The Crystal Garden Block: lessons from Vancouver

April 17, 2008 at 4:06 am 4 comments

One of several possible uses for the lawn bowling green/Cridge Park.As the City of Victoria mulls the idea of constructing a joint Children’s Museum or theatre alongside a satellite art gallery on the Crystal Garden block, we would be wise to look to the Vancouver Museum for guidance on doing this right.

A cultural centre would be a great use for the lawn bowling green and adjacent Cridge Park on Belleville Street but as this article in today’s Globe and Mail points out, if the tenants in a shared facility don’t have a clear and separate identity, the smaller institution could become overshadowed and forgotten. Efforts must also be made to ensure they continually offer fresh and relevant content and aren’t allowed to become outdated and run down. This means a commitment to healthy and sustainable funding.

The Vancouver Museum, tucked away in a corner of Kitsilano, far from the action of downtown, and sharing a building with the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, is to some people invisible and to others badly in need of an overhaul – and the people who run the place know it.


“And when you share a building that is already being branded the planetarium, it’s very, very difficult to create any visibility in the community.”

Entry filed under: architecture, urban design.

Centennial Square design charette [updated May 9, 2009] Pop-up urinals down the drain? [updated]

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  April 17, 2008 at 5:18 am

    Much as one hates to criticize any sort of hint by the city of a progressive embrace of arts development of any sort, I agree with your concern here. Putting the AGGV and a Childrens Museum or theatre together into some kind of co-branded space (“Cultural Centre” ) could really backfire on both (all) institutions. It could work if these entities were literally located at opposite ends of the block — say, one on that wedge-shaped section at Humboldt & Douglas, the other on Belleville. That way, each institution could develop its own street presence.

    But if you make them share a footprint, or do a conjoined thing, then…??

  • 2. Yule Heibel  |  April 17, 2008 at 5:19 am

    Ack! delete that smiley face! It’s not supposed to be there — got put in because the software interpreted my masterful punctuation as code for wink. Shit.

  • 3. robertrandall  |  April 17, 2008 at 6:40 am

    There. I added a space which killed the smiley although I’m not sure how a quote mark plus a parenthesis makes a smiley wink thing, but anyhoo.

    Putting the cultural uses at opposite ends is intriguing. If you’ll recall, one of the City’s speculative renderings placed the AGGV satellite at the apex site on the north side of the block where the car rental lot is.

  • 4. Yule Heibel  |  April 17, 2008 at 10:34 am

    thx! (re. deleting smiley)… ;-) (that’s an on-purpose wink!)

    I have to go back to the VV forum to recall the renderings, but you’re right, at least one posited a symphony or theatre or art gallery on that apex site.

    I don’t remember being really happy with whatever it was the designers came up with, but I think it could be worked out. Right now, I’m thinking that the wedge-shaped/ apex lot would work really well with very little set-back, as a really urban venue, appropriate for the art gallery (maybe a sculpture garden at the back?, or not…). But really tight up to the street, and fully exploiting the hurly burly of those 4 or so streets coming together at that intersection. No need for any kind of giant set-backs here, especially since the Falls across the street is supposed to have a somewhat substantial cafe space and waterfall right there. Let’s screw a public building in really tight here, put it out front and centre — no loosey-goosey, go for total ooomph instead. Nothing suburban, go for a 21st century “Empress” feel, totally P.I.B. (People in black i.e., city, not suburb.)

    The Children’s Museum (or other venue) would have the Belleville location, with perhaps more of a set-back/ green space, to take advantage of that “quaint” neighbourliness to the Church of Our Lord right next door and St. Ann’s across the street.

    Just speculation, of course.

    And no “preview” function for the comments board, so here’s crossing my fingers that the links & punctuation came out right…


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