Many would say that Nature had it right, and that she’d be much better off environmentally speaking, without human interference. However, since we’ve now burned through the industrial revolution and now find ourselves struggling for solutions to house a human population boasting 7-10 billion by 2050, architects, and scientists alike are asking, “Should design imitate nature?”
For the third and final installation of the MOV’s BuiltCity talks (with Architecture Canada), “Nature, Urban Space, & Biomimicry” Thomas Knittel of HOK and Dr. Faisal Moola, Director of Science at the David Suzuki Foundation responded with a resounding “Yes!”
With close to 80% of Canadians living in cities, and largest population booms expected right here in Vancouver (and Montreal/Toronto), it’s clear that our developmental policy needs change. As Faisal emphasized in his talk, “with scarce resources and little guidance, municipal governments are charged with developing and enforcing many of the policies and programs necessary to ensure that urban development doesn’t consume what’s left of the natural world closest to home.”
For Thomas, this means moving away from a model of simply reducing harmful developmental practices, towards a model of positive impact. At HOK, they’re focusing on a few key principles, based on examples from the natural world. Take, for example, the delicate bones of a vulture's wing, which can be mimicked in the structural design of a building’s framework to concentrate material where it is needed most, and reduce waste elsewhere.
As exemplified by this orphanage built in Haiti, whose design mimics the function of a forest canopy, HOK calls this process a Fully Integrated System (FIT).
The evening’s lecture was a unique contrast in perspective, pairing Knittel’s practical experience, with Moola’s policy/natural capital point of view.
Pointing to another HOK project in Lavasa, India, Thomas spoke to how, recognizing the ecological performance standards of a region are key to the FIT model of development, which aim to create the best social, economic, and environmental capacity of design. For example, if a desert plant grows in a way which provides a degree of self-shading, water storage, and a balance between overheating and sun collection for transpiration during cool nights, why wouldn’t a building in the desert follow similar principles?
Following the presentations from Knittel and Moola, there was an interactive discussion, moderated by Ray Cole. Questions were raised about the ability to distinguish between simply a ‘beautification’ vs. ‘biodiversity’-enhancing project; audience members wondered what the most important area of policy change to push forward to encourage the practice of biomimicry; and some technical discussion emerged around the limits to a biomimicry-styled design process? Is it simply the next trend? Overall, it was agreed that we cannot place the same design demands on all buildings. Warehouses, schools, factories and houses have different requirements and restraints, exactly the same way ecological life has more and less generous players. A sustainable future must recognize that complexity.
Ray Cole, professor at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and co-founder of the Green Building Challenge, summed up the evening stating that we as humans have been more demanding than nature itself, and that the positive messaging of biomimicry and ideas of nature for enhancing life is the type of powerful point that will sow seeds for the fundamental will to change.
UP NEXT: While the BuiltCity lecture series has wrapped up for now, the MOV has a stellar lineup of architectural and planning-based dialogue planned with the upcoming SALA Speaks series taking place every Sunday in March at the Museum of Vancouver.
[Photos by Hanna Cho and Gala Milne // Images courtesy Thomas Knittel and Faisal Moola]
Over the weekend MOV stepped outside with the latest event in the Not an Architectural Spearker’s Series. Moving Through was a series of walks and talks around the city centred around transit, architecture and urban planning.
Participants explored the city and the built environment from new angles, considering the way that we live, work and move around Vancouver.
At the end, everyone gathered at SFU Woodwards for a talk by Gordon Price, Director of the City Program at SFU. Price asked everyone in attendance about why we need to change.
As he noted, the way we do things has created a lot of economic prosperity and allowed people to live stable lives and raise families with good careers and nice homes. We have lived in a time and place that has been very politically and socially stable. We have a good thing going right now, so why change it?
The environment is changing. Many signs point to us reaching the carrying capacity of the Earth, and this will have far-reaching implications for how we organize our society. The political and economic stability we have enjoyed is not necessarily a given in the future.
Vancouver’s population is growing and construction is not keeping up with demand for new housing. New people moving to Vancouver are going to need places to live but where to put them, and in what kind of accommodation? We’re running out of brownfields to redevelop within the city limits so we’re going to have to look hard at the municipalities outside Vancouver. Our population is aging as well and these people will need to be housed and cared for.
He ended with his wish to see us begin the changes we need before the situation becomes dire. Some sobering food for thought.
Podcasts and video footage from the event are coming soon. Until then, check out some photos from the event.
Images: Kellan Higgins, Michael Schwartz and Gala Milne
Wednesday’s post about the DTES Kitchen Tables Series dialogues covered the poverty mentality and food donations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but the majority of food distributed in the DTES is purchased by non-profits from businesses, and some of the discussion focused on the issues they face in sourcing good food for their clients.
Ruth Inglis of the DTES Women’s Centre shared a bit about how she goes about purchasing food for the meal programs in her organization.
When she first took on planning meals for the Centre, food orders were made through a large distributor, and due to the low volume of their orders and the supplier’s minimum purchasing rules, the supplier would only deliver once per month. She was concerned that she was unable to know where the food had come from and how it was grown and wanted to support local and organic growing if it was possible.
