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MOVments: The Talented City

There's no doubt about it, Vancouver is a tremendously, ridiculously talented city. From clever computer engineers, to ground-breaking artists, to innovative entrepreneurs the city is chalk full of people who continue to shape and define our communities in unexpected ways. This week's MOVments takes a look at some of the benefits and repercussions of being such an accomplished city.
 
Virtual Brain Drain. Social media giant Facebook is setting up a new temporary development office in Vancouver and will be hiring 150 of our best and brightest to staff it. Good news, right? Yes and no. As Alex Wilhelm argues over at The Next Web, Facebook may be perfectly positioning itself to snag our talented developers: "In short, Facebook is hoovering up smart kids, and stashing them in Canada until it can transfer them to one of its offices in the United States, such as its headquarters in Menlo Park."
 
The Art of Recognition. Some recent news in the BC art world has hit us very close to home: George Norris, the artist behind the iconic crab sculpture in front of the MOV, passed away in Victoria on March 12. Although Norris' work can be found across the province, he was under-recognized during his lifetime. As his friend, artist Gordon Miller told the Province: "He was probably the most unrecognized and unappreciated talent in BC. He was an incredible artist that never tooted his own horn." Fortunately this isn't true across the board: Vancouver artist Rebecca Belmore has just won one of the prestigious Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts. The $25,000 award recognizes Belmore for her career achievement as a multidisciplinary artist.
 
Waldorf-Rickshaw Mega-Team. Owners of the Richshaw Theatre and Waldorf Productions have joined forces to purchase and renovate Fox Cinema, the former porn theatre on Main Street. Plans are to re-open the theatre in the fall as a space for everything from live music, to djs, to comedy depending on what kind of liquor license the team is able to obtain. Great news for anyone mourning the loss of the Waldorf Hotel venue (or just excited about having more innovative multipurpose spaces in the city).
 
Visualizing (Un)Affordable Housing. Finally, with spring on its way and the temperature on the rise, here is an extremely effective "thermal" visualization of the city that literally puts Vancouver's most/least affordable neighbourhoods on the map.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Rent Heat Map courtesy of rentheatmap.com]

MOVments: Putting Ourselves on the Map

In the aftermath of the Waldorf closing the city is looking into mapping cultural resources like arts venues and spaces that resonate with city dwellers. Over at MOVments, this got us thinking about the other kinds of maps we're making and how they're helping to locate us and more importantly, guide us where we're going. Read on for details on a blueprint for a new food strategy, a development plan for a growing municipality, and how neighbourhood rebranding may (or may not) be helping East Vancouverites envision where they live.

Edible Streets. Imagine a city with more farmers markets, community gardens, rooftop plots, and edible landscaping. These are just a few of the actions outlined in the new food strategy being considered by city council. As the Vancouver Sun blog describes "City council intends the Vancouver of the near future to be a model system of just and sustainable locally-grown food, a city as pretty as it is delicious." This deliciously sustainable city would have at its centre a green economy which would incubate food businesses and create infrastructure for food processing and distribution.
 
City of Cities. And speaking of infrastructure, the City of Surrey has challenges of its own as its six, distinct town centres continue to grow. As the Vancouver Sun reports while the city offers (relatively) affordable housing and a myriad of parks and recreation opportunities, it still does not have a cultural infrastructure in the form of large-scale entertainment venues; for these, many still head to Vancouver. President of the Surrey Board of Trade, Anita Huberman, is looking forward to a city filled with "state-of-the-art elegant spaces for arts, events, [and] theatres" that would keep people working and playing there.
 
The Neighbourhood Formerly Known As...Hastings-Sunrise has recently been rebranded as Vancouver's East Village but residents have been slow to adopt the name, and some are not so sure the reference to the Manhattan neighbourhood is apt. Developers are quick to point out that the new name isn't meant to replace the old one but rather to help build a cohesive identity for businesses in the area. As executive director of the neighbourhood's Business Improvement Association, Patricia Barnes describes, "It’s a marketing and branding strategy for the business improvement area, within the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood. Critics have their own opinions, but it is not a renaming of the whole neighbourhood.” 
 
