This bench on Ellerslie Road overpass above Calgary Trail always make me laugh. Does anyone actually sit here?
Designers tend to add things to plans that look good on plans. They might even look good in real life. But are they functional? I'm in this area somewhat frequently and I've yet to see someone sitting here. I don't think I've even seen someone walking on the bridge.
Anyway, I decided to go try it out to see if it's as bad as I imagine.
Molly Lamb Bobak – one Canada’s great war artists – died a year ago today. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d reflect of on one my favourite pieces.
Painted in 1956, New Housing Development contemplates urban growth during the post-war boom, when massive new developments re-shaped North American cities. The painting juxtaposes old and new, asking a question still pertinent today: how do we grow?
The painting contrasts a pre-war home with a new, mass-produced development. The new houses shine in the distance, but the eye eventually wanders to an old house at the bottom left. We see things differently there. The old house is lived-in and human. The glowing new development begins to feel like a threat.
Geometric shapes dominate the new: triangles, rectangles and trapezoids form walls and roo...
In January of 2009 I spent a lot of time on Main Mall Greenway on UBC's campus. I was taking an urban design studio course and we were tasked with a "critical eye assignment." It meant observing a place and paying attention to who uses it, and how many and why.
It's easy to assume beautiful places are also good places. But the success of a public space is more about function than appearance - not that the two are mutually exclusive.
Main Mall Greenway has both form and function, although in rainy January, it wasn't nearly as well used as I later discovered that summer. Here are some observations from my first visits.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS. It takes me a while to find my destination. It's chilly and misty and I encounter few others as I walk. The community is beautiful...
When it was unveiled in 2011, the Talus Dome immediately drew criticism. Public art is often controversial, but this pile of polished steel balls has been pilloried more than most. Driving past those sometimes-blinding spheres on the high-traffic, high-speed, Whitemud Drive, I can't say I've ever been a fan.
But more recently, I saw the Talus Dome up close and on foot. Those same silver balls actually aren't that bad. In fact, the reflections are pretty interesting – a thousand landscapes mirrored back at you - and always changing.
Planners and urban designers often talk about scale. Designing for pedestrian-scale generally means smaller dimensions and finer details than what we design for when people are speeding by in cars. Think Whyte Avenue versus Gateway Boulevard.
I'm always walking through my neighborhood. I love the elm-lined streets and the cute old houses and I watch in dread and hope as new homes go up. I also love that my neighbourhood is so old that its grid has odd angles and irregular lots and secret little walkways. I've walked here for years, but I still don't know all the bends and turns by heart.
The other day I got a little more disoriented than usual. I walked through the alleys - no roads allowed! Some were paved, others - like mine - rutted gravel.
I've often heard people disparage alleys - "it's where people store their junk." And it's true, but I discovered, they can also be places of beauty and life.
My walk certainly wasn't glamorous. Yes there were overgrown weeds and garbage bins and junk colle...