March 2013

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on March 27, 2013 at 12:22 pm
This week we explore recent debates around three points of contention in the city, namely, unoccupied condos, Chinese language signage in Richmond, and anti-gentrification activism. In all three cases, confusion and misunderstandings abound, making any single reading impossible and revealing just how complex the issues of affordable housing, intercultural communication, and shifting socio-economic demographics really are.
Vacancies for Sale. The murky count on apartments purchased and left vacant by overseas investors (as well as Canadian residents) may have just become a little clearer. A recent Globe and Mail piece reports the findings of adjunct UBC planning professor Andrew Yan which suggest that "nearly a quarter of condos in Vancouver are empty or occupied by non-residents in some dense areas of downtown." The argument goes that these vacant apartments drive up market prices and skew the perception of density in certain neighbourhoods. But the vaguely racist undertones of the discourse also mean that the issue is more complicated than simple numbers. (Although perhaps not according to Gary Mason. For an unequivocally pro-free-market perspective on the situation, see his response piece in the Globe and Mail).
Reading the Signs. A change to Richmond signage bylaw that would have seen English mandatory on all store signs was struck down by city council recently. The issue was brought forward by two women petitioning the Chinese-only signs they saw in the city. Kerry Starchuk told The Province: “This is not cultural harmony because I have no idea what these signs, advertising and the real estate papers are saying." On the other hand, members of city council felt that the city should not be responsible for controlling sign language and that owners should be free to market to the customers they are looking to attract.
Living, Working, and Protesting in the DTES. As most of you have probably heard by now, anarchist groups have been protesting gentrifying forces in the Downtown Eastside in what some have coined a "ghetto revolt." In the midst of the protests, some restaurants are engaging with local residents in a socially and financially supportive way. This fantastic piece from the The Thunderbird explores the complex relationship between business owners and DTES employees, as they each struggle "to succeed in their own way."
At the MOVeum:
[Image: Multi-lingual signage in Richmond. Photo courtesy of via Flickr]
Posted by: Charles Montgomery on March 26, 2013 at 12:00 am

[What is Upcycled Urbanism?

After a month of brainstorming, design posturing, and hundreds of chocolate chunk cookies, the Upcycled Urbanism community has gathered enough ideas to drive a truly mind-bending public space intervention.

Ideas were flying fast and furious at our final workshop on March 24 thanks to help from Spacing Magazine, Vancouver Maker Faire, and UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

Team leaders Blair Satterfield, Matthew Peters, and Anya Paskovic encouraged participants to imagine designs that shocked and surprised people, in part by juxtaposing unexpected forms and ideas against otherwise mundane places. Linnea Zulch took some great images here

(Linnea Zulch image.)

The ideas came from all directions. Like this: a malleable blockade, forcing people to contort in order to pass down a busy downtown street:

(Linnea Zulch image.)

A team made of high school students and more seasoned designers used Minnie Chan’s 3X3 blocks to create a spine-like structure reminiscent of Brian Jungen’s whale sculpture:

(Linnea Zulch image.)

Someone even suggested creating a giant pond in the middle of the street: a place for floating polystyrene blocks or—why not?—people. What might this look like...something like this?

It was wonderful to see participants of all ages using this design playtime to create visions that, if built, could disrupt our city’s idea of what streets are for. Of course we are not merely dreaming with design. The Upcycled community will actually be turning these ideas into form in public this July, using giant, super-light blocks of expanded polystyrene.

What’s next?

Now our three teams are using lessons from these workshops to figure out what they will build at our spectacular public design/build event on July 13. That event will take place at a central downtown location, to be announced next month. You can be part of that day of creative disruption! If you want to stay involved or join one of the design teams, keep in touch with us…

Through Twitter: @museumofvan #upcycledurbanism

On Facebook:

Or watch for updates on MOV’s Upcycled Urbanism blog topic: Upcycled Urbanism

And help us create a public design revolution!

[What is Upcycled Urbanism? Learn more here.]