Spotlight on Vancouver. And finally, if you didn't get a chance to see Marpole and downtown all lit up this weekend, check out these photos of the playful Limelight: Saturday Night art installation. 
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Plan of the City of Vancouver, 1910. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, MAP 387]

MOVments: Monstrous Bridges, Beastly Public Art, and Scary Economics

 
Happy 2013, MOVers! We hope you all had a warm, cozy, and cheerful holiday season ... because that's all about to come to an end. The new year has us confronting a monster (bridge), a bizarre beast (in the form of a poodle sculpture on Main), and the demise of an East Van cultural space (R.I.P. Waldy). Not to mention the economic fallout from the end of the NHL lockout and fears surrounding a new megapub in the Olympic Village. But don't be frightened, gentle readers: on the flip side of these changes and challenges there are opportunities for innovation, evolution, and what we can only hope will be constructive dialogue.
 
Killer Bridge? John Metcalfe over at Atlantic Cities makes the argument that the Port Mann Bridge is out to destroy its human creators (or anyone who crosses its path) pointing to the ice that it threw down on drivers on December 19th. However, it looks like there's plenty more blame to go around: according to this opinion piece from The Tyee, Transportation Minister Polak put the blame on drivers themselves for a January 3rd crash. We suppose one could also blame insufficient de-icing and poor road-condition forecasting. Killer bridge or no killer bridge, let's all just be careful out there.
 
Poodle Party. A new seven-foot poodle sculpture at Main and 18th is causing a little bit of controversy. As the Vancouver Observer reports, at least one resident is confused about how the public art piece, which was sponsored by the city and TransLink, is meant to represent the neighbourhood. Martin Stoakes complains that "Instead of hiring an artist from the neighbourhood, they hired an artist from Montreal who after walking up and down the street decided a poodle was the best reflection of the community." Check it out in front of the new Shopper's Drug Mart and decide for yourself. 
 
Street Economics. One of the most commented-on pieces of news coming out of the city last week was the closing of the financially troubled Waldorf Hotel. As soon as the press release came out, Interneters of all ilks began eulogizing the East Van cultural institution while bad-mouthing the condo developers who purchased it. See what Mayor Robertson had to say about it here, and why there may still be hope for an arts and cultural hub in the area. Another piece of economic news that we hope won't come true? Proposed higher fines for sleeping outdoors and illegal vending aimed at the homeless.
 
Is Hockey Bad for Business? Don Cayo at the Vancouver Sun says yes. He explains that the end of the NHL lockout may actually have a negative impact (albeit slight) on the city's economy: "The reason is, when you think about it, pretty obvious. When people can't spend their money on pricey sports tickets, they spend it on other stuff instead." And a large portion of the money going towards those pricey tickets is ending up with players and owners who are less likely to spend it in the city right away. So go ahead and get excited for the return of hockey, just don't get that excited.
 
Trouble Brewing. Lastly, some residents of the Olympic Village are protesting the opening of the CRAFT Beer Market in the Salt Building, claiming that it will devalue real estate in the area. Worries range from traffic congestion to increased night-time noise and rowdiness. We're hoping that if the project goes through, "rowdiness" will translate into "liveliness" or - even better - "vibrant nightlife." 
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Port Mann Bridge under construction, 2012. Photo by Ken_Lord via Flickr]

What is Upcycled Urbanism?

Have you ever wished you could redesign and rebuild part of Vancouver's public realm?

Architecture and design is an inescapable part of the Vancouver experience, yet there are few chances for people to influence these designs outside of academic settings, City Hall, or architectural offices. Sometimes it can feel like the city and its spaces are created by unseen hands in some faraway design star chamber. And let’s face it: the designs we live with on Vancouver’s streets are not always as creative and risky as they could be.

What if we could invite everyone to re-imagine aspects of urban design and then actually empower them to build prototypes of their ideas? This is the question that gave birth to Upcycled Urbanism: a design+build project for everyone.

What is Upcycled Urbanism?

Upcycled Urbanism is a participatory project that invites students, artists, designers, makers, and anyone with a even a smidgen of creativity to reimagine and rebuild parts of Vancouver’s public realm.

Working together, teams of participants will design and build prototypes using modular blocks of expanded polystyrene containing material salvaged from the construction of the Port Mann Bridge.

Raw material, ready for recycling into public design in the yard at Mansonville Plastics

In the yard at Mansonville Plastics: raw material, ready for recycling into public design.

First, students from the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture created building block prototypes. Then, at a series of workshops in March 2013, teams will brainstorm, sketch, and model how to use these blocks for new public design ideas with the help of design experts from our partner organizations. Everyone is welcome. Finally, teams will come together again to actually build their creations at an outdoor design/build spectacle in July. The wider community will be invited to help, critique, encourage the builders, and occupy their creations. Think of it as a combination workshop/street celebration/public art unveiling!

Materials will then be re-recycled for industrial use.

