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Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on October 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Our curatorial team at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) visited Daniel Evan White's studio after a tip-off from the City of Vancouver Archives, which was then acquiring the architectural drawings of the practice. We were quite taken by what we saw, and eventually acquired some of his models for our permanent collection. While doing research about his career, I came across an exhibition proposal produced several years earlier by Greg Johnson and Martin Lewis, two architects teaching at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA), who had worked with Dan’s firm. The affinities between their curatorial aspirations and the mandate of MOV were obvious. Producing a collaborative exhibition with Greg and Martin would become an opportunity to investigate the city through the eyes and work of innovators like Dan White. The end product is Play House: The architecture of Daniel Evan White which will open at the MOV on October 17, 2013.

As we embarked on the planning and design phases of this exhibition project, the countless conversations I had with Greg and Martin often felt like intense question-and-answer sessions. I would query them, trying to grasp the essential traits of the man, his work and his contribution to the field of architecture. Some of my questions may have been surprising and even unsettling at the time, but their responses were always thoughtful and enlightening. The gist of our conversations is captured here. 

Viviane Gosselin (MOV Curator): Why do you think Daniel Evan White remained relatively unknown until recently – well after his career was over?

Martin Lewis (Guest Curator): Many of Dan’s mentors or contemporaries – Arthur Erickson, Ron Thom, Barry Downs – managed to complement their early private residential work with larger institutional commissions that afforded them greater public profiles. Others, such as Fred Hollingsworth and Bud Wood, were far more vocal and articulate about their own work. Dan had the respect of his professional peers but was never skilled at self-promotion. 

VG: Last year, there was a West Coast Modern film screening and public symposium in Vancouver but, curiously, not a mention of Dan White. Should he be considered part of that movement or not?

Greg Johnson (Guest Curator): We acknowledge that Dan never identified with a style or group per se, nor can his work be easily categorized. It’s often mistakenly characterized as simply architecture for the privileged. That is incorrect. He also designed modest houses, pre-fabricated cabins – everything from furniture and fixtures to new housing prototypes, public buildings and small communities.

VG: Given his formal education at the Vancouver School of Art, would you say Dan White considered himself an artist, an architect, or both?

ML: He said he became an architect because he ‘could not paint like those he admired’. He understood his limitations. Yet he certainly approached architecture with the sensibility of an artist. He was not pleased until he achieved ‘something that was truly beautiful’. So, he was quite willing to take everyone on a quest for the zenith. He was very interested in Greek mythology and pursued the ideals of intense dedication, passion and zeal (naming his business after the god Zelus, who represented those ideals). He was an idealist, a dreamer. Those are not necessarily the typical traits of a successful architect.

VG: Big question: Could you situate his work in local, regional, national and international contexts?

GJ: We view him as one of the most accomplished architects of his generation. His unique contribution to Canadian architecture will become more significant and revered as his work is publicized and understood as a genuinely original, West Coast response to site, climate and culture. Although the buildings reveal an iconic, almost sculptural presence from the exterior, their clear interior planning and the precise relationships of rooms to the immediate and distant landscape set them apart.

ML: He had an interest in the modernist tenets (Le Corbusier’s ‘5 Points of Architecture’; Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Less is More’) but never as dogma or formula. His work, although strongly geometric in plan and section, is much more subtly nuanced and human-scaled than would at first appear. He was quite sympathetic to the fusion of inside and outside, to the extent that those territorial boundaries are constantly blurred in his houses – air, water, light, landscape seem to flow effortlessly from one space to another...

VG: You both already had an intimate knowledge of his work, having been associates in his firm for several years. What new insights did you gain while researching and documenting his work?

ML: Architecture, like all disciplines, seems to have its own set of very strict rules and tendencies. Some would call them styles, others theoretical positions. We’re interested in the idea of critical practice, which attempts to posit larger issues through the true substance of architecture – which, some might argue, is building. Dan was clearly a practitioner. He was not a theorist. He communicated ideas through the act of building.

GJ: The truly humbling thing about looking at his 50 years of practice, as a coherent body of work, is just how difficult it must have been to execute. Dan quietly had a formal agenda in mind, perhaps not articulated initially, but certainly as he gained more experience and earned the confidence and trust of clients; he was able to assemble a coherent set of ideas, each project more subtly resolved than the previous one. It was as if he was working towards completing that set and saw in each commission an opportunity to add an additional piece to the suite.

