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.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on August 30, 2011 at 1:25 pm

TransLink. As it celebrates Skytrain's 25th year, TransLink reports another year of record ridership, with little funding to increase service to meet the demand. The question then, is how to fund improvements?

Social housing. A social housing project for girls and young women is the latest space of controversy in the Downtown Eastside, because some feel that the location leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. Francis Bula shares a letter from Janice Abbot explaining the project. Debate in the comments is both interesting and heated.

Robson square. Granville Street and Robson Square are soon to return to normal when they are opened to traffic on September 5. Spacing shares a video of what it looked like during Picnurbia and other public programming by VIVA Vancouver.

Buskers. The Dependent remembers the beginnings of regulations targeting buskers and other street performers on Vancouver streets.

Nude-in. On August 23, 1970 demonstrators held a nude-in at Wreck Beach to protest the arrests of nudists at the beach. The court case and the ensuing protests helped ensure Wreck's place in our collective consciousness.

Curtain call. The Pantages Theatre and neighbouring buildings are finally coming down. The Straight has pictures of the extent of the demolition.

Velo-city. Copenhagenize shares some vintage photos of Vancouver cyclists during a time when the car was king.

It's a dirty job, but... OpenFile visits the sewers with one of Vancouver's dragging crews.

Beatlemania! Hysterical fans got so out of hand at the Beatles' only appearance at Empire Stadium that Red Robinson was called in to quiet down the crowd. The Beatles told him to "get the fuck off the stage," but ended their set shortly afterward and made a hasty escape. Tickets were just $3.25. Thanks, The Dependent and Past Tense for digging this trivia up this week.

Image: fi_chince via flickr

Posted by: Erin Brown John on August 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Rethinking libraries. Surrey is leading the charge in the trend toward building libraries as places for gathering and education, rather than as stacks of books. In addition to this, the Surrey Public Library is launching a 'living books' service, where patrons will be able to take experts on a variety of subjects out for coffee and pick their brains.

Rising oceans. Cities generally prohibit the construction of buildings in areas that are vulnerable to flooding and storm surges, but a new map of Vancouver shows that by 2100 many more areas will be at risk. The entire map can be found here.

Slowing down. A local non-profit shares a perspective from the Downtown Eastside about traffic calming along Hastings Street.

Making Vancouver better. Just ahead of the Design Thinking UnConference, urbanist and architecture critic Trevor Boddy shared some thoughts about making Vancouver a better place. Some issues he cites as areas for concern: the relative lack of office space and business activity in the downtown core, the segregation of social problems into areas such as the Downtown Eastside and the lack of debate over public space in the media.

Coach houses. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is looking for examples of old laneway houses to show that the idea is not entirely new to Vancouver.

Urban bees. Vancouver Magazine visits the roof of the Fairmont Waterfront where the director of housekeeping maintains six hives of honey bees.

Rubber sidewalk. The city engineering department has installed Vancouver's first rubber sidewalk. It's made from recycled materials and easier to walk on.

Car-free Robson. The Vancouver Public Space Network has launched a petition calling for Robson Square to be maintained as a pedestrian-only space.

Public art. Two public art projects at transit shelters aim to encourage people interact more with public space. Adorno and Nose encourages transit riders to whistle or sing while they're waiting for the bus and A Sign for the City dedicates each firing of the Nine O'clock Gun to a cultural event or historical figure.

Image: squeakymarmot via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on August 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Picnurbia is a pop-up installation of picnic benches and artificial turf at Robson Square as part of VIVA Vancouver. Perhaps installations like this can help us re-evaluate the way we think about public space.

Homelessness. The city's new housing plan reveals that five neighbourhoods outside of the Downtown Eastside will be targeted for the construction of homeless shelters and supportive housing.

Renting. The Tyee's Reporting Fellowships are turning out some good stories: this week an in depth series about renovictions and affordable rental housing in Vancouver. Catch them all here.

Humanitarian architecture. Two Vancouver-based architects are recycling the fabric from the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre's old sail roof into projects for Architecture for Humanity.

Community awards. The City of Surrey has launched the City Awards Program, a variety of awards to recognize people for community spirit, clean energy, urban design and beautification.

Cycling infrastructure. Another update on the Coal Harbour seawall connection: it still sucks for cyclists. A little further down the seawall, installing consistent signage and adequate infrastructure for cyclists at Stanley Park doesn't seem to be a high priority either.