She began to look for alternative sources and ultimately settled on another large distributor. In the end, price won out as her main consideration.
Searching for alternatives
There are several organizations that are working in the DTES to provide better access to food. One that was mentioned was Quest Food Exchange, an organization that works with restaurants and grocery stores to divert food that would normally be considered waste toward people who are in need. Some of the food is donated to local charities while much of it is offered for sale to low-income people and non-profits at below cost.
Inglis mentioned that while she was interested in purchasing food from Quest, uncertainty about what goods would be available was a disadvantage. Their stock and prices fluctuate, making it difficult to budget and plan meals, and food may be at the end of it’s shelf life, making storage an issue.
For her organization right now, going with a large commercial distributor is easier and makes more sense.
Large distributors are not necessarily bad. Darren Stott, former director of purchasing for SPUDcontributed some thoughts about distributors and sourcing ethical food. SPUD lists the location that the food it sells comes from so that consumers can make informed choices. Other distributors don’t do this. This is because many other larger distributors are so big and have so many sources that they may not know where their food came from and it is not yet part of their corporate culture to make note of it.
However, this is not to say that it is not possible. SPUD’s decision to list food where food came from was a direct result of consumer pressure. Large distributors have greater capacity and are more efficient at sourcing and purchasing. They would source more ethical products if they felt there was consumer demand.
Kitchen Tables Project
Rock’s vision for the Kitchen Tables Project is a resource that enables easier access to food for organizations in the DTES.
These organizations are small and often acting in isolation from each other. There is a need in the DTES for an organization that helps coordinate communication between different organizations about their needs. This organization could help facilitate collective purchasing directly from farms or from suppliers to drive down the price and support local producers at the same time.
Come join us for the next Kitchen Tables talk this Sunday, November 21, where the next topic will beMaking Food, Making Jobs: Downtown Eastside Residents working in their local food economy.
To learn more about the DTES Kitchen Tables Project, visit dteskitchentables.org
The DTES Kitchen Tables Series is a series of dialogues at MOV that put a lens on the issue of providing nutritious and affordable food to people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
The first dialogue centred around the ‘poverty mentality’, the assumption that because people are poor, they are less deserving of a minimum standard of living. This mentality provides a huge barrier to access for many people in need of nutritious food. Many Downtown Eastside residents have health and mental issues that are exacerbated by their lack of access to adequate nutrition, and while they may not have the money to pay for it, the need is still there.
On October 24 we were joined by Joyce Rock, Executive Director of the DTES Neighbourhood House, Ruth Inglis of the DTES Women’s Centre and Darren Stott, former director of purchasing for SPUD to talk about practical solutions to the food problem in the DTES. The dialogue, “Harvest… What harvest?” centred around the issue of distributing quality food in the DTES and the discussion uncovered several issues that face non-profits as they try to help those in need.
The trouble with donations
Downtown Eastside non-profits are often the recipients of food donations from well-wishing donors and businesses that often unintentionally put the recipient organizations in a difficult position.
While they are desperately in need of donations and resources, they are often the recipients of donations that they are not able to use. Often donations are of food that is of low nutritional value - high in sugar and fat - food that is not well suited to meeting the nutritional needs of their clients who may suffer from diabetes, HIV, malnutrition or other conditions.
At other times food donations may be difficult to process. A donation of vegetables or fruit may be at the end of it’s shelf life and an organization may not have the resources - the staff time, volunteers and storage space to make use of it. The organization must then take on the burden of dealing with it’s disposal.
So why accept these donations in the first place?
Once again, the poverty mentality rears it’s ugly head. What right do these organizations in need have to refuse this help that is offered to them? The panelists revealed that it is often difficult to refuse food donations regardless of the fact that they may not meet their organizations’ needs. Non-profits and charities do not want to burn their bridges or be seen to be ungrateful for the assistance that is offered to them.
These organizations recognize that donors mean well, but that better communication is needed so that organizations in the DTES are the recipients of donations that they can actually use. And, in addition to this, there is a need for organizations to be comfortable with refusing donations, to script a depersonalized and non-alienating ‘no’ so that non-profits have more say in what they ultimately distribute to their clients.
Come join us for the next Kitchen Tables talk this Sunday, November 21, where the next topic will be Making Food, Making Jobs: Downtown Eastside Residents working in their local food economy.
To learn more about the DTES Kitchen Tables Project, visit dteskitchentables.org
Opening night of Home Grown was a huge success. Over 500 people came to view the exhibit and sample local organic foods. Thanks to everyone who came!
Home Grown is a photographic exploration of local food production and sustainable farming in Vancouver and the surrounding region, presented by MOV and FarmFolk/CityFolk.
In photo-journalistic style, 39 stunning images by photographer, Brian Harris, contain a call-to-action for individuals and communities to reclaim control of local food systems and to think carefully about the ethics of food consumption decisions that are made everyday.
It runs until January 2nd.
It’s a very busy week at MOV!
On Monday we presented a free screening of Eat Drink Man Woman on the lawn in Vanier Park. The weather cooperated and more than 300 people joined us to watch.