Upcycled Urbanism is a partnership between Museum of Vancouver, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Public Space Network, Maker Faire Vancouver, and Spacing Magazine, with generous additional support from SALA, Mansonville Plastics and the Vancouver Foundation.

Why are we doing it?

By inviting people to re-imagine public art and street amenities, we hope that Upcycled Urbanism will provoke conversations about public realms and design culture in Vancouver, foster collaboration and connection between people of diverse backgrounds and talents, and give participants a greater sense of ownership over the public places they share.

It will also viscerally explore issues of sustainability by removing polystyrene from the waste stream, empowering people to build with it in a large-scale public spectacle, and finally returning the material for further recycling.

Workshops bring people together for design and creation.

How did Upcycled get started?

Upcycled Urbanism began as an idea and grew into a collaborative community effort.

Back in the summer of 2012, we mentioned MOV’s participatory design aspirations to Erick Villagomez, editor of Spacing Vancouver, and he suggested the perfect medium to make this dream come true: expanded polystyrene, or EPS. This material, sometimes incorrectly mistaken for Styrofoam, is super-light and easy to cut into shapes.

Best of all, said Erick, we have a local, green source for it! Langley-based Mansonville Plastics actually diverts blocks of used EPS bound for the landfill and grinds the stuff down in order to produce entirely new, usable blocks. (In 2012, Mansonville supplied the EPS filling for the wondrous Pop Rocks installation at Robson Square.)

Mansonville generously offered to fabricate a mountain of blocks for the project. Then Spacing, Maker Faire Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Space Network, and UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) all came on board as partners.

 SALA’s Bill Pechet offered to put his design studio students to work creating EPS building block prototypes. Then, with a small grant from the Vancouver Foundation, we were off and running.

Who can get involved?

You! One of the project’s goals is to get design experts and students thinking and playing with people from other backgrounds. So whether you want to contribute to the design conversation, help build with the blocks, or just watch, you are welcome to join us during our program in the spring and summer of 2013.

We are limited only by our dreams! Image: Tavis Brown's photostream

Activities:

March workshops @Museum of Vancouver:

Sunday, Mar 3:    Designing Together: a primer on how to give fun, inclusive design workshops

Sunday, Mar 10:  Building Public Hallucinations: a design journey with SALA and Spacing Vancouver

Sunday, Mar 17:  Block Talk: creating spaces that bring people together, with SALA and Vancouver Public Space Network

Sunday, Mar 24:  Shock and Surprise: public design juxtapositions, with SALA and Maker Faire Vancouver

Workshop Time: 2:00pm–4:00pm

July Design build event: watch this space for date/location!

 

 

 

MOVments: On Missed Opportunities (and Finding New Ones)

This week a shout out to a beloved, but long gone butcher shop on Granville got us thinking about instances where the city missed a chance to preserve its social institutions and foster its creative forces. From saying goodbye to a car-free block downtown to a long-awaited report on the Downtown Eastside missing women, there are certainly plenty of things to ponder on the current social and political horizon. However, these do not just represent some missed opportunities, they also offer chances to reflect, critically analyze, and move forward from where we are now.

Block 51. It looks like the pedestrian-only block adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street will revert back to its former incarnation as a transit and traffic artery in the city. As the Globe and Mail reports the public space provided by Block 51 has been very popular over the summer but as the winter has set in, it has become much less animated, leading to the decision to open it to traffic again. While this may be the end of a central gathering place in the vicinity for the time being, the city has recognized the vital importance of these kinds of spaces, identifying other areas on Robson, Granville, and Hamilton as potential permanent gathering places.

Missing Voices. Commissioner Wally Oppal has submitted his final report on the investigation of the missing women cases in the Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002 and as the Georgia Straight reports, it will be made available to the public in mid-December. However, some have already pointed out some flaws. Kasari Govender of West Coast LEAF stated, “This inquiry was a missed opportunity to include the voices of marginalized women, of marginalized communities, and those who were directly impacted by the subject matter of the inquiry. It perpetuated the very problems it sought to alleviate,” But as the reaction to the report has already shown, many legal organizations, non-profits, and media outlets seem to be poised to continue the conversation, critically reflecting on the ongoing discrimination against women, Downtown Eastside residents, and sex-workers in the city and making their own recommendations.