Posted by: Guest Author on March 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm

By Arleigh McKerlich

A big part of Sex Talk in the City is about breaking the ice and creating opening points for conversation about sex and sexuality. In one of the 4 videos included in the exhibition (all done by the wonderful Gwen Haworth) a former nurse tells the story of how she got involved in sex education – she was frequently seeing women come in to the hospital dying of STDs because they were too ashamed to speak of them.

Thanks to a few cuddly creatures in “The Classroom” portion of Sex Talk in the City, STDs aren’t nearly as frightening to talk about. In fact, when they were being installed MOV staff openly picked their favourites – at least, their favourites as cuddly creatures.  

Founded by Drew Oliver in 2002, GIANTmicrobes Inc. is a US-based company that makes stuffed toys of microbial life of all kinds. At the MOV, we have as our guests a few of their “venereals” series, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV, syphilis, herpes, and HIV. Each creature comes with a tag that has an electron scanner picture of the microbe in question and a series of facts and trivia that both inform and amuse the reader.

Originally marketed to children and as gag gifts between adults, the popularity of the toys have expanded from the Common Cold and E. Coli to Red Blood Cells and Dust Mites. Many medical professionals use them to break the ice when talking to patients about difficult topics and educators use them to make important health issues more approachable. On their website, the company states that “the dissemination of information is exactly the point.” Many reviewers speak of how the cuteness of the toys can make the diseases and creatures who cause them seem less scary.

Products like the GIANTmicrobes are part of a recent approach to sexual health education where the belief is that the facts about healthy sexual activity should be accessible to everyone.

If these adorable little diseases seem like common sense, visit Sex Talk in the City to see some of the (significantly less adorable) methods that been have used in the past and present to educate Vancouverites about sex.

So tell us, what STI is YOUR favourite? How have these kinds of learning tools changed how you understand your own body?

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on March 19, 2013 at 6:55 am

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]
Posted by: Mitra Mansour on March 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

[What is Upcycled Urbanism?]

Hallucinating in Public: Creating Environments That Are Beautiful and Disruptive, the second workshop in the Upcycled Urbanism March series,  got off to a mysterious start. Bill Pechet of  SALA and Ian Lowrie of  Spacing Vancouver gave a packed room of urban design enthusiasts an introduction to design process: a matter of creating poetry with an "immaculate corpse." They combined images of playful, practical and interactive urban realm installations with fun fur because, of course, it's  fun!


Students of Bill's studios at SALA are no strangers to this nouveau-surreal approach to public place making. Those just being exposed to the approach were intrigued by and drawn into the design-making process. By playing with “hallucinatory” systems as a catalyst for more creative civic engagement and participatory place making, participants used design thinking to create potentially richer public realm projects.


They brought together the various poetic elements in conceptual drawings and scale models (constructed from modular blocks created by SALA students). Some projects explored possible public spaces which incorporated interactive permeable walls. Others provided communal sheltered spaces with moving bookshelves for an outdoor library. Others played with lighting, while others used sculptures as multi-faceted sensory vignettes to help people better connect with one another.


Images by: MOV Volunteer Linnea Zulch

Bill Pechet of SALA and Ian Lowrie of Spacing Vancouver

Participants start to layer their hallucinations onto the site.


Collaborative modular forms start to take shape rooted in previous Immaculate Corpse layering process

A week later, Block Talk: Creating Spaces That Connect People ( the third Upcycled Urbanism  workshop) brought together local design enthusiasts with town planning students from the University of Dortmund in Germany.


The sold-out workshop was  co-lead by Mari Fujita, a professor at UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Jonathan Bleakley and Zanny Venner from Vancouver Public Space Network.


The central challenge? Use a  public feast as a driver for communication and connection between friends and strangers. The concept was inspired in part by the leader’s own innovative projects. In 2005,  Fujita’s Space Agency project (2005) invited designers to reclaim Vancouver’s little-used alleyways. The winner saw giant balloons lodged in a rarely-used Gastown alley. In the summer of 2012, Vancouver Public Space Network’s Lunch Meet initiative used a half-block  long dining table to draw strangers to share their lunches together.


