

To my delight, the process he went through to change homestays was fast and painless. He spoke with Marian, explained the issues he was having and went into more detail about what he wanted in a homestay: specifically, a big, family experience. Within the same day, he packed up his bags and was ready to move. “With this [new] family, it is 100% clear. If there is a problem, they are willing to solve it,” says Collamer.

Homestay issues don’t only exist in Europe, or only with American students. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Marina Olalla, the nineteen-year-old daughter of a Spanish mother who has been housing international students for over five years, had her own homestay mishap in America.

“My family was very traditional and conservative and wouldn’t let me do anything without the daughter. Communication with them was difficult; that was the biggest problem,” says Olalla.  So, just like Micah, Olalla left in search of a new family to spend the rest of her stay with in the United States.

Olalla can also see the mistakes that she made, “I think that everyone has to make their point, and I never expressed myself. I should have expressed how I felt more often. I felt they got used to me not standing up for myself.” Olalla’s experience shows that it isn’t only the host family’s job to make sure communication flows between both parties. It is just as important for students to express their own concerns and doubts as well.

There are multiple reasons why someone would choose to be a host for a student. For many families, it’s a chance to broaden their minds and experience new cultures without traveling.

“There are different motivations for different families, because some have children and they want the contact between the students and the children because it is a rich experience. You can learn about other cultures, which is always great, because we teach students, but we also learn from students all the time. Our students experience our culture, but we can also share the two cultures,” says program coordinator Rubio.  Emi Del Rio, an English professor at a university in Segovia, Spain, who became my new homestay-mother, says, “I guess that hosting students is a way of sharing our lives with other people, just to know how people usually live in Spain. We like being in contact with young people because we can see it in ourselves that we have young minds as well.DSC_7123[2] We enjoy just knowing other cultures and talking to other people from different nations. We love that. We love being surrounded by people,” says Del Rio.

Del Rio’s attitude and open-mind towards new cultures is exactly why Sophie and I now feel so at home in their cherry wood embellished flat. Their little, yet elegant apartment, adorned with photos, trinkets and memories of their travels, is constantly infused with the smell of traditional Spanish cooking, all thanks to her husband Pedro. Their friendliness and willingness to accept people of all cultures and nationalities is just as noticeable in the air as Pedro’s cooking. The two of them have yet to experience any problems with students. “We both have a positive attitude, we are open and ready to help,” says Del Rio. “But students also need to be open minded and understand and accept the house rules. That’s the idea.”

As my two weeks here in the Del Rio household come to an end, I can’t help but stare at my cluttered suitcase, sitting amongst even more souvenirs, clothes and bottles of wine that Emi recommended, with the urge to keep it all unpacked. Thanks to Emi and Pedro, returning to the U.S. will be bittersweet, as we are undoubtedly leaving a second home here in Segovia.

The Del Rio’s have future plans to visit California; Sophie and I have invited them into our own homes without hesitation.

— Alletta Simons, Segovia, Spain


BIMG_2791eing an experienced traveler, I look forward to every opportunity that allows me to discover a new city, culture, and way of life different than my own. Not only is it refreshing to step outside of my environment, but it expands the way I look at every new city thereafter. As a graduate architecture student fascinated in urban design, a trip to a new city to me means looking at how accessible the public transportation is, how walkable and vibrant various districts are, if public spaces are successful and utilized, and how safe pedestrians and cyclists are on the street. Every city handles these issues differently, and it is fascinating to observe and analyze how each city designs for public use.

Driving into Vancouver for the very first time down Cambie St – a large multi-lane street – the entire city slowly exposes itself before you as you drive down towards the West End. The various bridges crossing False Creek give an expansive view into English Bay and the surrounding mountains that make up both North and West Vancouver. Immediately, I am able see the natural beauty surrounding this urban jungle, and what a crucial role nature plays in an urban context. Cruising down into the West End, the homogenous style of buildings known as “Vancouverism” becomes very apparent –30 story towers with two floors of street wall podiums, known for bringing a human scale to these vertical buildings.IMG_2996