ML: Absolutely. And in retrospect, it is the research process required for the exhibition that made us see the work in this light. It allowed us to type and categorize projects and document their formal similarities. Interestingly, there is a lineage that ties everything together, so to speak – private worlds that suddenly become public and more interesting because of their shared genealogy. We are certainly not historians, but as architects we now see the merit in constructing a career based on a few selective and focused interests.

GJ: The most rewarding part of this project has been meeting an extraordinarily wide range of people who, after having been in the residences for a significant amount of time, in some cases several decades, are now reflecting on how good architecture has changed their lives.

 

Stay tuned for more questions and answers from Viviane, Greg, and Martin!

Posted by: Charles Montgomery on October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm

For one day in the summer of 2013, hundreds of people came together to re-invent a Vancouver street using giant blocks of recycled polystyrene. We built castles. We built walls. We built giant games and hallucinatory landscapes. Most of all, we worked and played together to transform the street into an ephemeral social machine. The day was the culmination of months of thinking, arguing, designing and dreaming by a team led largely by volunteers. We at MOV called the project Upcycled Urbanism.

For many urbanites, the landscapes we move through can feel finished, static and beyond our control. Upcycled Urbanism was initiated to empower students, artists, designers, makers, and anyone else who cared to become part of Vancouver’s evolving design culture by reimagining—and rebuilding—part of Vancouver’s public realm.

Working together, teams of participants designed and built prototypes using modular blocks of expanded polystyrene containing material salvaged from construction sites around the Lower Mainland by Mansonville Plastics.

First, students from the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) created prototypes of building blocks. Then, at a series of workshops in the spring, teams brainstormed, sketched, and modelled how to use these blocks for wild new public design ideas. They got plenty of help from design experts from partner organizations, which included SALA, the Vancouver Public Space Network and Spacing Magazine.

Then, on July 13, we hit Granville Street. There were dozens of volunteer builders, and nearly six hundred giant blocks to play with. Our team leaders thought it would be hard to convince the public  to join the build effort. Not so! Often led by their children, passers-by leapt into the design+build fray. Because the work was temporary, people took all kinds of chances with their design, using the I-beam and 3X3 blocks to make tables, pyramids, thrones, forts and surreal sculptures.

During the day, more than 1,500 people stopped to play, build, critique or take pictures. My favourite moment came during the heat of mid-afternoon. A fire alarm sounded in a nearby building, and dozens impromptu builders jumped into action, clearing the street of building blocks within seconds. It was a moment of destruction, but also of wonderful, organic teamwork by people, many of whom had begun the day as strangers. And it prepared us to start building all over again.

It all felt like play. In fact what we were doing was learning how to design and build together. We were testing the bubble-bursting potential of new forms. We were teaching ourselves not just styro-engineering, but new techniques for working together with strangers. And with every new structure, we claimed a little bit more ownership of the street. 

After all the building was done, volunteers packed the polystyrene into our rented cube truck and hauled it back to Mansonville Plastics, where it was ground down and used to make new building products. The cycle was complete.

Thank you to our amazing  partners and team leaders. Thank you to the members of the public who helped build a new street for a day. Thank you to the Vancouver Foundation, whose generous support helped get the project going. Thank you to MOV staff and volunteers. And thank you to Mansonville  Plastics, whose recycling efforts inspired us, and whose blocks helped turn our dreams into design.

Upcycled Urbanism was a Museum of Vancouver initiative in partnership with 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.

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on September 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm
Summer's not officially over but change is in the air (for the record, we're keeping summer alive just a little longer by visiting Kits Pool rain or shine and refusing to put sweaters on during evening picnics). Whether we're starting new projects or thinking about the city in new ways, fall is the season for some major shifts across Vancouver. 
 
A New Way Forward. September 22 marks what will be Canada's first "Walk for Reconciliation" in Vancouver. As the wrap up to Reconciliation Week, and as part of the programming around the BC national hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the walk highlights the need for more just relationships for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. As Chief Robert Joseph explains, "It is symbolic of our intent to walk together, to find a new way forward."
 
Architects Wanted. The VAG is getting even closer to their big move with their recent call for architects to design the new gallery space. Words being used to describe the ideal design are "visionary" and "influential" with the goal of becoming one of the most environmentally sustainable museums in the country. As it stands, the new gallery will begin construction in 2017 and open in 2020. Can't wait.
 
Re-Envisioning Public Space. While Mount Pleasant's Guelph Park has not officially been renamed "Dude Chilling Park" the memory lingers on. The now infamous sign has found a permanent home in the Brewery Creek Community Garden located inside the park. It's a nice compromise (and perhaps an indication of a more whimsical, playful approach to public space in the future). And finally, a shout out to our buds at the Vancouver Public Space Network, their PS I Love You photo hunt gets under way September 21st. Register now!
 