Dude Chilling Park No Longer Quite So Chill. In case you missed it, Guelph Park in East Vancouver was briefly renamed Dude Chilling Park last Thursday. Artist Viktor Briestensky installed a sign with the new name after being inspired by a sculpture of a reclining man that inhabits the park. As the Province reports, Briestensky's goal was simply to promote intergenerational dialogue using humour. And although the sign was removed early Friday morning, it appears that Briestensky has partially succeeded; an online petition calling for the official renaming of the park is creating quite the buzz online, especially among Internet-savvy Vancouverites. Only time will tell if this ends up being a missed opportunity or an exciting example of art being used to reinvigorate an underused social space. You can check out the petition here

At the MOVeum:

November 28 - Evolving Geographies of Immigration in Vancouver: History and Horizons
December 6 - Curator's Talk & Tour with Viviane Gosselin
December 8 - Love You Forever Tattoo Parlour

[Image: James Inglis Reid Ltd. business card for the Granville Street butcher shop. Museum of Vancouver collection, H2004.12.32]

MOVments: Safety First

Remember how last week we said that BC's push for online voting was a simple tale of convenience in our fast-paced world? As it turns out, it might not be. OpenFile points out why online voting might be more dangerous than you might think. That's right, dangerous. The whole thing got us thinking about how we perceive safety and the different ways that we engage with risk, liability, and uncertainity in Vancouver. So, this week we're looking at the slightly threatening (and also the smelly and the historically biased) side of the city.

Skytrain Safety. The first of many Skytrain fare gates was installed last Monday with the aim of reducing fare evasion and increasing safety for riders. But as OpenFile reports the new system (which won't begin operating until 2013) might make public transit seem safer but will probably do little to actually decrease danger. As TransLink Chief Operating Officer Doug Kelsey suggests, “The keyword is ‘perception.' By having fare gates, it enhances the customers’ perception of the system being safe...Does a light make people safer? I don’t think so, but if it eliminates some shadows and increases the customer’s perception of safety, then great. That’s a secondary benefit for us for sure.”

Odour Laws. Chances are if you've ever spent any time at the corner of Commercial Drive and Hastings, you've smelled something, well, gross. The rendering factory in the area is just one of the facilities that will likely be affected by a new bylaw designed to manage the city's stinkiest smells. High-risk businesses will be required to pay fees of up to $150,000 in order to implement odour management plans.

Getting Into It. There are also dangers associated with leaving some of Vancouver's harsh realities unexamined. For example, as Rebekah Funk argues, terms like ‘urban renewal’ and ‘urban sustainability’ used in place of 'gentrification' can shield people from understanding the detrimental impact of new businesses and higher-income housing on the city's poorest areas. Far from being a cut and dried issue, Funk's article in the current issue of Megaphone Magazine looks at the problematics of building integrated, socially-responsible neighbourhoods in the city. And, in a similarly revealing vein, a recent public intervention campaign aims to draw attention to historical injustices committed by BC's first lieutenant-governor Joseph Trutch against the province's aboriginal peoples. Several stickers reading "Joseph Trutch was a racist bigot” have gone up along Trutch Street. Definitely an attention-grabbing way of fighting historical amnesia.

Getting Cozy on Robson. And lastly, in a move that is making the streets happier, more lively, and ultimately maybe even safer, Robson Street will be filled with giant bean bag chairs for three weeks. The large scale art installation has already got a lot of use from children and adults playing, lounging, and sliding around, since it opened last Wednesday.

At the MOVeum:
September 13 - Art Deco Chic: Talk & Tour with Ivan Sayers | Design Challenge Winners Panel 
September 19 - Opening Night - Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong
September 20 - Opening Day - Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong

[Image: Pop Rocks installation on Robson Street. Photo by David Niddrie]

MOVments: Thinking Outside the City

Okay, everyone, breaking news: it's really hot outside. So hot, that you probably shouldn't even be reading this. You should be out there enjoying all the park sitting, patio basking, ocean swimming, and beach lounging that your rain-soaked little hearts desire. However, if for some reason you're cooped up in front of your computer, you can at least do the next best thing and read about being outside in this week's MOVments.

Sleeping Out. This week OpenFile gives us the inside scoop on sleeping outdoors. As Jesse Donaldson reports "sleeping out" (in contrast to homelessness) is "a deliberate, conscious decision by otherwise normal, able-bodied folks to forego conventional accommodation (especially in the milder months), to live differently and save money in a very expensive city." Definitely one way of avoiding high rent at least for a little while.

Skinny Streets. The Vancouver Courier makes a compelling and historically-grounded call for "thin" streets in a recent article. Allen Garr explains that many of our wider streets, designed prior to the 1928 Bartholomew plan, were originally meant to be major transportation routes. But in some cases this never came to be, and we were left with unnecessarily wide thoroughfares, little traffic, and what is perhaps a remarkable opportunity to fill in the space with affordable, higher density housing.