Soon enough we are driving along the beachside on a calmer road, looking out onto English Bay which is covered in parks, pedestrians, cyclists, and a well maintained beach side along the shore. Immediately I am impressed by the lack of a large highway immediately by the water – such as ones that exist in cities such as Seattle and Chicago. Pedestrians easily cross the streets with bars, restaurants, and cafés lining the surrounding streets, making for a pedestrian-dominated and human-oriented fabric. What a success! Next destination: our new home for the next 2.5 months on bustling Davie Street. All of us were excited the second we got off the bus: markets, restaurants, grocery stores and small businesses of all sorts line the entire street. Within one block of our home you could find everything from Himalayan to Indian, Italian, Japanese, American, and even Canadian Poutine. Small single story and midrise buildings with a one story canopy made me feel welcome as a pedestrian. Because the commercial lots were very small in size, you could find anywhere from 10-20 different shops and vendors on a single street – an amazing diversity within such a small area that you could never get boreIMG_2958d.

Piece by piece, I began to understand why Vancouver is considered a successful model of urbanism in the 21st century, and why so many desire to live here. Besides shops and restaurants galore, the city is extremely friendly to cyclists – clearly designated lanes are prevalent all around the city. In certain parts of the downtown area, bike lanes are even separated by a landscaped median, allowing for maximum safety. Moreover, investments in public transit allows a strong connection to and from the surrounding metropolitan area. These rapid self-automated trains run at 47 different stops, and 6 new ones under construction, due to be open in 2017. The investment in public transit also adds to future compact development along these train routes. By developing new districts in proximity to these Sky Train stops, citizens have an incentive – both economic and environmental – to travel to the city via public transportation rather than the requirement of a car. By promoting this type of development, Vancouver’s appeal extends to young people and working families alike.

Cities in North America have many obstacles to overcome as we head into the future – ones that prioritize public transit, mixed-use compact development that expands up rather than out,IMG_2826 and lastly, designing for the walkable human scale rather than an auto-dominant world. Having experienced all of these positive aspects of Vancouver, I have expanded my knowledge on what successful urbanism looks like in today’s world. As a future architect and urban designer, I have redefined my criteria of what a good urban street means to me as a pedestrian, cyclist and explorer. Lastly, I have better understood how vital it is to celebrate the surrounding natural landscape and climate that each city holds, and is built on.

— Maya Krolikowski, Spring 2016 Architecture in Vancouver

The Sea of Green

What better way is there to study architecture and urban planning than to explore a new city from the perspective of a bicycle? Mobile enough to get around effiSteamclockciently and yet slow enough to take in new sights, sounds and smells. That’s what 17 students and myself had the pleasure of doing for 11 weeks in beautiful, Vancouver, British Columbia. There I was studying Kinetic Architecture and Urban Planning at Emily Carr School of Art and Design.
Every morning I wake up to the city noise of Davie Street below and wonder what the new day will bring. I get to bike over Burrard street to school every day where cars and bicycles begin to truly share the road in a safe fashion. My ride looks out over English bay and beyond to Stanley park. As I ride over Burrard sailboats and yachts alike make their way in and out of false creek beginning their day. First Street brings high end automobiles and a windy road until finally I reach my destination, Granville Island. A plot of land unlike any other I have been on the island abides by its own rules, set out to break traditional spaces and reinvent public space. It is clear the pedestrians of the island own the land and cars must abide by them as people stroll across the road however they please.
As I unmount and park my bike I can tell it will be a busy day. Even as the public market is just beginning to open travelers from all over the world are flooding in to take in the island and its arts and crafts in all forms. I make my way in to the hustle and bustle of the market and decide a dragon fruit will be my breakfast. I stop for a moment to observe a canvas where a picture of flowers in a field is being painted across from one of the many fruit vendors. Never coVancouveruld I have begun to imagine the diversity of such a small island in a city. The market is packed with artists that bring in their crafts for the day with the intention of selling them to the public. The stands pack in to the already busy space where artists are selling ceramic tiles with paintings, pearl earrings, custom wood work benches, chiseled marble stamps and so much more.
One of the woodshops is opening up their garage door for the day and I stop to look at the work strewn about the small space. Perfect wooden spheres and tear drops are scattered about the room as the artists starts his machines to continue his work. The pedestrians walking past don’t seem to faze him anymore; once he starts his work he seems entirely in tune with what is happening in front of him. As I move further towards class an asparagus painted cement truck races by exiting the concrete facility adjacent the market as another strawberry painted one enters. The silos they park under painted like caricatures. Upon first glance you imagine a children’s park hidden among the towers and trucks as the rich colors jump out at you hiding the grit of the concrete industry that lies within.
Between the gaps of the corrugated metal facades the towers of Vancouver exist behind, lying in the distance and yet only across the creek. The sea of green windows looks back at you and becomes one with the parks the buildings extend up from. Sunset Day 1Silhouettes of bikers and pedestrians dot the rich green grass, some headed to start their days and others finding a soft patch to call theirs for the time being. A stark white sailboat’s mast splits the view as it cuts its way out of False Creek. The yellow capped logs in front of me guide me down Johnston Street and I arrive in front of Emily Carr School of Art and Design.
It seems so natural here that industry, academics and arts of all form come together. What better way to display the rich history that brought us Vancouver, BC in the first place. A city so young and
adventurous it seems anything is possible. And as you move through Vancouver and Granville Island yourself you begin to believe anything is possible.