At the MOVeum:

[Image: Autumn leaves, VanDusen Botanical Garden. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 1502-2873]
Posted by: Guest Author on August 28, 2013 at 11:36 am

Guest Author: Catherine Evashuk 

In 1980, my pregnant sixth grade teacher, Mrs. R, decided to explain how babies were made in a straightforward way, and debunk that old myth about storks bringing babies to doorsteps.  After she explained how babies were made, she asked if anyone had any questions.  My hand shot up immediately: “If sex is to make babies, that must mean you’ve had sex twice,right?” (Mrs. R was pregnant with her second child). I remember her turning completely red and murmuring, “Not exactly!” This confused me, since she had just explained that sex was to make babies. If sex was for anything other than that specific goal, why would people have it?

Fast forward to 2013, to the Museum of Vancouver’s ‘Sex Talk in the City’. This amazing and comprehensively conceived exhibition is divided into three parts: ‘The Street’, ‘The Bedroom’ and ‘The Classroom’. As a Sexual Health Educator, ‘The Classroom’ is of course my favourite.  Wandering through ‘The Classroom’ where I can read Sex Ed questions scrawled onto desk, is always a hoot. My favorites include: “If a man gets a boner, what does a woman get?” and “What’s a G Spot and where is it located?”

Things have come a long way since I was a sixth grader in 1980.  Many of the questions students are asking today are about the pleasurable side of sex. These days, sex educators are trained to quite differently, and I must admit, do a much better job than Mrs. R. was able to do when teaching their students the basics of sexual health and reproduction . Still, some students’ eyes widen in disbelief when I explain that when people have sex, most of the time it is not for making a baby! In fact, one of the most common questions I find in the anonymous question box after a lesson is “If sex is to make babies, what’s birth control for?”

I like that so many parts of this exhibition focus on the pleasurable side of sex.  In ‘The Bedroom’ section, there’s a wall displaying vibrators, including some dating back to the late 1800s! I guess it shows that pleasure is always part of the equation, but the way we talk about it, has changed quite a bit.  Of course, the educator in me is also pleased that there is a significant portion of the exhibition - In ‘The Street’ – dedicated to showing and explaining an array of contraception options and condoms, which help people enjoy safer sex.

I wish Mrs. R had explained that sex can feel good and that making babies is only part of it.  Perhaps I should give her a call to invite her to the exhibition so we can check it out together!

*Catherine is a Certified Sexual Health Educator based in Vancouver, and is a volunteer at the Museum of Vancouver.

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on August 28, 2013 at 5:28 am

 
This week brings some new takes on common Vancouver themes like public space interventions, cycling, and transit. You'll learn where to track down a mobile park, what people want in a bike route (and how to flirt while riding), and about a potential downside to our new transit fare system.
 
Park-A-Park. So the parklet at East 1st and Commercial has been around for a while (since the end of July) but by now many of us have had a chance to experience its unique and diminutive charms. As Julien Thomas, the urban interventionist who created the mobile Park-a-Park in collaboration with Emily Carr explains, the space is meant to encourage connection: “Sometimes conversations with strangers are very surface level, but I think if you add a twist, say, in a disposal bin on the corner of a busy street, really interesting conversations can happen.”
 
Cycling Report Card. The Vancouver Sun recently spoke to Kay Teschke about what Vancouver is doing right, and what it needs to work on in terms of cycling safety and infrastructure. According to Teschke, a UBC professor and cycling advocate, separated bike lanes are the way to go, hands down, for reasons of accessibility, comfort, and safety. Another possible benefit? Facilitating bicycle flirtations
 
Transitional Transit. We've all heard about the controversy around the Skytrain no longer accepting bus transfers with the implementation of the Compass card system. But the Georgia Straight brings up another valid point: the $6 price tag attached to Compass cards could make it very difficult for social service agencies to provide transit support to people living below the poverty line
 
Happy Birthday, Stanley Park. And lastly in honour of Stanley Park's 125th anniversary, an article exploring its influence on the city. (Oh, but wait, there's a bit of a dark side). 
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: The Narrows, Stanley Park, ca. 1900. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 677-487]
Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on August 20, 2013 at 6:27 am
What do crowdfunded indie films, plastic-eating bacteria, and an anti-bullying libretto have in common? They all happen to be inventive responses to very specific issues being faced by Vancouverites. This week we take a look at the local makers, inventors, and designers who are tackling the city's economic, environmental, and cultural challenges.
 
