September 2011

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

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

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm

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

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm

One man's trash... 'Stovehenge,' a public art installation of recycled household appliances near Joyce Station has confused more than a few residents, though it apparently became a swap meet and community gathering place. Too bad there wasn't more press or photos of it while it existed.

Food drop. A composting pilot project at the West End Farmers Market has proved popular with apartment dwellers who aren't currently eligible for municipal food waste collection. The project enables people to drop off their food scraps at the market instead of throwing them out, but unfortunately, ends on October 15.

Heritage lost. Vancouver's second oldest house is likely to be demolished soon, after some renovations have rendered it structurally unsound. As the Vancouver Sun finds, the building had a pretty interesting history.

Expo 86. Canadian Design Resource shares some design and ephemera from Expo 86.

Riot talk continued this week in the wake of the release of last week's reports on causes and response. The VPD's own report recommends that the city should do away with large-scale public events because they attract the "young hooligan demographic," who are prone to causing trouble. But the BCCLA warns that singling out young people as troublemakers is ageist and against people's charter rights.

Fire. Last but not least: a reminder that even though the summer is winding down, all this lovely weather we've been having means that the risk of fire in our back yard is still high.

Image: Greg Gallinger, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Riot review. The independent review into the Stanley Cup riots released this week concluded that police were overwhelmed by an unexpectedly high number of people, but that given the lack of time to plan for the event, and the lack of a controlled facility within which to contain the live site, the riot was probably unpreventable. The report placed the blame on people who had too much alcohol and makes a variety of recommendations, including a regional framework for emergency services, the formation of a planning team for special events and using volunteers to staff events.

But if these sorts of events are going to require extra policing and other resources, then who should pick up the tab? The city would like to see the Canucks contribute more to both planning and funding and blames the NHL for not having a strategy to prevent or mitigate riots. Others want the province to pitch in.

Some wonder if, now that the dust has settled, the surveillance cameras are here to stay.

Wedged in. How did Gastown come to have so many oddly-shaped buildings? The answer lies in competing land surveys.

Red Gate's 60-day extension is finally up and many tenants are moving out. As with many other buildings in the Downtown Eastside, the building has been long neglected with no compromise reached between the owner, tenants and the city, leaving it's future uncertain. Unfortunately Vancouver is left with one less creative space.

Blighted. A 1964 NFB documentary describes some of the appalling poverty in East Van and the Downtown Eastside and proposes tearing the entire neighbourhood down - a future that thankfully never was.

East Van. The editors of the This is East Van project share some of their favourite photos from the book.

City of the century. In 1986 Vancouver celebrated it's hundredth year with Tillicum the otter and friends.

Image: Duane Storey, via flickr

Posted by: Guest Author on September 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Photo credit: Dennis Whitfield
photo: Dennis Whitfield

In the second installment of the Painful Crushes Vancouver series, things get serious. This month I spoke to Charlie Demers, a writer and comedian who is in a committed relationship with Vancouver, about the dialectics of loving the city.

I caught up with Charlie after MOV’s  KEN Talks  to discuss how he is embracing the contradictions, tensions, and messiness of love. Charlie’s unique relationship with Vancouver is reflected in his 2009 book Vancouver Special which uses a blend of humour and sincere affection to explore the city’s complex political and social realities. In it Charlie moves seamlessly from discussing the Squamish nation’s legend of the Two Sisters mountain peaks (otherwise known as the Lions) to cracking jokes about the abundance of massage clinics with opaque window fronts (“nobody’s that embarrassed about tennis elbow”). His writing reflects both the beauty and ridiculousness of Vancouver and reveals something we probably already knew: love ain’t easy.

You seem to have bypassed a painful crush on Vancouver and moved straight into a pretty healthy relationship with the city.

Well, actually it is painful in some ways. Historically, it’s always weird when you love a place like Vancouver that was created at the expense of a lot of people’s lives. In any colonial context, no matter how far we think we’ve come there’s always memories of those atrocities. Socially, Vancouver can be extremely frustrating. The list of idiocies and flagrant disavowals of common sense are well rehearsed and endless. And from an individual standpoint it can be really tough if you’re someone who wants to make a living in entertainment or arts and culture.

That being said, it’s also just such a powerfully, wonderful city. I think any place really worth loving is going to be worth hating too because if there’s nothing to hate about a place there’s clearly nothing interesting enough to make it worth loving either.

How do you resolve your love for the city with your open criticism of it?

I think you want to get away from thinking, “Okay, I just have to get to that place where everything’s reconciled.” And just realize that there’s always some contradiction. Friction is actually a good guard against complacency. I’m someone who loves Vancouver and thinks that more people should be paying attention to us but I wouldn’t call myself a booster of the city because to me that seems like a really uncritical approach to living in a place.

In your book you bring up a lot of contradictory images of Vancouver and look at how they exist side by side. Do you think these contradictions are unique to Vancouver?

There certainly seems to be contradictions in other cities. I mean obviously one of the biggest contradictions at a civic level in Canada is the whole English versus French thing in Montreal. But in Vancouver it’s interesting, one of the big contradictions that people point to is how this great wealth exists next to great poverty. What people rarely point out is that the wealth exists because of the poverty. Some of these seeming contradictions are actually two ends of the same set of circumstances.

I hear people say, “Complete the sentence: Vancouver is ____.” And I just think what kind of shitty place would you live in if you could finish that sentence. You know like, “Edmonton is eager! Or enthusiastic!” Vancouverites have this thing about Vancouver where they’re like “I can’t sum it up in one sentence.” That’s a blessing. Places you can sum up neatly are places you should leave after an afternoon because there’s clearly not much going on there.

Your book has been called a love letter to the city, is it?

It was a love letter but it was kind of like a love letter to someone who’s in rehab right now and you really need to tell them some harsh truths. It’s a real love letter; I care about Vancouver and it matters to me if it goes off the rails. I wrote the book because I knew there was going to be a lot of brainless cheerleading going on before the Olympics and thought that it would be good to have something out there to balance that out but that didn’t dismiss the city.

What else did I take away from my talk with Charlie? A successful relationship with Vancouver seems to require a sense of humour. Charlie is on Twitter and you can buy Vancouver Special here. Stay tuned for the third and final installment of PCV next month!

Anna Wilkinson is a museologist and oral historian living in East Vancouver. Her Chestbursters blog is a collection of endearingly awkward, cringe-inducing, and heartbreaking crush stories.