The north lawn of Vancouver's Art Gallery has great potential as a gathering place
Publisher and Creative Director Matt Blackett was leading the road show, and hosted a panel to discuss the Top Ten Public Spaces in Vancouver. (Here’s Stephen Rees’s summary and opinion.)
Erin O’Melinn of the Vancouver Public Space Network had a lot of great insights, and has thoughtfully posted them on the VPSN blog here.
This jumped out for me:
Well-designed spaces strategically strike a balance between things that make us feel safe and welcome and things that let us push our normal habits: we want a sense of publicness where we know we belong, but we want to share it with people that are very different from ourselves; we want openness that allows us to people-watch, but we want a sense of enclosure so we don’t feel too watched ourselves; we want prolific transportation options to get there, but then we want to be buffered from fast moving traffic when we are there.
Maybe that helps explain why there isn’t a great public space in the centre of the city (the Canadian winner for best public space was the Seawall – the ultimate in an edge environment). Even though the space in front of the Art Gallery steps on the south side was recognized, it lacks the size to handle anything beyond a few hundred people.
The solution, in my and many people’s opinion, is to re-do the plaza on the north side of the gallery – an opportunity that may arise if and when the Gallery moves and Bing Thom’s idea of an underground performance hall prevails.
The main problem with the current space is that fountain in middle – a gift to the City by Premier W.A.C. Bennett to celebrate Canada’s Centennial, if I recall – that cuts up the plaza. Awkward landscaping, too much soft surface, the absence of proper facilities for lighting and sound, the incidental relationship to surrounding streets – all make what is a first-rate location into a second-rate public space.
So here’s a proposal: Canada’s 150th anniversary is only half a decade away – surely enough time to have a competition, allocate funding and undertake the construction, all in time for a first-class birthday party on first-rate public space.
And we can name it after W.A.C. Bennett if we’re going to trash his fountain.
- Post by Gordon Price. He is Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. He also writes, teaches and consults on urban development and planning. He served six terms as Councillor for the City of Vancouver, from 1986 to 2002, as well as on the board of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro) and TransLink, the regional transportation authority.This column was originally posted on pricetags.com.
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