Workshop participants were guided to think about innovative models of public furniture and collaborative community activities using blocks designed by students in SALA’s Material Culture Studio.


The workshop produced some tremendous ideas. There were prototypes of multi-generational spaces promoting play and performance. There were clustered spaces for napping and “romantic meetings.” Teams used the modular blocks to prototype  flexible and multi-use street furniture at seated and standing scales,  as well as interactive forms which could shift to create solid or permeable structures to allow for human connection through sight and sound. The German students, amused that Vancouverites are not permitted to drink alcohol in public, proposed interesting ‘bar’ tables, sparking  conversation around policiy and cultural differences that shape public drinking.

Mar. 17 images by Kellan Higgens.


Zanny Venner of VPSN, Mari Fujita of SALA, Jonathan Bleakley of VPSN


Ready, set, charrette!


New innovative modular forms emerge to create public feast spaces

All Mar. 17: Kellan Higgins -

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Participate in the LAST Upcycled Urbanism Workshop:

Surprise and Juxtaposition in the Public Realm

with SALA, Spacing, and Maker Faire


Design forms and images seem to reappear through life--whether in architecture, nature, or even in the food we eat. How can forms from seemingly disparate realms provide inspiration for imaginative public space interventions that draw people together, hold them, and perhaps even change them?


No need to have a design background, just bring your creative and curious mind!


Upcycled Urbanism is a partnership between MOV, 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 support from Mansonville Plastics and Vancouver Foundation.


Location: Museum of Vancouver

Date: Sunday, March 24

Cost: By general admission | MOV members and project partners free


Twitter: #upcycledurbanism


[What is Upcycled Urbanism? Learn more here.]


Posted by: Guest Author on March 18, 2013 at 3:13 pm

by Craig Scharien

Founded in 1983 by a small group of men in the West End, AIDS Vancouver is now celebrating their 30th anniversary. The founders took initiative despite the fact that only six cases of HIV/AIDS had been reported in the city at the time. The group began attending health conferences, distributing information, and planning local action and forums, thus laying the groundwork for AIDS Vancouver. In the 30 years since, the organization has evolved into a vital component of Vancouver’s health care system. They offer numerous services – case management and support programs, a supplemental grocery service and fundraising, just to name a few. Perhaps their most crucial role is raising awareness about a disease which is now often seen as chronic rather than fatal.

The evolution HIV/AIDS awareness can be seen in posters like the ones on display in Sex Talk in the City. Initially posters were aimed primarily at gay men and focussed on prevention: like reminders to wear condoms. Today, posters are far less direct and are more broadly focussed. The priority has moved from prevention to knowing your status and getting tested. One of the more recent posters features a man of Asian descent with the slogan “Get Tested” showing insight into the population demographics of Vancouver and their focus on testing.

Evolution can also be seen in treatment; the cocktail of drugs has been streamlined and has become far more effective. Viviane Gosselin, curatorial lead for Sex talk in the City was keen to show this progression, but finding ‘vintage’ pills was not easy.

“I had not anticipated that the most difficult artefacts to acquire for Sex Talk in the City would be the HIV/AIDS pills," explained Gosselin. "I talked to several organizations and representatives from drug companies and the responses were either: ‘we don’t keep old pills’ or ‘we are not allowed to let drugs circulate in the public’. We had dedicated people at the BC Centre for the Disease Control who investigated on our behalf and located a researcher at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS Research who ‘collects’ old HIV/AIDS pills, starting with the first pill regimen from the late 1980s. After reassuring this researcher that public access to the pills would be limited to seeing (not touching or tasting!) we were able to proceed with a loan.  This process took several months!”

The evolution of piles of pills to today’s doses can be seen in Sex Talk in the City thanks to her sourcing.

