Tag: Architecture

Vancouverism

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

Week One in Hong Kong

Processed with VSCOcam with c7 presetSeemingly mere seconds, this past week, teeming with adventures in multiple domains, concluded with peaceful hike up the hill overlooking the cityscape.

Throughout the week, twelve groups studied various sites through macro/micro scales in order to understand the “natural” and “synthetic” landscape.  My group studied the mass private housing complex in Mei Foo.  The dense structures, tight pedestrian and vehicular roads, and lack of greenery evoked a rather unpleasant initial impression towards the complex.  However, as we ventured onward, we began to uncover its brilliance.

The site, originally used as Exxon Mobil’s petroleum storage site, was chosen for the existing flat land.  Sudden flux in population growth demanded for large accommodations; it is the largest mass housing project in Hong Kong, occasionally considered largest amongst the world.  Despite this focus on speed and size, Mei Foo complex was still considered grand at the time.  The complex provided multiple schools, health clinics, and market.  The lack of interior space, although typical in Hong Kong, is well compensated through the spacious terraces on the podium level.  We observed that this large open space, enclosed by the wall of buildings, acted as backyard for the community.  People would go here to walk their dog, read a newspaper, bike around the boxed plants and 20150818_161951-12jxvsm-e1440260901745fountains.  The elevated open space ensured safety for those gathered here, from the chaotic automobiles below.  However, this separation between the road and the community spaces has its disadvantages.  For example (and likely not a hypothetical one), suppose student sketching sections from the podium level finds himself fatigued and dehydrated therefore requiring a drink, that student must navigate towards the nearest stairwell, descend multiple floors, then look for the nearest 7- Eleven.  Yet, we discovered through our interviews, that this hardly affected the lives of locals and visitors.  Most of the residents expressed either indifferent or positive opinions towards Mei Foo, and were rather content with spaces we found cramp or unsanitary.

On Saturday, we woke up early and boarded the Cotai Ferry over to Macau.  Despite encountering some conflicts with Macau customs, it did not hamper our excitement and eagerness to explore the city.  Firstly, we took a tour of Macau colonial houses, which were painted in bright teal and overlooked a beautiful expanse of marshland.  After eating a wonderful traditional Portuguese meal, we walked through busy streets, filled with combating aromas and voices.  Secondly, we took an adventurous (frightening) bus ride into the heart of the city; it was like stepping into another world.  A composed array of new, outlandish buildings along with culturally rich vernacular structures surrounded us.  While trying to reach the St. Peter’s Ruins, we were funneled through one narrow street completed filled with countless people, all shoving and pushing as we slowly inched towards our destination.  To further enhance this experience, Bella broke a coconut on the steps up to the facade ruins through repeatly smashing it on the pavement.  Lastly, on top of fort/ history museum, we had a great view of the city.Processed with VSCOcam with c7 preset

– Kevin So, Summer Sustainable Urban Design and Development in Hong Kong

More UO A&AA Hong Kong blogs can be found here.

Reflections on Vancouver Spring 2014

Making the decision to study abroad in Vancouver was the best decision I have made in college thus far. I grew up fifteen minutes from Manhattan, feeling privileged, thinking I grew up next to the best city in the world. Moving to Oregon for college, was a big change—no more fast pace, tall buildings, or public transportation systems. In Eugene, my bike became my transportation, tall buildings were replaced with evergreen trees and everything I did took an extra ten minutes. I could never say if I liked the city life, or the “Oregonian life” better; but after living in Vancouver for three months, I don’t need to make that decision anymore. Vancouver is what I like best. It is where I felt most at home.

There is nothing about Vancouver I did not love; okay, except for the squawking seagulls that dwelled on our studio roof, but I could easy fix that with my headphones. I had my favorite market on Davie Street where I got all my fruit and vegetables. The man who worked at the Grainry, a place to buy snacks in bulk on Granville Island, expected me there every day because no matter the quantity of my purchase, I would eat it all during one day in studio. I even found a nail and hair salon I trusted. I have none of that in Eugene and only half of it in New Jersey.

 

DCIM101MEDIAWhile living in Vancouver, I also made it a point to go around Stanley Park at least once a week, sometimes biking, sometimes running. That eight mile trail along the water front was too beautiful to not want to be there all the time. The interior of the park is a forest with endless amounts of trails too. I think it’s my favorite part of Vancouver.

I was afraid of getting lost the first time I ran through the interior of Stanley Park, so Justin came with me. Justin and I ran Stanley Park a few times together. We got to know each other pretty well on our runs. I never kept track of how far we were running because I stayed so engaged in our conversations. I think he always knew how far we were though because he has an incredible sense of direction.

The group I lived with in Vancouver was very eclectic, but we did have one thing in common—a love for architecture. Exploring a new city with fellow architecture students undeniably influenced how great my experience was. When pointing out details or admiring a building, we all just get it. We toured the city on bike with one of Vancouver’s city planners. Every design decision made in the development of Vancouver just makes sense. My favorite part of the development is that pedestrians have the closest access to water, followed by bikers, then cars. The city planning of Vancouver definitely makes it a desirable city to live in.

My roommates, Nicki and Dianna, also had a positive effect on my stay in Vancouver. Although the hotel room we lived in was small for three, I loved every second of it. All the friendships I made while in Vancouver are indescribable. The experiences we had together will never be replaced and I am glad to have met everyone. Of course, last but not least, Stephen Duff was the reason for all of this. Stephen set easterup relationships with Emily Carr professors that I learned so much from. Thomas Groppi, who taught our media class was overly knowledgeable on the programs he taught us, SolidWorks and SoftImage. I am impressed with myself and the rest of the students for how much we learned in a short amount of time. I learned a lot from Stephen in studio as well. He pushed my limits and enhanced my design method. Stephen is such a cheerful professor too. He knew we were all dedicated students; therefore he always made sure we made time for fun. He planned outings for us like a Paella party, and kayaking that got us to stop worrying about school for a little and just enjoy life. That really is why studying abroad in Vancouver was a life changing experience for me—I learned that the best knowledge and creativity comes from enjoying each day and studying what you love.

-Jackie Stinson, Architecture in Vancouver

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