September 10, 2019

Original Greening: How the West End went from Pavement to Plaza

Retired city planner Michael Gordon, featured in this recent PriceTalks, edited the summer issue of Sitelines, the journal of the BC Society of Landscape Architects. 

The theme – Pavement to Plaza – is about converting modest sections of streets to neighbourhood places.

The lead story by the designers Norm Hotson and Don Vaughan backgrounds the pioneer Pavement to Plaza vision in the early 1970’s with their concept for the West End mini-parks.  Unless I’m unaware of similar traffic-calming projects, the West of Denman maze of miniparks and diverters was the first traffic calming of its kind in North America.  Hey, let’s say the world!

Price Tags did a post on the origins of West End traffic calming back in 2013, but these authors were the actual designers.  Here are some excerpts:

In 1973 the City of Vancouver established the West End Planning Centre, the first of its kind in the city, staffed by Planning, Social Planning and Engineering Departments. … Norman Hotson Architects was retained by the City to prepare an Open Space Policy for the West End. …

In 1974 a collaboration between Hotson and Don Vaughan & Associates Ltd., won the contract to complete the design …. The “big idea” was to close several north-south streets, cutting off the unwanted traffic, and turning the 20 metre wide rights-of-way into neighbourhood “Mini-Parks”.

A secondary idea was to then connect these spaces to Stanley Park with a system of special sidewalks using the same paving, historic lighting and furnishings as that used in the parks.

They (the miniparks) have a casual air, almost un-designed, and feel as if they have always been a part of the urban fabric. This is a timeless quality, something difficult to achieve through design.

Full article here.


As the authors note, the mini-parks have aged well: “The pavers now gather moss and the trees and plantings have fully matured in these little parks.”

No kidding.


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