– Jericho Bankston,  Architecture in Vancouver, Spring 2016

Bike City

The next place we’re stopping is a street corner in Chinatown and Professor Duff is asking, did we lose people. It’s not that our tour guides are leaving people behind on purpose so much that it doesn’t seem to occur to them that this is something that might happen. Whether we have any losses is unknown as we hear about the history of development in the city and how things came to be the way they are today. This is still the first part of our afternoon and we’re riding the bike path around False Creek. The ocean inlet around which Vancouver is built takes its name from the easy confusion that this could be a river, especially to those of us from Portland. At our first stop, a waste treatment plant (a destination that earned some sidelong glances among us), we’re meeting our tour guide and leaving again.oswald_moa

Even in a city as accustomed and accommodating to bikes as Vancouver, the people relaxing in Victory Square off Cambie Street still do a double take when our mob of twenty bicyclists adds to the chaos of a busy intersection. Dinner today is part of the tour at what we’re told is the best, if smallest, taco place in the city, and we are not disappointed. In the instant it takes to lock bikes to parking meters and trees, the line to order is out the door, much to the bafflement of the people just getting off work and stopping by for what they thought was going to be a quick bite. When we get back to the hotel, it will be eighteen students with bikes trying ascend to the seventh and eighth floors, drawing what we hope is only mild amusement from the inconvenienced hotel guests who will be taking the next one.

Riding a bike here is another part of life more than a form of transportation. It’s from a city planner turned tour guide for the day that we’re learning that the expansion ooswald_curlingf streets to accommodate more traffic, thereby creating more traffic, is a popular trend in cities but deliberately eschewed here. The result is traffic got bad, then stayed bad until people learned better than to drive their cars. For me every morning, it’s walking or biking down to the water and taking a short ferry ride across False Creek to Granville Island. Riding the ferry on a weekend afternoon immediately explains the success of the business model, but in the early mornings on weekdays, I am frequently the only occupant. This is the quietest part of my day, when in the center of the city I am as likely to encounter a heron or seal or Canada Goose as I am other people. For the few short minutes it takes to travel between shores, I can justifiably not worry or think about anything, surrounded by salty air and waves lapping the side of the boat against the backdrop of the quiescent, still awakening city.oswald_courthouse

On this tour, food is a destination and our guide is describing our next stop only as “two-hundred and eighteen flavors” before darting into traffic and we’re chasing behind. The gelato place where we arrive is “international themed,” but no one quite knows what that means, even standing in the middle of it. The competition prompt is right away apparent: How many flavors can you sample, each with its own colorful spoon, thereby tracking your progress, before settling on your choice? We are informed of the standing record from past years.

The tiny park across the street can barely accommodate our class where we sit in the shade of blossoming trees and hear from each person what flavor they chose and how many they sampled, with those contending to win or at least hoping to medal displaying their spoon collection with pride. And as soon as we can catch our breath we’re playing soccer and it’s the last day and pretty soon it’ll be that I can only remember this. I don’t know it yet, but this bike tour — the chaos of chasing a tour guide around the city in a gaggle of bikes, following a plan that only murkily materializes and then just barely ahead of us — will come to symbolize my entire study abroad experience in Vancouver. While this approach is fundamentally at odds with the very core of my personality, I am able to accept it, and am better for it.

But the reprieve of this park won’t last, and before much oswald_aquabuslonger we’re scrambling to reattach our helmets and jump back on our bikes before our tour guides leave without us and we’re lost on the streets of Vancouver, left to fend for ourselves.

– Adam Oswald, Vancouver, Canada

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