Outdoor Art. With City Councillor Raymond Louie calling for an end to the fee for painting murals on homes and businesses, some of us are wondering what a proliferation of Vancouver wall art would look like. Andy Longhurst of The City blog is concerned that the powers that be would restrict the expression of politically-critical public art. As he says, "We’ll have to see where this goes."

Zipping Along. Vancouver was recently voted best car-sharing city in the Northwest by Sightline Daily. Beating out Portland and Seattle, it seems that our fair city stole the show with its three strong car-sharing services and large number of vehicles available for people who want the convenience of occasional access to a car without the high costs of ownership. Read on for the low-down on car-sharing companies like Car2Go, Modo, and Zipcar.

At the MOVeum:
August 16 - Volunteer Information Session
September 20 - Opening Day - Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong

[Image: Ferguson Point Tea House, Stanley Park postcard, c.1960. From the MOV Collection H2008.23.2070]

MOVments: Keeping Insite, creating Stanley Park and too much of a good thing

Insite. Hastings Street erupted into a clebration and pancake breakfast as people gathered to hear the Supreme Court of Canada reject the federal government's appeal to close Insite. This is a landmark decision  - not only does it allow the facility to remain open but it signals a change in attitudes toward addicts and positions healthcare as a higher priority than law and order. The unanimous decision by the court opens up possibility of safe injection sites across the country. Kind of fitting that this happened in Vancouver, the birthplace of Canada's first drug laws.

Stanley Park. While it's now the uncontroversial crown jewel of our city, Stanley Park got off to a rocky start, as the land was not only expropriated from First Nations people but also others who made their homes on the land. The removal of these people took nearly 40 years.

Growing pains. You can never have too much of a good thing. Or can you? In some cities there is a glut of farmer's markets and not enough consumer demand, forcing them to compete with each other for customers. In Vancouver the tight control over the creation of new markets seems to ensure that this will not be the case but in the suburbs it's a different story.

Mural tour. The City of Vancouver has created a cool interactive map and audio tour of murals in the downtown core and East Van.

Places that matter. John Atkin shares more of his findings while researching materials for the Heritage Foundation's Places that Matter project. This week: the Louvre Hotel and Saloon.

Image via Bruce...

MOVments: the rooftops of the city

Green roofs. In a new video landscape architect Bruce Hemstock discusses the green roof on top of the Vancouver Convention Centre and how it came to be.

There's also a garden on the roof of the main branch of the VPL. It's lesser-known because it's hard to get to and not normally open to the public. The Dependent shows us what's up there.

BC Place. With BC Place set to reopen with its new roof, the Sun looks at the history of the building and the impact it has had on the city.

Light show. A decorative light display on the side of a building is proving controversial in Coal Harbour with neighbours who find it distracting and claim that it damages their view. The controversy calls into question whether the city should be consulting with residents before installing public art.

Yes in my backyard. How to deal with neighbours that are against everything? Pivot Legal Society has created a YIMBY manual for people who want to support developments and social projects in their neighbourhoods.

Walking the city. Daphne Bramham at the Vancouver Sun reflects on a summer spent touring different neighbourhoods around the city with local residents. History, housing, walkability and sense of belonging were continually highlighted as issues for people, regardless of neighbourhood, as well as a sense of pride in the places they lived.

Image: dooq, via flickr

MOVments: alternative education and remembering Terry Fox

Aboriginal education. The Vancouver School Board is proposing the creation of an Aboriginal public school. The school would have a curriculum that contains more Aboriginal content and is adapted to meet the needs of a demographic with a graduation rate of less than 50%. But public reception to the idea is mixed and complicated by the history of segregation and residential schools.

Theatre in school. Sir Guy Carleton Elementary has a new lease on life as the home of Green Thumb Theatre. The building was previously damaged by arson and on Heritage Vancouver's endangered list.

Farm school. And speaking of schools, a plan is in the works to turn part of Colony Farm back into a farm, dedicating 37 hectares to a farm academy and incubator farms where new farmers would be provided with mentorship as they learn the business of agriculture.

Greenpeace. 40 years ago a group of activists concerned about US nuclear testing left Vancouver on their newly christened boat, the Greenpeace. The organization celebrated its' anniversary this week.

Terry Fox. The new Terry Fox memorial at BC Place was unveiled this weekend, designed by Douglas Coupland to symbolize his growing legacy.

Image: Colony Farm Community Garden by Tjflex2

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