There was a lot of food and no one left hungry. The event was sponsored by Potluck Cafe and Catering, who graciously supplied all viewers with organic blueberries. Left Coast Naturals was also present to distribute a huge amount of free snacks.
Bicycle parking was organized by the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition who reported that it was their most successful bike valet ever.
Many thanks to all the organizations and individuals who helped make the event a success and thanks to everyone who came! It was a really enjoyable evening.
This morning was the media preview for the new Home Grown exhibit. We’ve seen many faces come through the door and have already heard a lot of really positive feedback in person and on twitter. We really hope you like it too!
The opening party for the exhibit is tonight. Doors open at 7:00 and admission is $15 or free for members and those with invites. Home Grown runs until January 2nd.
Image credit: E. Brown-John
So much fuss about the Hornby bike lane! This week the City of Vancouver announced its’ plans to create a new separated bike lane on Hornby Street by November. The proposed lane is part of a plan to increase cycling infrastructure downtown and improve safety for newer and less-experienced cyclists.
But businesses along the street are concerned that they will be negatively impacted by its’ construction and the resulting loss of parking. The City is currently engaged in consultation with the public and businesses along the proposed route but it seems likely to go ahead regardless of business owners’ concerns.
Safer in numbers. Coincidentally, the same week results from a study in Montreal were released that looked at the relationship between cycling infrastructure and safety. It found that safety for cyclists increased with the number of cyclists on the road.
Vacant. The Vancouver Courier reports that six months after the end of the Olympics, housing units in the Olympic Village earmarked for social housing still sit empty.
Chickens in the city. Also in the Courier, a feature on one of the 17 registered chicken owners in Vancouver.
Next week at MOV. Perhaps you’ve noticed that suddenly MOVments is being posted on Monday instead of Friday? We’ve got a busy week planned next week and we’re all working like mad to pull it off.
Then on Wednesday we’re launching our brand new exhibit: Home Grown: Local Sustainable Food, co-presented by FarmFolkCityFolk. You can help out with the new exhibit by donating your home-canned goods to our wall of preserves.
Image credit: contessak via flickr.
We’ve counted and re-counted and the results are finally here.
More than half our voters last week chose to see Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman .
Thanks to Potluck Cafe and Catering and Horizon Distributors, we will be presenting a free evening of big screen entertainment and a great way to spend a summer evening in Vancouver. So, on August 23rd, join us in the park as we gear up for the launch of our new exhibit withFarmFolkCityFolk.
Stay tuned for more details!
After the sun has set on the eve of August 23rd, Potluck Cafe and Catering and Horizon Distributors will be presenting a free outdoor film screening on the lawn of majestic Vanier Park. To celebrate food and feasting on the opening week of our new exhibit HOME GROWN: Local Sustainable Food, we invite you to come roll out a blanket and curl up with us for the evening to enjoy the view and a great film.
Until Friday, August 6 we give YOU the chance to vote on one of these three food-themed films. The winner will be shown on August 23rd. So watch the trailers, read the reviews and pick your plat du jour.
Voting on Facebook
Visit the facebook event page, post on the wall the name of the film that you would like to see and invite your friends!
Voting on Twitter
Tweet one of the following:
I’m voting for Babette’s Feast for @Museumofvan’s free #MOV-ie Night at Vanier Park. http://ow.ly/2hpz1
I’m voting for Eat Drink Man Woman for @Museumofvan’s free #MOV-ie Night at Vanier Park. http://ow.ly/2hpz1
I’m voting for Tampopo for @Museumofvan’s free #MOV-ie Night at Vanier Park. http://ow.ly/2hpz1
BABETTE’S FEAST (1987)
In a 19th century small village in Denmark life is all grey mush. French political refugee Babette is taken in by two sisters and sets to work as their cook and housekeeper. One day Babette wins the lottery (lucky for us) and decides to whip up many, many tantalizing minutes of French feasting.
EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN (1994)
An aging master chef with three single daughters, elaborate Sunday dinners and sisters with complicated love lives, family dysfunction and food.
Goro busts through Tampopo’s door like Indiana Jones for a bowl of noodles only to encounter a fatal flaw. The lukewarm noodles “have sincerity, but lack guts.” The film follows Goro, Tampopo and company in a quest to save her failing restaurant.
THE BIG BANG is a fundraising event hosted by Andy Yan of Bing Thom Architects and sponsored by Mark Anthony Brands and Stanley Park Brewery in support of the great youth and family programs at the Museum of Vancouver!
8 pm - Doors Open
9:30 pm - Words from MOV
10 pm - Fireworks Begin
11 pm - Event ends
Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door (plus HST) – there are only 150 tickets available!
Tickets are available online (please print your Paypal receipt and bring it to the event as proof of purchase) or at Visitor Services in person or by calling 604.736.4431.
Please Note: Due to the high volume of car and pedestrian traffic in the area, please consider walking, biking, or taking transit to the event. Parking will be severely limited and traffic will be congested.
All those coming in a car or cab: An access pass is required as you drive into the Vanier Park area. You will need to present it for access. To request a pass, please email: email@example.com