Just who are bike thieves anyway? The Dependent talks to bike thieves and learns about the tools of the trade.

Earthquake preparedness. An engineering report has found that both City Hall and it's data are vulnerable in the event of a major earthquake.

Data mapping. The Vancouver Sun has created a series of interactive maps with data from the 2006 census.

The road not taken. Forty years ago Vancouver and Hamilton shared many similarities. Nicholas Kevlahan takes a detailed look at how they diverged.

Image: Krista Jahnke for Loose Affiliates

Posted by: Erin Brown John on August 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm

The missing link. The seawall is finally connected in Coal Harbour. Gordon Price visited to check it out and found that on the whole, the link is pretty confusing. A second visit revealed that not much had improved on one of our most famous and beloved urban spaces.

Pipe exchange. Keeping in line with it's harm reduction strategy, Vancouver Coastal Health and Insite will be adding pipes to the paraphernalia that they distribute to drug users in the Downtown Eastside. While intended to slow the rate of HIV and Hep-C infection and result in cost savings for the healthcare system, they're expecting it to be a hard sell with the public.

What does life in the DTES look like? Ryan Fletcher lived on the streets for a week for his story in The Tyee and found community, charity and lots of characters.

Canada Line. TransLink announced this week that it will be adding extra trains to the Canada Line, reducing platform wait times. But some question whether the infrastructure is enough to accommodate the ridership of the future.

Pantages. The city's Urban Design Panel has rejected the developer's proposal for the site of the Pantages Theatre as the community and the developer continue to disagree about what amenities and housing are needed for the area.

Little Mountain. Open File visits a public consultation about the new Little Mountain project and talks to the developer about how not to repeat the Olympic Village experience.

False Creek Flats. The city is receiving many proposals for the revitalization of the False Creek Flats, and is looking to maintain a variety of industrial uses in the space. It's come a long way from the cows pasture it was.

Pedestrian deaths. As pedestrian friendly as the city tries to be, far more pedestrians die in car accidents than people in homicides ahead of both Montreal and Toronto.

Wait for Me, Daddy. A commemorative monument is being planned in New Westminster for one of the most iconic Canadian photos from the Second World War.

Urban gardens. Also in New West, a group of residents and their strata council transformed the roof of their building into a community garden, showing yet another model for the creation and ownership of collective gardens.

And now, a video break: crowds gathering and dispersing at the Celebration of Light and bike lanes in action.

Image: Mark & Andrea Busse, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on August 3, 2011 at 11:38 am

Affordable housing. More this week about the City of Vancouver's ambitious plan for housing. Some of the strategies include a "rent bank" to assist tenants when they have difficulty paying rent, limits on profits in real estate sales and housing on city-owned land. But some caution that several parts of the plan lack specific information about how these things will be implemented and how much it will cost. City staff have also noted the difficulty they have had in moving the hardest to house into current social housing.

Meanwhile, another one of the city's 14 planned social housing projects has opened and the West End civic report recommends creating an advocate for tenants' rights and increasing green space.

Bike lanes. After a study last week revealed only a moderate impact on businesses, the city has chosen not to compensate business owners along the Hornby and Dunsmuir bike lanes. A disappointing response rate for the survey, as well as businesses' apparent unwillingness to disclose financial information make it difficult to find a conclusive link between bike lanes and a downturn in business.

Smelling vinegar. The Vancouver Archives shares a bit the process they use to rescue old film negatives from deterioration. The Archives also on HIstorypin now, so you can take a peek at what Vancouver used to look like.

Slow down, watch the... The City of Vancouver will be setting up a trial 30 km/h speed zone on East Hastings through the Downtown Eastside. The area is notorious for jaywalking and it's hoped that this measure will increase pedestrian safety.

Disappearing traffic. As Vancouver considers demolishing its viaducts, consider the Law of Disappearing Traffic: when a main artery is blocked off, traffic finds new routes.

Eastern Core Strategy Study. Erin Innes at the Mainlander reminds us that there is more to the Eastern Core Strategy Study than potentially removing the viaducts, as it's the last major parcel of land to be redeveloped in Vancouver, right next door to the Downtown Eastside.

LoCo BC is a non-profit looking to help connect local businesses and strengthen the local economy through buying local.