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on March 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

In this week's instalment of MOVments we explore a few developments related to Vancouver's winding roads, busy intersections, thriving bike paths, and the conversations and interactions that are happening alongside them. There's a food cart that some would prefer to see driving away from its current Commercial Drive home, a cold weather shelter that some want removed from its Yaletown neighbourhood, and finally a cycling culture that some hope will spread to every street in the city.
Commercial Controversy. It turns out that the first food truck on Commercial Drive is causing a bit of tension with its neighbours. After paying to be stationed at Grandview Park, the neighbourhood BIA has asked The Daily Catch truck to move to a costly on-street parking spot. This comes after neighbouring businesses complained of the truck blocking views of the park, generating unwanted noise, and well, unwanted competition. It's becoming clear that the situation may have broader implications for the future of food trucks on the Drive. 
Street HEAT. A small group of Yaletown residents are complaining of the impact of a cold-weather shelter on what they perceive to be the safety of the community. While some are attacking the increase of public rowdiness and discarded needles in outdoor spaces near the Seymour Street shelter, Councillor Kerry Jang points out that the diverse area has actually been undergoing needle sweeps for the past 20 years. He also told Global News that the possible problems associated with the shelter's location are outweighed by the benefits:"We had to make a hard decision between saving lives and inconveniencing an area, and our choice was to save lives."
Cycling Culture. Lastly, we wanted to say that we love this Vancouver Magazine piece on Jinhua Zhao and Chris Bruntlett, two outspoken cycling activists in the city. Both are calling for innovative strategies to increase ridership in Vancouver and for a pervasive cultural shift in how we see cycling. And that's not all: the BC Cycling Coalition and its affiliates are also working to raise the profile of cycling issues before this spring's provincial election. However, it looks like car use downtown may also be getting a boost with the possibility of this new five-storey underground parking lot
At the MOVeum:
[Image: West Pender. Photo by Ashley Fisher via Flickr]
Posted by: Charles Montgomery on March 12, 2013 at 12:00 am

[What is Upcycled Urbanism?]

As we head towards our third round of design play, Upcycled Urbanism has been turning heads 'round town. First came a great story by the Georgia Straight's Stephen Thomson:

Museum of Vancouver program invites public to reimagine public spaces

Ready, set, design! Our first Upcycled workshop: image by Kellan Higgens.

Bill Pechet told Thomson that "he hopes the design-and-build day will provoke thought about how the urban landscape can be transformed. 'We hope that it leads to a greater conversation about the use of imaginative ideas in the public realm that aren’t just classic benches or trees, and the occasional bike rack, Pechet told the Straight." Amen!

Next came a thoughtful piece by CP reporter Rebekah Funk, accompanied by great shots by photographer Eric Dreger.

In Photos: Leftover Port Mann Bridge materials reused in Vancouver art

SALA student Minnie Chan shows off scale model of block she designed for Upcycled. Hundreds of giant versions of this block will be used in our design-build event. Metro News image by Eric Dreger.

There are two more chances to join design teams this month. Join us on Sunday, Mar. 17 or Sunday, Mar 24, and to explore how we can transform a public space using giant polystyrene blocks!

 [What is Upcycled Urbanism?]

Posted by: Guest Author on March 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm

(Guest post by Arleigh McKerlich)

Children’s book “Asha’s Mums” was one of the first books written for elementary age children that portrayed a family with same-sex parents. Written by Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse and illustrated by Dawn Lee, it was first published in 1991.

In the book, Asha is told by her teacher that she can’t go on a field trip because her permission slip is filled out incorrectly and that it is not possible to have two mothers. After her mothers meet with the teacher to explain their daughter’s family situation, Asha is allowed to go on the trip. The other children learn of Asha’s mums and a discussion is had about whether this is a good or bad thing. The conclusion offered by the teacher is that it is just fine, as long as your parents take good care of you.

In 1997, kindergarden teacher James Chamberlain applied for approval of this book and two others (“Belinda’s Bouquet” and “One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads”) for use as teaching aids in his classroom. In response, the Surrey School Board issued resolutions that stated resources from gay and lesbian groups were not approved for use or redistribution in the school district.

