February 12, 2018

Urbanist Melody Ma, the Vancouver View Corridors, & Why They Are Important

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  1. If Vancouver truly cared about that view, they’d ditch the overhead traffic signal faces and keep them to the sides (like they do in Montreal). All that expensive overhead equipment (which lures drivers’ eyes up and above the street, rather than to the corners and edges where pedestrians might be starting to cross) intrudes as much into the view cone as anything…

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  3. Views of the mountains, views of the city. Both are important. However, the attention placed on creating policy on specific views of the mountains has not been followed up with a similar effort to first create a city where views of that city would be as treasured as those of nature. In that light, the effort to protect the view cones can be said to have caused us to lose sight of the city. This is in part due to simple geometry where prime public views extend across the downtown street grid at an angle, but also because we have not matured with enough fortitude to take on the almighty car and the almighty real estate dollar and the mediocrity they both have imposed on the city.
    To her credit, Melody Ma defines the protected view cones as public assets. Where I disagree with her is in her cavalier dismissal of the potential role of architecture and urban design and their yet-to-be-realized role in creating views within the city, not just beyond the city, first and foremost by creating a better city. In that respect half the policies on protected views have yet to be written.
    One aside. The Shangri-La tower was altered by a view cone that sliced it at an angle vertically. I think that resulted in a better building with a dramatic knife sharp edge pointing toward Georgia Street and the Trump Tower across the street, a far more interesting form than the bland box that would have arisen there without the slice.
    There is some justification to deepen and expand the view cone policy into urban design initiatives that hopefully, and eventually, will result in a city partially redesigned to possess protected views of plazas, fine architecture and wider boulevards with the careful placing of axes, parks, pedestrian streets and significant public art. To date we’ve had lame policies such as the call for Georgia Street to be Vancouver’s “ceremonial street.” It is not. It is an engineered road designed exclusively for the movement of vehicular traffic using the cheapest, most ubiquitous materials. Our streets are a good place to start because they are the public living rooms and hallways.
    The NEFC towers in question will act a “gateway,” but a gateway to what exactly? We do not encourage the best in urban design and architecture with such vast financial power sweeping up everything in its path and privatizing the mountain views and promoting building a huge mass alone right up to the lot line as a defining urban design element. We need to do better than that.

  4. The view up and down Hastings Street is not beautiful. It cannot be solved by architecture or urban design or views of somewhere else called “nature”. A slice off the top of a building does not matter to a guy lying on the side walk even if he is looking up.

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