Tag: Vancouver

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


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 Sunset Day 1the parks the buildings extend up from. Silhouettes 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

Building a future in Vancouver

Before attending graduate school, I worked as a fabricator at a custom kinetic architecture design/build shop. One spring morning, a group of University of Oregon architecture students visited the shop as a part of the Vancouver Program led by Stephen Duff. The reason for their visit was to introduce them to their kinetic architecture class in Vancouver, BC. At the time, I was thinking of returning to graduate school and had been accepted into a few different graduate schools. Meeting those students, learning of the kinetic architecture course offered in Vancouver, and hearing all about Stephen Duff from my colleagues and other students was what eventually inspired me to attend the University of Oregon. This past spring, through the help of the Vancouver Program Scholarship, I Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetwas not only able to participate in the program that brought me to the University of Oregon, but it has been the highlight of my graduate school career thus far.

My biggest highlight during the Vancouver Program was the course that started it all for me: Kinetic Architecture. Prior to attending the University of Oregon, I was primarily a fabricator of kinetic architecture. In the Vancouver Program, I learned what went into designing the kinetic architecture I helped build. This included learning about different machines, mechanisms, and their advantages and limitations. Structures, materials, and connection details were other major learning points in the course that I greatly enjoyed. Another aspect of the course I enjoyed was the group work. Throughout the term, we worked in self-selected groups based around our interests. Not only did I get to learn from the knowledge of my classmates, but I got to further practice designing and producing as a team. This RB_10_Architecture Design Studio final modelis a skill set I think a lot of architecture students should experience in school, as the profession depends heavily on team work, not only amongst your teammates, but amongst your clients and consultants as well. You can learn a lot from each other.

Related to the kinetic architecture class was the digital modeling course taught alongside it. In this class, we learned two different digital modeling programs to help us produce digital animations of our kinetic architecture projects. One of my biggest weaknesses as an architecture student has been in digital modeling. This has been primarily because I have been so intimidated by the rendering process of digital modeling. From textures, texture mapping, to lighting, camera angles, and camera settings, it gets very overwhelming. Learning digital modeling, animation, and rendering under the direction of one of the original developers of the modeling program was amazing. Not only did he break down my fears and apprehension towards digital modeling, but his enthusiasm towards digital modeling was contagious. I can’t wait to apply what I have learned to my other architecture design studios.

Amidst the kinetic architecture course, getting to study abroad in Vancouver also taught me a lot about the successes and failures of Vancouver as a large cosmopolitan city. Unfortunately, one of its biggest failures is its high cost of living. Not only is food expensive, but housing prices are through the roof. This I noticed prohibited diversity in the ages and backgrounds of its residents. One of its greatest successes I saw in Vancouver however was its waterfront. Nearly all of its waterfront property in down Vancouver has been turned into bike and pedestrian trails, with parks intermittently placed along the way. By giving the waterfront to the public, it provides its residents a positive resource for recreation and sustainable transportation. It is one of the biggest reasons why I think so many people find Vancouver to be such a beautiful city. I am looking forward towards using these experience in future urban planning courses.RB_1_panorama of Vancouver

Upon my return to the United States, people ask me what my favorite thing about Vancouver was. Without a doubt, I will always mention the kinetic architecture course and the urban environment of Vancouver.

– Rachelle Byarlay, Architecture in Vancouver