Rising from the Ashes. Roberta McDonald provides an insider perspective on the struggling film industry in Vancouver and BC for The Tyee. Since recent cutbacks, it's been hard to ignore the unemployment and financial heartbreak surrounding the industry, but as she argues, there's also a "growing tribe of film veterans banding together, leaning into their passions and reviving the struggling industry." How are they doing it? In part, through increasingly popular crowdfunding campaigns
 
Eating Garbage. After visiting the Vancouver Waste Transfer Station during a class trip, scientists Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao started investigating the relationship between a pollutant in plastic waste and the local bacteria strains that seemed to be feeding on it. What they found were microorganisms that convert harmful phthalates into carbon dioxide, water, and alcohol. Their research was recognized as having the greatest commercial potential at the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge. And in other good environmental news: the tallest sustainable office building is set to be built in Vancouver.
 
Giving Voice to the Bullied. And lastly, in response to a heartbreaking social issue, the Vancouver Opera has commissioned an unexpected musical production. Slam poet Shane Koyczan will be writing a libretto dealing with issues of bullying for the VO. As Koyczan told the Vancouver Sun, "I think it’s going to be a beautiful fit. Opera is the original marriage of words and music, and there’s a theatre element, a dramatic element. It’s right up my alley.
 
At the MOVeum:

October 2 - Legacy Dinner
November 8 - Interesting Vancouver 2013
 
[Image: Trash on the ground, 1970s. Courtesy of the Museum of Vancouver collections, H2004.54.12.01]
Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on August 13, 2013 at 7:04 am
This week we explore what it means to be a good neighbour in Vancouver. From humans living side by side with insects, to getting along with our green-thumbed neighbours, to heritage buildings coexisting with new housing developments in the Downtown Eastside, we find that being a good neighbour involves working on our interpersonal skills, embracing diversity, and being prepared for a little bit of conflict.
 
Five-Star Insect Hotel. The Environmental Youth Alliance, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, has built a habitat for bees in the Oak Meadows Park at 37th and Oak. The hope is that with bee populations on the decline, the converted telephone booth will attract a thriving insect population to a corridor of green space in the area. We love the idea of upcycling increasingly obsolete phone booths for the purpose too!
 
Food Fights. To those who thought there was no dark side to the proliferation of urban gardens in the city, guess again. While positives like sustainable food sources, job creation, and community engagement far outweigh negatives,The Vancouver Sun reports that urban green spaces can cause neighbourly disputes. And there's also the complicated matter of commercial property getting tax breaks when used for temporary community gardens.
 
Heritage in the DTES. With all the talk of gentrification in the DTES, it's easy to ignore another issue confronting the neighbourhood: the loss of heritage buildings. With a possible Local Area Plan that would see some 10,000 residents move into the area, local historian James Johnstone argues that protecting historical buildings has become all the more important. But some tough questions remain: what happens when historical preservation is at odds with new social housing developments?
 
At the MOVeum:
 
August 15 - Redacted Readings
October 2 - Legacy Dinner
 
[Image: Rainbow chard in Vancouver community garden. Photo by Steph L via Flickr]
Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on August 1, 2013 at 8:32 am

Sometimes there's a fine line between being on the cutting edge and just plain being on edge. This week we bring you two lovely stories of Vancouver's willingness to push boundaries and embrace new, fresh ideas. And for good measure: one story of a divisive new bike plan that has excited some and induced anxiety in others.

Beach Biking. We start with the story that's put some Vancouverites on edge: the freshly approved Kitsilano bike route that will see a one-kilometre stretch of Point Grey Road closed to commuter traffic. Many cyclists are loving the idea of biking directly between the Burrard Bridge and Jericho Beach, while some local residents fear the impact of 10,000 motorists being diverted onto their streets. Meanwhile The Tyee asks: Why was this such a controversial topic in the first place? And Gordon Price tells us to relax.

One Little Free Art Exchange. As the Globe and Mail reports, "It is believed Metro Vancouver has between five and 10 “little free libraries.” And now, one little free art exchange." Cheryl Cheeks' brain-child, the aptly named Dude Chilling Art Exchange, located in Mount Pleasant's Guelph Park (also known as Dude Chilling Park) was unveiled this weekend. We're pretty excited to check out the first public spot in Vancouver where you can swap anything from sculpture and paintings to poetry and photos.