Why do Vancouver cafes close so early? Because people don't visit.

Image: mezzoblue, via flickr.

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on August 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

I’m very excited about the opening of Chosen Family Portraits in the MOV studio. It may be a small exhibition but its message is powerful.  Simply put, this inter-disciplinary project is asking us to re-consider our ideas around “what is a family?”  

The project started last year when the Queer Film Festival (QFF) invited Vancouver’s queer and allied community-at-large to model with their chosen family and share their stories. Photographer Sarah Race and radio journalist Sarah Buchannan brilliantly captured the spirit of these families in image and sound through a series of photo portraits and oral histories. A couple of months ago, I met with QFF staff, Amber Dawn and Drew Dennis to discuss ways we could work together. I was immediately seduced by the idea of presenting Chosen Family at the museum.

After a couple of meetings between QFF and MOV staff, we decided to play with the idea of the family photo wall, the archetypical motif of traditional households.  We felt that the eclectic assortment of frames would hint at the idea of difference, while painting all 28 in bright pink would suggest the idea of shared experience.

Sneakpeek of Chosen Family Portraits                                                        photo credit: Jillian Povarchook


Chosen Family @ MOV feels like the first offspring borne out of our Sex Talk in the City project, a full-scale exhibition that will explore issues of sexual diversity, expression and education as it relates to Vancouver. The show is opening sometime in 2013.  We have our eyes set on Valentine’s Day . . . but why commit so early to a date? Seriously, starting to plan an exhibition a year-and-a half before opening to the public may seem like a huge amount of time, but we have a lot of work ahead of us in regards to research, design and fundraising to mention a few. We also want to create plenty of opportunities for Vancouverites to contribute their ideas to the project. I’ve already had an awesome all-day brainstorming session last March with our Advisory Committee and some project allies. Options for Sexual Health, Out-on-Screen, the Vancouver School Board, the Queer Film Festival, 10Four Design, activists, writers, historians, education scholars, performing artists and museum staff identified possible themes, messaging and interpretive strategies. Here are some of the keywords generated by the group when envisioning the exhibition:


light & heavy


slick & raw


youthful & mature

serious & humorous


visceral & intellectual





We now have to give shape to these words. We need a storyline. We need a few “big ideas”- because of course we won’t be able to say everything. We also need more artefacts. Ideas about sexuality are not just in our head, they are represented materially. They morph into places, objects and events that surround us: clothes, drug prescriptions, toys, laws, public celebrations like Pride Weekend . . .  Sex is everywhere!

I’m looking forward to opening the conversation to a broader community, using Chosen Family Portraits as a springboard for discussion.

Stay tuned on the MOV blog for more updates as the exhibition develops. 

Viviane Gosselin is curator of contemporary issues at MOV and project lead for Sex Talk in the City.

Join in the conversation on Twitter: @xtalkinthecity #xtalkMOV

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Bike lanes. A new study about the impact of the bike lanes on business finds that while there has been a decrease in business along the routes, losses are not as bad as the figure often cited. At the same time, ridership continues to grow. Gordon Price has a round-up of a lot of the commentary this week.

Housing. The City of Vancouver released an ambitious 10 year plan to end street homelessness, calling for the creation of 38,900 new housing units by 2021.

Viaducts. After much talk and proposals about what to do with the viaducts, the City is looking for public input.

Civic arts. Councillor Heather Deal wants to create a central committee to oversee the city's 2008 cultural plan. Currently there are multiple smaller committees working on different aspects related to culture but communication is an issue.

Clarifying transit. An Emily Carr grad has redesigned the Metro Vancouver transit map to make it clearer and easier on the eye and more like the London tube map.

Drinking and driving. With the tightening of drinking and driving laws, some are asking why Vancouver still requires bars to provide so much parking space. Could that space be used for something else?

Hidden floors. Scout looks at the so-called "cheater storeys" in Chinatown's architecture.

Fading history. Open File looks at efforts to document and preserve faded "ghost signs" in Vancouver and reveals that often nothing is done. So make sure you photograph your favourites!

Riot aftermath. WorkSafeBC is now receiving claims of post-traumatic stress from people working during the riots.

Gordon Price asks whether the City should be spending money to promote professional sports like hockey over other arts and cultural events, and who benefits.

The Bulkhead Project is an open, food-producing garden on False Creek.

Image: framestealer, via flickr


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