Vancouver needs a new square, too

September 29, 2008 at 8:24 am Leave a comment

You might recall my earlier post on the Centennial Square Charette I was invited to this year.

Well, Vancouver is also reconsidering it’s public space, and the Globe reports today on the similar challenges they face in creating a square that is vibrant, safe and welcoming.

It’s tempting to retort that Vancouver’s parks are its “grand space,” but speakers took pains to say these are not quite the same thing. “Edge” phenomena such as the seawall and Stanley Park serve a “centrifugal” function, Mr. Berelowitz argued, that work against one of the chief benefits of a public square – its capacity as a “social condenser.” Renowned landscape designer Cornelia Oberlander (who helped design Robson Square) echoed the idea, arguing that in Vancouver, we hedonistically cater to our own individual social and recreational needs. “So maybe we haven’t been coming downtown,” she said. “Then we have to rethink how we live.”

Achieving density and its benefits will require just such a rethink. But if a public square is going to be part of the solution, we’ll also have to rethink the original motive for these “grand spaces.” The models flashed up on the screen were almost invariably the product of imposing institutional forces with which few of us want to live as dominant social condensers today: cathedrals, Stalinist facades, etc. When we visit those places abroad, what we encounter as visitors may be quite misleading. Density may never have been the objective of the space. It may just be a pleasant contemporary byproduct.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

What was the deal with the Guardian Angels? Intermission

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