After these resolutions were passed, resources like library books, pamphlets, and posters that promoted sexual diversity and tolerance were removed from all Surrey schools. Chamberlain — supported by teachers in other school districts in the Lower Mainland where these materials were allowed — launched a court case to challenge the ruling of the Surrey School Board. After much publicity and appeals by both sides, the case was considered by the Supreme Court of Canada and judgement handed down in 2002. The Court found that the Board’s decision was unreasonable and that the Board had acted contrary to provincial statute as well as its own regulations regarding curriculum materials, both of which stress tolerance and inclusion. The Court directed the decision to be reconsidered by the School District, with Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin noting that “tolerance is always age-appropriate.”

(full text of the decision available at

After revisiting its decision in 2003, the Surrey School Board still found “Asha’s Mums”, “Belinda’s Bouquet”, and “One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads” to be inappropriate for use as curriculum material. The Board was critical (among other things) of the books’ depiction of men, problematic and inconsistent grammar, and of the issue of dieting being inappropriate for kindergarden age children.

While 18 of the province's 60 school districts have policies in place regarding anti-homophobia, Burnaby and Surrey School Districts have not been able to develop a policy because of push-back from parents. Recently, protest and submissions from students have led the Surrey School District to say last summer that they would begin developing an anti-bullying policy in the fall that includes anti-homophobia strategies, as well as racism and physical disability

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on March 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm

We here at the museum have been enjoying the sunshine and warm breeze that have been rolling in the last couple of days. Spring is in the air (probably, almost?) and with the slight rise in temperature, we've noticed other warm currents flowing through Vancouver. There's some literal hot air like the kind that will be used to heat the new Telus development downtown or like the exhaust from cars that will be driving over a new downtown overpass. Then there's the heated conversation surrounding the possibility of a new, expanded VAG building. And finally, there's a look back at some figurative steam, a boiling point in Vancouver's history: the 1887 Race Riot. 
Hot Ideas Downtown. Telus' downtown data centre produces a lot of hot air. Luckily, this will soon be harnessed and used in the company's new Telus Garden development. According to Andrea Goertz, Telus’s senior vice-president for strategic initiatives, “Currently … the heat from that data centre is being exhausted. So rather than have that heat exhausted, we recapture it so that it really can become part of the ecosystem of the entirety of that block development.” Not a bad idea. And in news that will surely excite downtown drivers, construction will start next month on an overpass that will take Powell Street over the railway line in East Vancouver

Art Speak. Vancouver artists like Roy Arden and Ken Lum are voicing their support for the movement of the Vancouver Art Gallery to a new location near the current Queen Elizabeth Theatre. As this Georgia Straight piece explains, "In early March, Vancouver city council will consider something different: whether to allow the Vancouver Art Gallery to develop a new $300-million gallery on the old bus-depot site, a city-owned parking lot known as Larwill Park, just east of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre complex. It would replace cramped, inappropriate exhibition spaces in an adapted courthouse." Artist support for the move comes amidst opposition from the likes of Bob Rennie (who would like to see VAG's collection split between multiple new locations) and those dubious of the VAG's ability to fundraise the $300 million required to build the new gallery. 

Race Riot. As The Tyee points out, last week marked the 126th anniversary of Vancouver's very first race riot. Tracing the beginnings of an incident that saw white males run Chinese labourers out of the city, the article also delves into the long-term implications of the riot. As interviewee David H.T. Wong explains, although the extreme xenophobia of Vancouver's early years has dissipated, there is still conspicuously little Asian representation at events like the commemoration of the CPR's Last Spike. 

Hot Air Hipsterism. And finally, it turns out that contrary to popular belief, being a hipster might be a "real job" after all (if you consider acting on a reality TV show a real job, that is). 
At the MOVEUM:

March 7 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: A Clandestine History of Contraception 
March 10, 17, 24 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism

[Image: Unidentified Chinese family in Western style dress, c. 1914. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 287-17]