Vancouverism@30: The Game Changing EV

The dawn of clean energy is also the advent of free energy—and that will prove to be the game changer.





For two decades arguments in Vancouver about sustainable urbanism have centered on curbing car use in order to reduce green house gases. Our civic leaders have sold us Towers-and-Skytrain as Eco-Density when in reality something like a Laundromat for off-shore wealth has been driving large projects here since the late 1970s. Further more, the ecology of towers is an urban myth. The very ‘voices of doom’ have never referenced the alternative: switching fuel sources from fossils to electric. In a land where power has been green since the 1950s, where 93% of electricity is hydro-electric, switching to electric energy and driving electric vehicles (EVs) should be a no-brainer. A natural common place.

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What is a Charrette?

Two men and a woman walk into a bar carrying a pizza in a cardboard box. They sit down, take the pizza out, turn the box over and start drawing on it. After a couple of hours of discussions and drawing they have a proposal for a revised neighborhood plan. They have just completed a ‘charrette’.


LCA Charrette, Park City, Utah 2003

Charrettes are just about as simple as that. Sitting down with ideas, discussing and drawing. The pizza box is optional. Continue reading “What is a Charrette?”

Private and Public Space

5.End Result

Growth Is the Engine of Change — LNV (2000)


The tradition of western urbanism may be summed by two concepts: the classical and the vernacular. The former term has been so misused that it may render the proposition either nonsensical, or incomprehensible to most of us. Yet, embracing this basic distinction between two different modes of building is fundamental for managing the growth of our cities. Detroit City filing for bankruptcy in the summer of 2013 presents the alternative. Faced with pending crisis, and famously phrased by Canadian critic Northrope Frye, we must learn to “distinguish where we cannot divide.” (open cit.) Continue reading “Private and Public Space”

Melbourne @ 8 million

Cadastral model

2010 Computer model of intensification scheme, Melbourne, Australia (green & dark blue areas do not change)

Rob Adams, Director of City Design at the City of Melbourne, Australia, and Professor at the Europe-Australia Institute, Victoria University, Melbourne, presented a concept in 2010 that would double the population in Melbourne. Dubbed Melbourne @ 8 Million, the program calls for doubling the population of the city by using only 7.5% of the urban footprint. The premise that only a small footprint of urban land is required to expand urban populations in cities experiencing over 60 years of modern sprawl is open to question. Growth is the engine of change. The prospect of leaving 93.5% of the city untouched raises questions about what things there are that may need changing in the vast areas developed as suburban sprawl.  I explored the idea of residential intensification on the arterials locally in 2009. Some details of Ron Adam’s presentation don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, defining buildout as 5-storeys-plus leaves the door open for market manipulation.

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5 principles for ‘good’ urbanism

transect-T4'good' urbanism

Leon Krier – Transect T4 – american towns

The 30-minute slide lecture presents a formidable challenge: Can we boil down a message as complex and multi-facetted as ‘good’ urbanism into a small set of manageable principles? Probably not, but that’s no reason to stop trying.

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Andrés Duany on transect planning & form based codes for Vancouver

Cuban born urbanist Andrés Duany presents his singular contribution to town planning— the urban transect. Speaking in Vancouver in 2008 after completing the South Fraser Lands Charrette Duany is in top form chiding the audience and taunting his critics while laying out a comprehensive presentation of transect planning and form based coding. Follow him on a walk through his break through project Seaside Florida here.

Read The Tyee nailing Duany in a 2007 interview NOT!


Vancovuer NOT-TOD

Walking near Joyce Station, Vancouver (Google Images 2012)

Skytrain is being used as the preferred technology for transit in our region. Yet, as this Google view shows, significant issues in urban design present today when we add density within easy walking distance of elevated transit. The challenge we face is combining transit planning with community planning. Typically, this is done under the rubric of an urban design plan. Continue reading “When TOD is NOT-TOD”