Sunshine, Pride Week, and Rainbows. In other very exciting news: Davie Street Village unveiled Canada's first permanent rainbow crosswalk on Monday to kick off Vancouver's Pride Week celebrations. According to Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for the West End, the colourful crosswalk symbolizes the city's unique contribution to gay rights across the country. Check it out at the corner of Davie and Bute.

At the MOVeum:
October 2 - Legacy Dinner
 
[Image: Rainbow Crosswalk on Davie Street. Photo courtesy of Sean Neild via Flickr]
Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on July 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm
 
This week we start off with emerging details about Vancouver's long-awaited bike share program. From there we explore some forgotten public spaces by following the city's country lanes, we visit the Lower Mainland's contentious agricultural lands, and finally we travel to that glimmering urban centre in the distance: the happy city.  
 
Bike Sharing Rolls Forward. Last week new details were released about Vancouver's bike share program. The gist: Spring 2014 will see 1500 GPS-capable bicycles installed at 125 docking stations around the city. What about our helmet laws, you ask? Not to fear, there will be dispensers at each station, with each helmet being checked and cleaned before going back into rotation.
 
Green Laneways. When is a garden also a parking lot? When that garden is a green laneway. According to Jordan Yerman from theVancouver Observer, laneway houses coupled with grassy 'country lanes' running alongside them could be the solution to our density woes. Read on to learn more about Vancouver's largely forgotten green alleyways.
 
Land-Banking. It looks like the practice of land-banking, or buying agricultural land and then letting it go fallow, is more common than anyone thought. The Globe and Mail explains that foreign owners often buy land in the Lower Mainland's Agricultural Land Reserve without knowing about restrictions on non-agricultural development. City officials are hoping that raising taxes on fallow land will encourage landowners to lease it out to farmers who want to get their hands dirty.
 
The Happy City. A recent panel at the Indian Summer Festival explored the idea of the 'happy city' and how Vancouver is faring on this emotional front. As The Tyee explains, panelists that included writers, researchers, and educators agreed that public spaces that encourage easy interactions with strangers make people happier. What then of a city dotted with isolated condos and high-rises? Is there hope? The answer is yes. Read on for more on the intersection between urban design and emotional wellbeing.
 
 
At the MOVeum: 

 

[Image: Farmland in Delta. Photo courtesy of Evan Leeson via Flickr]

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on July 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm
 
This week, an interactive map of Vancouver occupations got us thinking about patterns and socio-economic trends in the city. As the map reveals, doctors are seemingly more likely to live in Shaughnessy and musicians on Bowen Island. But elsewhere in the city people are defying expectations and reworking conventional wisdom. Unexpected donations to the arts, innovative art and architectural interventions, and shifting ideas surrounding homeownership are forcing us to reconsider what we thought we knew about the city.
 
Funding Win. While the arts and culture sector is generally facing funding cuts, one unique Vancouver program recently got a big break from an anonymous donor. Vancouver Coastal Health's The Art Studio Program received more than $208,000 allowing it to stay open another year and provide people with mental health and addiction problems therapeutic access to art classes. A longterm financial solution will still need to be put in place for the program to continue.
 
Taking Art & Architecture to the Street. This Saturday, July 13 saw Granville Street come alive with MOV’s long-awaited public design and build event, Upcycled Urbanism. Hundreds of Vancouverites and passersby took part in the re-imagining of one of Vancouver’s busiest streets to build beautiful, hallucinatory, and playful structures out of re-purposed polystyrene. Stay tuned for the official wrap-up, but in the meantime, here are photos to relive the day, posted on Xinhua, Flickr, and Facebook.
 
And a hat tip to our neighbors for their massively successful Khatsahlano! Festival, for bringing Kitsilano streets to life with vibrant musical acts and innovative art works, including a POD container gallery where MOV shared its new mobile app and virtual exhibit, The Visible City with the Festival’s estimated 100,000 attendees.
 
Getting Real with Vancouver Real Estate. For many of us the dream of buying real estate in the city is just that, a dream. As this Globe and Mail article explains, as of last year over half of all single-family detached homes in Vancouver were valued at one million dollars or higher. This has caused a major shift in how young people are viewing homeownership and the Canadian dream: "Young, well-educated wage earners, who for decades have regarded a detached home as a natural aspiration, are now revising their expectations, ratcheting down their hopes." Great take on the cultural ramifications of Vancouver's real estate market.
 
At the MOVeum:

August 15 - Redacted Readings
October 2 - Legacy Dinner

[Image: Khatsahlano! Festival 2013. Photo by Christopher Porter via Flickr]

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